Lately I have been sharing with friends and family a Buddhist prayer, or blessing, taught to me by a friend and teacher. It can be found in a number of variations, but this is the one I learned:

“May I be held in compassion;

May I be free from pain and suffering;

May I be at peace.

May it be so.”

You can substitute other pronouns (e.g., “we” or “you”), depending on the circumstances. When I say it, I use “I” and follow each line with “May all around me be …” to spread the blessing around. And I often hold a particular person in mind as I say “May all around me be held in compassion,” “May all around me be free from pain and suffering,” and “May all around me be at peace.”

I like this prayer very much, because it comforts without smothering; it desires the well-being of the speaker, the other, the world, but does not judge or attempt to control.

And we all need the things the prayer invokes. And when I say “we,” I mean me.

Compassion. Life is difficult, and often seems very complex. Mostly, we do the best we can from day to day, but we know that we often fall short of our ideals. We need the tender-heartedness of compassion to accept our own frailty and to grasp that it is not only we who suffer. The lives of those who are poorer, sicker, or otherwise less fortunate than we are could so easily be ours. In a sense, their suffering is ours.

Freedom from pain and suffering. No life on earth is free of pain and suffering. But I can learn not to let suffering distort my personality and dictate my behavior. I can understand that my suffering is part of the universal suffering, that it does not separate me from others, but, more than anything else in life, connects me to every other person alive. Finally, I can grasp that suffering, like all of life on earth, is impermanent. I believe that to make these attitudes my reality is to be free from pain and suffering.

Peace. Human beings are so buffeted by life: change is all around us, emotions blow this way and that in our lives, nothing is solid, secure, dependable. Peace is the rock, the anchor we need. It is the mountain that stands firm while the winds blow and the clouds fly overhead. Peace is the inner certainty that we can face whatever comes. We know that we are part of the larger mind, manifested for a moment in our body; that suffering unites us all, and ultimately ends; that the enduring part of us is not threatened by things that are temporary.

I believe nothing I have said is contrary to the teachings of Jesus. Though the formula I’ve been talking about is Buddhist, Christianity also urges compassion, understands the suffering of this world as temporary and shared by all, and prizes peace based on trust in a power that endures beyond our earthly life.

All of this is practice – I cannot say that enough. If I can do any of it for 30 seconds at a time, I consider that something to build on. There is no mastery, only deeper levels of practice. However you practice, here is my wish for you:

May you be held in compassion;

May you be free from pain and suffering;

May you be at peace.

May it be so.