Sunday, October 16, 2011

Where I Go For Loving Kindness

From Jack Kornfield, my first teacher many years ago, I got my first training in loving kindness during one of the family days at Spirit Rock. I remember learning:

First start thinking of a person for whom I felt great love
Then get in touch with the love I felt in my heart
Then direct that same love towards myself 
'May I be at peace, May I be at ease, . . .'
Then to expand the circle of love further and further outside of myself until it included all the people in the world. 
'May they be at peace, May they be at ease . . .'

This did not work quite so well for me. Since then, I have found this optimistic approach about loving kindness is also difficult for many other folks. There are two problems. First is the fact that for some, there has never been the experience of feeling love for another person. Second, most of us in the Western world have a very hard time loving ourselves. Instead of loving kindness, anger or self-hate may arise with such practice. Not necessarily bad, as everything is grist for the mill in meditation practice, but still, not really the intent.

More workable I have found, is a more inclusive practice that goes like this:

First start thinking of a person, or a pet, or a place, or a thing for whom one feels great love
Then get in touch with the love felt in one's heart and hold it
Then try sending out some of that same love towards oneself
And become aware of all that is present in one's experience
Including other feelings, thoughts, sensations in the body
Relax the tensions in the body, and the mind, as much as possible
Meanwhile being aware of quiet body being breathed
Take it in all in, not pushing away anything, and wish one self well,
'May I be at peace, May I be at ease, . . .'
Enrobing all the feelings, thoughts, sensations, tensions
Enrobing them in the love found earlier in one's heart
Repeating the words as often as necessary,
Being aware still of body being breathed, in and out
Then expand the circle of loving kindness to at least one other person,
'May he/she be at peace, May he/she be at ease, . . .'
And continue expanding the circle, until one comes to a stop.
Not forcing anything, relaxing into the reality of one's heart,
And rewiring our brain with the words
'May I/they be at peace, May I/they be at ease, . . .'

The place I go to for love, is a memory of my maternal grandfather holding my hand, and the smell of the earth impregnating his farmer's clothes. How about you? What is your love person, place, thing, . . . ?

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