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LOVING KINDNESS MEDITATION

There is an ancient and transformative meditation that the Buddha encouraged that elicits a gentle spirit, towards ourselves and others.

It is a practice that opens the heart toward forgiveness, even towards those who we may have deemed enemies. We may have people in our life who have caused us great pain or we may feel have stolen from us our essential self.  This, of course, is an illusion (though it can hold a powerful and long lasting spell on us if we are not awakened to it).  With loving kindness meditation, we can be restored to remember who we are, to listen our own good heart, our own best Self.

We can discover the wisdom to open the doors and windows of the Spirit.  It begins, always,  with a loving kindness towards ourselves.  It is after all, almost impossible to truly love others…until we know, love, and accept ourselves.  From this touchstone, we can spread our ability to love towards those in our inner circle, and then out into the wider world.

Begin with the breath of mindfulness, it is the breath that calls us to this moment.  It is life’s breath.  It is the breath that breathes through you, that you do not have to control, that you do not ultimately control. Be in your body.  It is a good body, and worthy of your care and respect.

Each day, for as many days as you can be present, repeat these ancient words:

“May I be filled with loving kindness/May I be well in body and mind/May I be safe from inner and outer dangers/May I be happy/Truly happy and free”*

*(taken from Jack Kornfield’s Audio Meditation on Loving Kindness)

I do this, dear reader, and it is changing me.  I watched a woman laughing on a 100 degree day in Charlotte, NC with her labrador retriever, getting cooled off in a beautiful fountain in the park.  She was directing her dog to the places that he could catch a drink of water.  She maneuvered him so deftly, so joyfully…it was only as I left that I realized that she was blind, and that this dog was her eyes.  Or perhaps something more?

With loving kindness, we are given eyes to see.  She was seeing, though not without the aid of  natural sight.

And last night, I caught a glimpse of early summer evening light on two church steeples and the glint  of their brass weathervanes…signs of old New England, and felt blessed, blessed to be exactly where I was.  Steeped in love and kindness towards myself, the ones I have been given to love, and towards those who crossed my paths…all bathed in this light.

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Loving Kindness Meditation

There is an ancient and transformative meditation that the Buddha encouraged that elicits a gentle spirit, towards ourselves and others.

It is a practice that opens the heart toward forgiveness, even towards those who we may have deemed enemies. We may have people in our life who have caused us great pain or we may feel have stolen from us our essential self.  This, of course, is an illusion (though it can hold a powerful and long lasting spell on us if we are not awakened to it).  With loving kindness meditation, we can be restored to remember who we are, to listen our own good heart, our own best Self.

We can discover the wisdom to open the doors and windows of the Spirit.  It begins, always,  with a loving kindness towards ourselves.  It is after all, almost impossible to truly love others…until we know, love, and accept ourselves.  From this touchstone, we can spread our ability to love towards those in our inner circle, and then out into the wider world.

Begin with the breath of mindfulness, it is the breath that calls us to this moment.  It is life’s breath.  It is the breath that breathes through you, that you do not have to control, that you do not ultimately control. Be in your body.  It is a good body, and worthy of your care and respect.

Each day, for as many days as you can be present, repeat these ancient words:

“May I be filled with loving kindness/May I be well in body and mind/May I be safe from inner and outer dangers/May I be happy/Truly happy and free”*

*(taken from Jack Kornfield’s Audio Meditation on Loving Kindness)

I do this, dear reader, and it is changing me.  I watched a woman laughing on a 100 degree day in Charlotte, NC with her labrador retriever, getting cooled off in a beautiful fountain in the park.  She was directing her dog to the places that he could catch a drink of water.  She maneuvered him so deftly, so joyfully…it was only as I left that I realized that she was blind, and that this dog was her eyes.  Or perhaps something more?

With loving kindness, we are given eyes to see.  She was seeing, though not without the aid of  natural sight.

And last night, I caught a glimpse of early summer evening light on two church steeples and the glint  of their brass weathervanes…signs of old New England, and felt blessed, blessed to be exactly where I was.  Steeped in love and kindness towards myself, the ones I have been given to love, and towards those who crossed my paths…all bathed in this light.  Blessed be.

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THE FIERCE SWORD OF COMPASSION

Today’s post is about compassion, what it is and what it isn’t. The title for the post comes from Jack Kornfield, world renown Buddhist teacher and guide, from a book I can not recommend highly enough entitled The Wise Heart. Citing from Kornfield’s introduction of what Buddhism is and isn’t provides a helpful backdrop to the universal application of compassion. It is a principle that is a cornerstone of every life well lived, whether one adheres to a particular faith or not:

“In approaching this dialogue, I’d like to underscore a point the Dalai Lama has made repeatedly: “Buddhist teachings are not a religion, they are a science of mind.”  This does not deny the fact that for many people around the world Buddhism has also come to function as a religion.  Like most religions, it offers its followers a rich tradition of devotional practices, communal rituals, and sacred stories. But this is not the origin of Buddhism or its core.  The Buddha was a human being, not a god, and what he offered his followers were experiential teachings and practices, a revolutionary way to understand and release suffering.” 

In fact, an Italian scientist named Giacomo Rizzolatti and his colleagues discovered a class of brain cells called “mirror neurons.”  Their research showed that through our mirror neurons we actually feel the emotions, movements, and intentions of others. It is part of our social brain, “a neural circuitry that connects us.” 

Linguistically, the word compassion has its roots in Latin and Old French.  From the Latin compassionem, com (with), pati (to suffer), ion (state of, act of), it means “the act of suffering together.”  When we feel another’s sorrow:  at a friend’s husband’s funeral, with a mother whose child is undergoing chemotherapy, we often weep with them and for them. On another level, we feel the anguish also for ourselves.  We too are not immune, we all have experienced or will experience pain and death, of one kind or another.  There is much healthy connection in feeling sympathy for another’s pain.  If we have experienced similar tragedies, we may have something insightful to contribute to alleviate the suffering.  Yet, even if we have never had that experience, as humans we contain the urge and strong desire to end their suffering. Our willingness and openness to become a vehicle for healing can, in and of itself, bring comfort. 

That healthy connection means that I will stand with you in your pain and you will stand with me in mine; and we will bear it together.  We CAN bear it.  It is the opposite of fearful aversion that does not want to look, that feels like it can’t look.  This keeps us tucked away in our separateness, holding on for dear life with the delusion that such and such could never happen to me. This paradigm contains the seeds of suffering for everyone.

So what is meant then by the fierce sword of compassion? It is the “no” of compassion.  We can know and serve others, but we are not going to save the world.

 Again, Kornfield:  “Compassion is not foolish.  It doesn’t just go along with what others want so they don’t feel bad.  There is a yes in compassion, and there is also a no, said with the same courage of heart.  No to abuse, no to violence, both personal and worldwide.  The no is said not out of hate but out of unwavering care.  It is the powerful no of leaving a destructive family, the agonizing no of allowing an addict to experience the consequences of his acts.”

It is the learning to finding the harmony between holding on and letting go…in love.  May you find courage in the yes and no of your compassion.

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