One of the great challenges in all the world's religious and spiritual traditions is learning to love our enemies. Contemporary cultures still honor the eye-for-an-eye approach to enemies. Revenge is seen as an appropriate closure to suffering and great loss. So many of us find it difficult to let our enemies become our spiritual teachers. Two prime examples of this devotional path are His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who often states he is grateful to the Chinese, and Vietnamese Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh, who empathizes with the waywardness of adversaries and the importance of deeply listening to them.

Recently, while we were preparing our viewer's guide to the Global Spirit program on "Sacred Ecology," we went to the website of the guest on that show, Joanna Macy. There we came across a healing prayer and ritual by Caitriona Reed: "Touching the Earth for Our Adversaries."

In this healing prayer, the author bows in gratitude to the Earth and to her enemies. Of the latter, she specifies that they have helped her to see how much she values love of the planet; they have brought forth in her the passion she feels for creating a strong sustainable community; they have shown her she must transform the pain and anger she feels into love for the beauty of all life forms; they have revealed to her the emptiness of cutting ourselves off from the needs of future generations; and they have helped her release her belief that her views are the only correct ones. She is grateful for those adversaries who have shown her what she is capable of if she allows her life to be governed by fear and separation.

So often we get angry and disappointed about the lack of public response to climate change, the destruction of natural habitats, and the extinction of species. It is easy to get discouraged and even to burn out when faced with powerful opposition in both the public and private sectors. The practice of bowing to our adversaries in compassion and gratitude turns this challenge into an opportunity to see ourselves and these difficulties in new ways. It offers healing to our heavy hearts and encourages us to keep going.

We encourage you to share this practice and adapt it to other situations where you need to find out how to love your enemies. This week, as we watch leaders in Israel and Palestine subject their peoples to unspeakable horrors, we find ourselves bowing to them for showing us how important it is to us that peace comes to our world.

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