by Tzivia Gover, Certified Dream Therapist and director of the Institute for Dream Studies
“Go where people sleep and see if they are safe.” Jenny Holzer, artist
I don’t know about you, but recently, I’ve been having a tough time going to sleep. I’ve been too heartbroken and angry over the most recent terrorist attacks, shootings, and massacres to settle into sleep. How do we respond when tragedy becomes chronic?
Which gets me to thinking about all of the other people who must be lying awake in the night just as I am: The people in Berlin, Nice, in Paris, Bangladesh, Iraq, and in Orlando, and Dallas …There are the children who saw images on TV that they can’t rub from their eyes when they crawl into bed–and their parents who can’t stop hearing gunshots, or explosions, or screams—even when there is silence all around.
Then there’s the fact that sleep doesn’t come easily to us all, nor does it come equally to us all, even on an ordinary day. Whether because of homelessness, poverty, domestic violence, childhood abuse, illness, addiction, street violence, terrorist threats or all-out war, far too many people are deprived of a safe environment (both physically and psychologically) in which to rest and sleep.
Not knowing what else to do in the face of such unrest—both political and personal—we “send our prayers” via social media sites to those affected. Sure, words and sentiments alone won’t magically heal people or our world, but then again, when delivered with sincerity, prayers and wishes for healing aren’t such a bad place to start. Sending out good thoughts and intentions does count. Focusing on how we feel and what we want for our world helps us to keep our hearts open and connected, which is an essential first step toward sowing seeds of peace and love that might someday grow.
One practice I use for softening my heart and connecting with others is metta, or loving-kindness meditation, in which we offer wishes for love, happiness, health, and protection for ourselves, our loved ones, friends, and the wider community—eventually including all beings.
Instructions for metta meditation are available in various books or on the Internet. Here are simple instructions to get you started.
Sit quietly, and breathe into your heart.
Direct simple heartfelt wishes to yourself, such as, “May I be happy, may I be loved, and may I live in safety and peace.” Repeat these wishes several times, coordinating the phrases with your breath.
Now think of someone you love unconditionally, such as a family member or child, and do the same for them.
Repeat this exercise of extending these heartfelt wishes to someone in each of your circles. Continue to move outward to a friend, then an acquaintance, a stranger, someone with whom you have a difficult relationship, and finally all people and all beings.
Doing metta meditation before bed is a beautiful practice. Don’t be discouraged if it feels difficult at first. Extending loving kindness to all people without exception isn’t easy. If you get stuck, simply return to directing loving kindness to yourself or someone you love unconditionally. Over time it will become easier. And in the process you’ll build your heart’s capacity for empathy, love, and ultimately for right action, too.
Another way to direct your caring heart with the world’s great need is to join my group 350 Dreamers on Facebook. This is an international web of 800+ people who dream, journey, or vision for global healing together several times a year. Find us at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/350Dreamers/
[adapted from Joy in Every Moment: Mindful Exercises for Waking to the Wonders of Ordinary Life, by Tzivia Gover, author and certified dream therapist.]