Following on from yesterday’s discussion on forgiveness, today (after tea and before bathtime) I delved a little deeper into lovingkindness meditation (with Jack Kornfield again).
There is a formula. It isn’t just a case of sitting there and feeling fuzzy And as with so many great perspective-shifting practices, you start small and work your way up.
I remember a couple of years ago listening to Reverend Kusala talking about the Five Precepts – the Buddhist ‘Code of Ethics’, if you like – and he started, logically, with the first: I will not take life. He was speaking, I believe, at a university and he suggested to his students that they should start with the easy stuff.
“Today,” he said “Just today. Make the decision to try not to kill any lions, tigers or bears”…
Naturally, he got a laugh. But you get the point. Start with the easy stuff.
Well, the idea with lovingkindness is that you start with yourself. If you can’t love yourself, you will really struggle to love anyone else properly.
Okay, on second thoughts, maybe that’s not so ‘easy’. Loving yourself, for some of us, is no mean feat. But it is something we can all do. And why wouldn’t you? Why are you worse (or better, for that matter) than anyone else? Why should they deserve your love and not you? So… if that’s where you come unstuck, then that’s something to work on, isn’t it? Examine, honestly, why you struggle to love you. And work on accepting yourself. And then on loving yourself. Just as you are. Perfect and imperfect, all at once. A fabulous paradox.
It could take time. It could take moments. But it won’t happen at all if you don’t try.
In your sitting position, you repeat these phrases:
“May I be filled with lovingkindness
May I be well in body, and in mind
May I be safe from inner and outer dangers
May I be truly happy. And free.”
All great (and achievable) aspirations. And while you are repeating these mantras, focus on the heart. Picture, and feel, it opening. Letting you in. Looking after and loving you.
Then, you move on to the people you love. People who are positive and happy influences in your everyday life. And, with them in your mind, you begin your mantra again:
“May you be filled with lovingkindness
May you be well in body, and in mind
May you be safe from inner and outer dangers
May you be truly happy. And free.”
The circle of influence moves ever wider as you then encompass all those around you, to include them in your lovingkindness. And the words, of course, can be adapted to sit more comfortably with you. As long as they are loving!
But then… Oh, then! Then… you hit the tricky stuff. Which is where Day 7 comes in. Then, you extend your lovingkindness to your ‘enemies’. And, I guess, the trick is to keep your heart open when you think of them, to keep it open as you repeat your mantra, to keep it open without allowing it to close up in self-protection, as it is instinctively inclined to do… And if you have truly forgiven, it isn’t so difficult. And if you haven’t, then forgiveness meditation is next
Forgiveness is letting go, after all, isn’t it? Don’t let the hurt snag you any longer. Don’t let the anger hold you back. Look forward, because that is the direction you are headed.
Bertie made me laugh today. He put into innocent five-year old words what, at forty-one, I struggle to articulate adequately.
“It’s like a game, isn’t it mum?
I control my arms and my legs and my mouth.
I point the way I’m going.
But I can’t see my face!”
This body is borrowed for the duration of the game.
And at the end of this level, points accrued or lost, you’ll get a new one.
As Bertie would say: How cool is that?!