The news’ reports on television are either about corona or about the American presidential election. It’s difficult not to be worried or downhearted. What is the world going to be like after an election during which both candidates forgot each other’s name or one is so determined to pull out of the Paris agreement on climate change that the world may be tipped over into a state of no recovery? Then there were the killings in France to say nothing of Syria with its catastrophic wars and coronavirus epidemic, the abductions of women and girls in Pakistan, killings in Cameroon and Nigeria – the list could go on. I’ve now joined those who don’t look at the news too often even though I think we can’t hide from these realities. For me it’s important to face up to reality and be aware of the world to which we belong and which we in our own small way affect. What seems to be happening is that we’re all affected by a deep collective unconscious fear, sorrow and anxiety that’s around at the moment.
We all respond in different ways to this collective fear and anxiety – some by refusing to abide by any rules because they think it infringes their liberty; some by thinking they’re immune to the virus and so continue to congregate and party; some by being so afraid of getting the virus that they withdraw from normal interaction with people. It’s not surprising there’s a spike in mental health issues.
Is there an answer to all of this? I’ve just finished reading Active Hope by Joanna Macey and Chris Johnstone and it’s given me hope and a practice to contribute to what the authors call the Great Turning - that movement which will move our race and our planet towards a more life-sustaining way of being. The practice I want to mention is called the Great Ball of Merit. This is a visual meditation which invites you to be open to all beings living now in our world, all beings who have ever lived and to be aware that in each of these lives some act of merit was performed. There was, at the very least, one act of goodness though for many there were lives filled with generosity, courage, strength, healing, kindness , teaching etc. Now imagine yourself sweeping all those acts of merit into a great ball. Imagine it growing, rejoice and give thanks for it, knowing that no act of goodness is ever lost. It is an immense resource for the healing of our world.
I’ve found this helpful, inspiring and consoling. It’s a balance to all the negativity. There are vast numbers of people who have in the past and are still today doing great things for the world, working for what Christians would call the Kingdom of God in small and big ways. I’ve found myself in these days holding this great ball of merit and offering it for the healing of the world using a simple Buddhist prayer: may you be well, may you be happy, may you be free from suffering.
As I’ve been praying this I’ve come to realise that to pray may you be well, may you be happy, may you be free from suffering is to see the world and its suffering as separate from myself. But I’m part of the world. I’m implicated in its suffering and injustices by the way I live, perhaps even by where I live in that I live in a country that has benefitted from white colonialism. I can’t identify just with good people. I must identify with all as we are all, good and bad, brothers and sisters. So I began to pray ‘may we be well, may we be happy, may we be free from suffering. I immediately felt a connection with the virus, with all those reacting to it in helpful and unhelpful ways, with the American presidential campaign and with the suffering of so many of my brothers and sisters throughout the world. So often I feel powerless. But I can hope and do believe that sending love and compassion into the world sows seeds of goodness and compassion in a way that can bear fruit.