Memorial benches scattered throughout nature trails prompt a closer look.  Written on them may be the name of a loved one along with dates marking the course of a life.  Sometimes a brief message explains the location significance of a particular bench.  It may overlook, “Francine’s luckiest fishing spot”, or “Uncle Jim’s sunset view.”  

Some benches are visited frequently by the same person with mementos left behind such as a stack of stones or a flower.  Occasionally, one might find a small teddy bear tethered to a bench by a grieving grandfather mourning the blazingly short life of a little one.

My friend Candance, lost one blustery November, has a bench perched above Clear Lake.  The inscription reads, “Come and sit with me and breathe awhile.”  If one takes this excellent advice, there is an opportunity to enter more deeply into a loving kindness contemplative practice.

Such a prayer may go something like this:

May I be filled with loving kindness.

May I be well.

May I be peaceful and at ease.

May I be happy.


Once we have established some stability in our own heart and mind, we have the resources to offer this prayer to others.  We might begin with a friend, an acquaintance, a co-worker, a relative, a kindly stranger, and, of course, the ones we dearly love.  This practice awakens our insight so that we may succeed in offering this meditation to a person the very thought of whom causes us to suffer. 

Sometimes during a walk when fatigue sets in, a bench miraculously appears along the trail.  We surrender gratefully, with wonder, renewing our vitality for the journey home.

– Betsy Schussler