I set out to write about something different tonight, but that's what wanted to be written first. So there you have it.
What I was initially going to write about was the Serenity Prayer. You know the one that has been popularized by AA and other 12-step programs, as well as by magnets at the bookstore and mugs at every tchotchke shop you pass:
I love this prayer. In fact, I say it
...and then I typically just keep saying the prayer over and over (sometimes with expletives or angry thoughts in between) until the moment passes. I've been saying this prayer for the past two days.
I say it at work, too. In my head, of course, but I say it. There are things that I can change: I can help that kid to stop banging her head. I can help that boy focus on his homework. I can help that teenager to worry less. I can help that parent respond more appropriately to her daughter's aggression. There are things with which I can help to be an agent of change: I can refer for medications, or social work services, or neurology appointments, or speech therapy. I can help parents fill out paperwork for HeadStart services. I can call pediatricians. I can give phone numbers for local domestic violence shelters, food pantries, and holiday assistance programs. And there are some things I can't change. There are some horrible things that I can't change. There are sometimes situations that I see and hear about that are so god-awful, there aren't even any good options left for me, and I am forced to choose the least worst option...and then I go home, and I stand in my kitchen and chop potatoes or boil water and I ask for the wisdom to know the difference between what I can change and what I cannot, and I let it go. I have to, at least, until I see them again.
The other prayer I say frequently is this one: Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu (Om Shanti)
The translation that I like is this one (that has slightly different wording than the one used in the beginning of the Deva Primal video above): May all beings everywhere be happy and free and may the thoughts, words and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.
This is another one that I sing over and over in my head (or aloud....). I sing it when I am angry. I sing it when I am thinking unkind thoughts towards someone else. I sing it when I feel hopeless about our world, and about how small my impact is in it. I don't know that I really believe that it creates positive intentions that ripple out into the world that make changes...that spikes a little higher on the woowoo scale than I am willing to go.
What I do know is that I feel better when I sing it. I feel calmer. I feel more peaceful. I feel more hopeful. So I keep singing.
There was some interesting research done on using mindfulness interventions with individuals with intellectual disabilities living in group homes. The target was to decrease aggression in individuals with mild to profound intellectual disabilities by teaching them mindfulness based interventions (namely, a walking meditation in which the individual was instructed to focus on the soles of their feet). It's a fascinating idea and really interesting research that I'd love to share if you're interested...but that's not my point here. The researchers did another study in which they taught the care staff at the facility mindfulness based interventions. Through only teaching the care staff these interventions (only the people taking care of the individuals with disabilities), they were able to reduce the frequency of aggression. Fascinating, right? Through teaching staff to be more mindfully aware, they were able to decrease the aggression of the people in their care.
I bring this up because, while I don't know about the whole ripple of positive intention thing, I do believe that if I have a loving intention mindfully in my awareness, I may be able to make my tiny corner of the world a better place to live.
I have to end with this video, because it's Amma, who just embodies love: