I Honor You…
As I walk into the dimly lit room, I see several people sitting with eyes closed, heads bowed, hands placed delicately in their laps. Soft music is playing. There is the scent of lavender like incense lingering in the air. On first glance, it might appear that I have walked into a church – a sacred place.
I unpack my bag: tingsha bells, my candle and my singing bowl. As with any meditation sitting, I begin by taking my seat and know that I am sitting. I close my eyes. I breathe. I am aware of the fluttering of my heart, the fleeting moment of self-consciousness. And so I breathe again and feel my body relax. I open my eyes and look at the assembled with love and compassion. And we begin.
I strike the singing bowl three times. I ring the tingsha bells three times. I see some of the bowed heads lift, eyes open. I say, “We begin this time together by following our breath.”
This is indeed a sacred place. It isn’t a church or a chapel, but a meditation room in a memory care facility not far from my home. Each of the residents who have come to this meditation session have been brought by one of the caregivers – either wheeled in their wheelchair or gently guided by the arm to a chair. This is their final home. Many appear not to know where they are. Some do not respond. In the language of the memory care facility, these are known as “pearls” – described as “hidden in a shell, still and quiet, easily lost, unable to move; hard to connect…”
After many moments of silence, I guide the residents through a Loving Kindness Meditation. “May I be safe, may I be happy, may I be healthy, may I live with ease, and may I be filled with loving kindness and joy.” We repeat it. Once in awhile, a resident will repeat the words with me. It is like a mantra – the soothing words seem to have a calming effect. We repeat the words – this time for a loved one, a friend, a caregiver and for our world. Then silence. Once in awhile, one of the residents will cry out suddenly, or will begin speaking to an unseen visitor. We sit in silence again.
At the conclusion of our meditation, I approach each resident and call them by name. I kneel beside each and, when possible, take their hands that they readily give. I look into their eyes and say, “I honor you for your life. I honor your for your goodness. May you have peace. May you have joy.” Like a blessing, it is received sometimes with a smile or a thank you. H says “Oh! You are so kind.” B who usually doesn’t connect with the outside world has a tear in the corner of his eye and he moves his hand to his heart. P who is often agitated, calms and smiles. As I ring the tingsha bells and the singing bowl to conclude our time I feel a deep connection to these beautiful, lovely people.
We have this connection with all living beings. Thich Nhat Hanh calls this connection “Interbeing.” The Dalai Lama calls it “dependent arising.” In this memory care facility, it is called love. We honor one another when we see that our connection with each living being has nothing to do with our achievements or influence. We honor one another because we “are.” Nothing more.