I had some time in between meetings, and decided to call friends I had not talked to in a while. Going down the contacts list on my iPhone, I noticed the mind passing judgment on each name.
The one at the top had fallen into the mere acquaintances category. Heart tightened a bit.
Next one, a resounding no. She had hurt me once, and I still remembered the sting. Stomach and throat closed tight. The person in question no longer deserved to be on the list, 'my' list.
Oh, yes, that one. A good friend, and someone I am contemplating doing good work with. I felt heart open, and body relax.
Further down, someone who would always be part of my life. A complicated story, and some ambivalence, but mind was fair and could see things as they are.
And right below, the urge to call her, who is always there for me. Heart overcome with gladness, it felt good.
At the letter D, heart ached from love not returned, and the craving for shared sweetness that could not be, at least not now.
Each letter, surprises in store, some first names I was not even sure whom they belonged to, and why I had once deemed them important enough to become 'contact'.
. . .
Soon, it became clear, I had to keep going down the list, and use each name as a way to test the state of my heart. What I found was no big surprise, but a confirmation of what I already knew. It takes a lot of sustained mindfulness to dismantle the mind's habit of finding reasons to not love. Noticing the damage done first and foremost to oneself when unloving thoughts arise. And not kidding oneself about one's ability to love.
Most helpful has been Ayya Khema's talk on metta, the most convincing teaching I have heard on love.
Ayya Khema reminds us to make loving kindness a part of our daily practice. Both mind and heart need to be re-trained.