“Ocean of Compassion” refers to an experience I had at Findhorn in the summer of 2001. Earlier that year I had started reading Peter Levine’s book on the physiology of trauma: Waking the Tiger. There are warnings all through the book: if you start feeling upset, put the book down and find a therapist. I started reading the Chapter on hypervigilance, found it utterly fascinating, but by the time I finished it, I had gone into a spiral of hypervigilance through the roof. I sent the book to my therapist Karen and made an appointment to see her, but she didn’t have the skills to help me. I stayed terrified through the summer, despite two important workshops I signed up for (hoping they would ground me or distract me or something) and then was unable to take in as much as I wanted to because I was so terrified. It finally took a tranquilizer to calm me down and I started seeing a Somatic Experiencing practitioner that fall.
The event at Findhorn was the Festival of Music, Song and Dance. I remember sitting out watching the dancers, too scared to join them, then finally making myself go out and join the line. Holding hands with people on each side of me, I would focus fiercely on the steps and after a couple of minutes I would be OK. Later, I would hear Bessel van der Kolk say that what heals is “touch, rhythm, and movement.”
I also went with a friend to meditate in the Nature Sanctuary. It’s a lovely little building, made of stone & plaster, shaped a little like a snail, with odd shaped windows and a sod roof. Inside there was a beautiful mandala of spirals on the floor, a bench all around the circular wall, and some cushions. I began to meditate and had an extraordinary experience. I could feel something, almost like water, that rose up to the level of my heart. It felt like I was sitting in water, supported by it and held by compassion, and at the same time I knew that this was an ocean that surrounded the planet, just as high as the human heart. For quite a while afterward I was able to recall the experience. Now it’s just a story, a remembrance. More recently I found out that one of the names of the Dalai Lama is “Ocean of Compassion.” What really struck me was I experienced being held in compassion, but there was no being who was doing it, it was just pure compassion. I hadn’t known that was possible.
Another experience that summer was singing the Peace Mandala in the Great Hall. The Peace Mandala is made up of six chants representing six major religions on the planet. I found a YouTube version that is a little different from the one I learned, but it gives you the idea.
Peace Prayer Mandala is sung in Tibetan, Arabic, Hindi, Hebrew, Latin and English.
Om mani padme hum (a Buddhist mantra, chanted to create spiritual transformation)
La illah ila allah [There is no God but God] Arabic
Shanti shanti [Peace] Hindi
Shalom [Peace] Hebrew
Gloria in excelsis Deo [Glory to God in the highest] Latin-Christian
O Great Spirit, earth and sky and sea
You are inside, and all around me in honor of Indigenous people
The six chants could be sung together as a round. There were about 200 of us in the Great Hall. They had large pieces of paper with the words held up in the center, and asked us to gather in 6 wedges so we could each learn part of the chant. Once they had us all singing together, they suggested that we should drift around outside, joining each chant as we came to it. Finally they told us to sing the one we felt closest to and start moving around the floor. I was singing Om Mane Padme Hum, and could hear all the other chants passing by. It felt like we were the planet, the whole world, each singing the name of God in their own language, and making beautiful harmony together.