- Karl Thunemann
A Starting Lineup—at Last!
I’ve been watching more baseball on television lately, getting in touch with an early passion. I rarely tune in at the start of a game any more, 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.” 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 last 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.
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, 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.
May I be free of suffering, and of the seeds of suffering. The Buddhists own this one, and I thank my 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 epistle #4. Remember, in my small universe, gratitude is perceived as more than a quality. It is 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’s something dour about my expression that tends to eclipse any joy I might actually be experiencing. I’m pretty sure this runs deep. It bears looking into further.
After I’ve run through all nine beads of this meditation, I wrap it up with a little coda: If this practice be worthy, may its benefits be spread far and wide. 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 a solitary wish is uttered in one far reach of the cosmos, it 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!