The Restorative Power of Recalling Who We Really Are

"living stone" photo
Photo by Andesine on Flickr

This weekend I attended my first overnight mindfulness meditation retreat and learned some wonderful ways in which early Buddhist teachings overlap with restorative practices.

For instance I learned from our teacher  (Santikaro of Liberation Park, WI) that the original word currently translated as “mindfulness” has two root meanings:
  • the more commonly understood Western concept of “being fully attentive to what is” and
  • the less well known concept of “recalling to mind”
What is it, exactly, that we are recalling?

Among other things, we are recalling—or bringing to mind—the “heart virtues” that already live within us, including Compassion, Forgiveness, Loving Kindness, and Appreciative Joy.

These heart virtues, Santikaro reminded us, do not need to be “manufactured” in any way; they simply need to be brought forth from within ourselves – so we can more easily recognize and access them, as well as honor and nurture them.

This brought to mind a restorative practice we enjoy in our family, inspired by the  story of an African tribe in which, when a person commits harm, the villagers gather around and remind the person of their beauty (by singing that person’s special “birth song”). The description, which varies from telling to telling, goes something like:
The tribe recognizes that the response to harmful behavior is not punishment but love, and the memory of one’s true identity. When we recall our own song we lose our desire to hurt others. Our song reminds us of our beauty when we feel ugly, our wholeness when we feel broken, our interconnectedness when we feel alone and our purpose when we feel lost.
While the story does not seem to be rooted in any real African tribe or tradition, according to my own searches and those of others, the legendary practice resonated with me when I first heard it years ago, and I adopted it as part of our family’s Restorative Toolkit...

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