Prefer to listen to this post?
The Internet tells us we can sing Happy Birthday, or recite a speech from the Scottish play when we wash our hands. Instead, I like to take those soapy thirty seconds for a blessing.
A few years ago, I attended a Lovingkindness workshop at The Garrison Institute with the eminent meditation teacher and author Sharon Salzberg.
She was an early explorer on the Silk Road of contemporary meditation practice, traveling to Burma in 1985 to focus on lovingkindness. This form of meditation centers on silently repeating certain loving phrases. We begin with ourselves (May I be free from danger, may I live with ease, and so forth etc.) and then extend these wishes outward to those we love, those we feel neutral towards and ultimately to all beings.
Salzberg’s three-month intensive turned into four years of single-minded dedication to the practice. Even now, she continues to teach and write about it, encouraging people to use whatever phrases feel comfortable.
Being a word girl, I enjoy the language focus of this practice as well as its pure intention. I wanted to make it my own. Walking in the woods during a workshop break, a very simple melody came to me. I set my own words to it—May I be happy, may I be healthy, may I be peaceful and living at ease. I found I then could do a round with my husband’s name (May John be happy, may John be healthy, may John be peaceful and living at ease) then with others I love and moving it outward into the world, depending on how long a walk I took.
I’ve adapted it here on video and as little chart for a new use. Feel free to share and to mash the rhythm, phrases and melody as you see fit. Washing our hands is important. So is offering our heartfelt blessings to a world that longs for them.