On this National Indigenous People’s Day, I’m standing on the ancestral and un-ceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinaabe People, on the banks of the Ottawa River.
When Indigenous communities across Canada are suffering the pain of grief and loss after the discovery of 215 bodies of children buried beside a residential school in BC earlier this year, what are we to say and do? For all that has been said and done—and most of our words and deeds have not been loving—now is the time for us to stop talking, and listen.
Listen to the voices that have not been heard. Listen to the stories that have been muted. Listen to cries of the grieving and mourning people. Listen to the first peoples on this land we now occupy. Now is the time for our words to cease, and our ears to do the working.
The practice of meditation re-aligns the landscape of our inner lives. Specifically, the prayer of the heart over time begins to change how we speak and how we act, when we engage the world around us. The discipline of prayer is like learning a new language for our lives.
Learning a new language requires those involved in the conversation to slow down, to speak clearly, to choose your words carefully. And, more often in the conversation, to listen.
A small way we can align our heart with our words and actions is indeed to slow down. It’s ok to allow space amidst our speech. By speaking slowly and creating spaces of silence between our words we open up room for the heart—the heart of love—to come out. When we stop our talking, or at least slow down our speech, we give permission for others to find their own words. And I can’t think of a better way, these days, to love others who are grieving.
I want to thank the meditation group leaders across Canada who gathered with me in a Zoom room in the late Spring to listen to each other. In Zoom rooms we can’t all be talking all of the time. For these online meetings to work well, everyone needs to do more listening than anything else. Especially in large groups, as this one was (over fifty attended)! Thank you for practising healthy relationships by hearing each other and allowing for that holy space to grow, inbetween the words.