Family Peace: A Reconciliation Meditation
If you think you’re enlightened, go spend a week with your family. —Ram Dass
In Buddhist monasteries when conflict arises, the monks and nuns are encouraged to undertake a formal practice of reconciliation. They begin with this simple intention: “No matter what the hurt within us, we can seek to be reconciled.” Whether we are spending the holidays with family or not, and even if we cannot or should not speak to the other, we can find the courage to hold reconciliation and goodwill in our own heart. We can contribute to the healing of the world.
When we reflect on our family we can see that each person holds a measure of struggle and pain, just as each person carries a secret beauty. When we allow our hearts to sense the pain and struggles of the others, and how the suffering they carry causes pain to themselves and others, a natural compassion arises. This doesn’t mean we have to fix or change them—or even stay near them if their actions are harmful. It means we can see them with the eyes of compassion—we can put ourselves in their shoes and listen to them with a more understanding and open heart. We can wish them well. This is an invitation to reconciliation.
Reconciliation may ask us to listen to one another deeply. It may ask us to see each other with more mercy and tenderness. It may mean acknowledging the past and then starting anew.
In the meditation practice below, we begin by reciting the intentions of reconciliation, willingly planting seeds of reconnection and love in our heart. As we repeat each phrase, we turn our intention to the possibility of restoring harmony where suffering has set us apart. We begin to build a bridge of tenderness to those who have been separated by pain and fear.
Let yourself sit in a comfortable posture. Bring your attention gently to your body and breath. Stay with the breath until you feel settled and present. Then bring into awareness the benefits of reconciliation and healing for all those who have been estranged and set apart. We begin with the family because the family is where we are most vulnerable and can most easily be hurt. If we cannot be reconciled here, it will be difficult to find reconciliation with the world.
Picture each person and group named below as you go through this practice. Recite each simple phrase, one category at a time. Feel the distance and pain between them. Hold the tender possibility of restoring love between them. Know that simply expressing the heart’s willingness to seek reconciliation turns our life toward peace.
Breathe gently. Slowly recite the following intentions, allowing time to sense the reconnection of each:
May all mothers and sons be reconciled.
May all mothers and daughters be reconciled.
May all fathers and sons be reconciled.
May all fathers and daughters be reconciled.
May all sisters and brothers be reconciled.
May all husbands and wives be reconciled.
May all partners and lovers be reconciled.
May all family members be reconciled.
May all employers and employees be reconciled.
May all community members be reconciled.
May all friends be reconciled.
May all women be reconciled.
May all men be reconciled.
May all men and women be reconciled.
May all religions be reconciled.
May all races be reconciled.
May all nations be reconciled.
May all peoples be reconciled.
May all creatures be reconciled.
May all beings of every form be reconciled.
Remember, reconciliation and living with compassion does not mean we have to personally repair every difficulty in our extended family and community. Compassion is a state of heart, not co-dependence. In true compassion we do not lose our own self-respect or sacrifice ourselves blindly for others. Compassion is a circle that encompasses all beings, including ourselves. It blossoms only when we ask, “Is this compassionate for ourselves as well as others?” When these two sides are in harmony true reconciliation can happen.