• Karl Thunemann

A Starting Lineup—at Last!

Updated: Jun 5

I have been watching more baseball on television lately, getting in touch with an early passion. I rarely tune in at the start of a game anymore, but I do love an opening ritual—the announcement of tonight’s starting lineup. The players are named and—if time permits—the broadcaster offers a little aside on each of them. It is a moment of great anticipation.

Of course the game here—loving-kindness—is not at all like baseball. But it does have rituals. The lineup is always the same, except when I lose my way, which happens occasionally. And there are nine “players.” I mark the completion of each entry with a couple of oms. May I name them forthwith: *

May I be loved; may I be love. The underlying subject is estrangement. I once spent the better part of an hour with my counselor describing the skeins of estrangement—and quasi-estrangement—that weave their way through my extended family.  “May I be loved” was the last item to be added to my list. And, because it felt so urgent, I placed it in the leadoff spot. I have at least a glimmer of what I might say about estrangement, but only that. Plus, there is the shame! Stay tuned.

May I be safe. Most loving-kindness experts advise starting out with safety. I bridled at this. At first, I preferred to start with being well. But safety has turned out to be robust and expansive. Because I have a long history of falling, it is a good place to start. And then a prolonged safety meditation emerged: May I be a safe driver. And: May I be a safe person to be with. “Safety” is apt to make multiple appearances among these entries.

I wrap it up with a little coda:May this practice be worthy, and may its benefits be spread far and wide. …At first this closing felt a little grandiose, but … if you believe that everything is interconnected…

May I be well. I have many causes of anxiety about my health, and a family history of Alzheimer’s disease. I have recently completed an interminable series of tests (it took nine months!) to examine the symptoms of cognitive decline that have troubled me for the past three years, Maybe longer! Stay tuned for the diagnosis. May I remember!

May I be kind. This is critical. It’s my only entry with an overtly political component: “Make America kind again. May America be kind and generous. May I be kind and generous.”  And, as my friend Adrienne intones: “Be kind to yourself.”

May I be forgiven. I’m no Christian, but forgiveness seems to embody the spirit of the Golden Rule: As I forgive, may I be forgiven. †    

Huddling up before the game is an age-old practice. But look at these guys: They all appear to be white! Nowadays in the major leagues, rosters take on the appearance of a UN plenary session.

May I be free of suffering, and of the seeds of suffering. The Buddhists own this one, and I thank my friend Adrienne for giving me this wording. It certainly covers all the bases: Emotional and spiritual pain, chronic illness, deformities, and even a phalanx of searing regrets.

May I be at peace. “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.” Back in my Unitarian days, after singing this hymn we used to argue over the terms. Should we go first, or demand that “those guys” take the first step?  I always belonged to the “us first” group (and still do) but feared it would expose my fear of standing up to power.

May I dwell in gratitude.  I introduced this in an earlier epistle. (Although I cannot remember whether vit has been posted.) Remember, in my small universe, gratitude is perceived as more than a quality. It is a small village, portable and ever-changing!

May I be joyful. People—even friends—often ask me if something is bothering me. Usually the answer is no. I might be pondering something—thinking. But there is something dour about my expression that tends to eclipse any joy I might actually be experiencing. I know this runs deep. It bears looking into further.

After I have run through all nine beads of this meditation, I wrap it up with a little coda: May this practice be worthy, and may its benefits be spread far and wide. And then, just to be sure I covered all the bases, I added, May this practice be worthy, and may its benefits extend to the farthest curves of the cosmos.  At first this closing felt a little grandiose, but that no longer troubles me. After all, if you believe that everything is interconnected, it follows that even a solitary wish uttered in one far sector of the cosmos might well reach out and touch someone in another, even farther reach.

And then I sound out OM two or three times. To me, OM is akin to amen. Or perhaps to calling out joyfully, let’s play ball!

Old-time baseball cards are collectible, but just seeing the image inspires nostalgia for a time we never knew.


* This is the sequence these entries take in my meditation, not the order they will follow in these dispatches. But you already know that, don’t you?

† I may withhold this essay from my lovely friend who insists that I am “perfect.” 

‡ Oops! When I wrote this way back in August 2018, practicing peace was urgent.. But over time it has slipped out of the lineup. Not that I have “achieved” peace, but I have fully plumbed the subject and believe I understand it. That cannot be said of its replacement, May I know a safe harbor. Stay tuned.

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