It’s been a mopefest around here. The headlines are depressing. Our customers have seemed stressed and sadder than usual. We have sadness in our ranks for various personal reasons. I’ve been moping around myself. I actually took a personal day on Monday just to sleep (long story).
How do I best serve the public when the general consensus is sadness? How do we bear witness to their problems (as many are eager to share) without it taking the shine off of our own attitudes? A question about getting a vistitor’s pass to the internet turns into a story about trying to apply for a job online though the person has never used a computer. What seemed like a skill of convenience last year (learning how to surf the internet), now all of sudden seems like a necessity.
And all the people trooping in to apply for unemployment though they have little internet experience. The number of people asking for advice is way up: what form should I use? How do I answer this question? How long will this take? And yet, they ask questions we can’t answer. We can refer them to free tax help, social services, job search workshops, even our own in house drop in job search tutoring sessions; but, it is little solace in that moment.
I’ve been asking myself these questions lately because I can feel the sadness when I enter the library lately. Job loss, sickness, death hangs in the air and even the most patient of the staff seem kind of short and grouchy.
In Buddhism there is a form of meditation called Metta, sometimes translated as “loving-kindness.” It is a practice that has the meditator cultivating loving kindness first for themselves, then a loved one, then a neutral party, then someone they struggle with and finally all beings. I’ve been in groups where someone has questioned the first part of this practice. Why focus on ourselves first? Isn’t this selfish? Shouldn’t we be praying for others? Each time the teacher has talked about caring for one’s self first so that you will be most able to send loving kindness and compassion out into the world. One teacher likened it to being on a plane when the oxygen masks drop. You always put yours on first so that you may help others.
I think about this now. Taking care of my physical and mental health in these times of stress will enable me to be able to help people at work and listen harder to those in my life. Taking care of me helps me spread more compassion, more love, more kindness when it is needed most. There are many forms of this “prayer” that can be said. I would like to share with you the one I say. It is one that my ex-partner wrote on a piece of paper and hung next to my hospital bed while I was recovering from a scooter accident. I know she said it a million times for me and having it there with me reminded me to not only have loving kindness for myself; but, also those around me who were suffering with the worry of having a loved one injured.
May you be happy.
May you be free from physical pain.
May you be free from mental pain.
May you live your life with ease.