Nov 25, 2013
Three years ago I walked into a bookstore in Vancouver, where I was doing a book launch, and literally the first book spine that caught my eye in the Buddhist book section was called Buddha at Bedtime. As the father of two young children I pulled it from the shelf with excitement, and was astonished to discover it had been written by an old friend of mine from my days in Glasgow.
Of course I got a copy of the book, and it’s been a bedtime fixture in our household ever since. Now comes a much-welcomed sequel, The Buddha’s …
Nov 25, 2013
I’m going to write less today, because sometimes I go on a bit, and I know we’re all bombarded with information. So here are just a few words about the practice of compassion, and especially of self-compassion.
What is compassion? Like lovingkindness, it’s a volition (something we desire or will or intend). While lovingkindness is the desire that beings find happiness, compassion is the desire to relieve suffering. Compassion flows directly from lovingkindness; we want beings to be happy, yet they suffer, and so we want their suffering to be relieved so that they can find happiness.
Compassion is not a sentiment. It’s not just a feeling. Volitions are what lead to …
Nov 24, 2013
One quality that’s closely related to metta is appreciation. We often take things for granted when they’re going right, and then focus on what’s not going the way we want it to. And that makes us unhappy and makes our relationships with others less warm and appreciative.
At our worst we’ll say things like “Nothing ever goes right in my life.” And in the moment we’re saying those words we’ll ignore that we have air to breathe, we’re alive, we’re probably healthy, we’re living in a fairly civilized society (it’s far from being Mogadishu), we’re sheltered from the elements, we have water, electricity, the internet, friends, family, etc. The specifics of …
Nov 23, 2013
In previous posts I’ve suggested an approach to cultivating lovingkindness that begins with contacting our innate lovingkindness. Now the expression “contacting our innate lovingkindness” is a problem for many people, because they look inside themselves, don’t see anything at that moment that they could call “metta” or “lovingkindness,” and then conclude they don’t have these qualities. Which can start a downward spiral of rumination and pain: I don’t feel any love; Therefore I don’t love myself; Therefore I must be unlovable; Therefore no one will ever love me; Therefore my life is horrible.
I think almost everyone has experienced that kind of emotional nose-dive at one time or another.
But I think that when …
Nov 22, 2013
I’d like to share a way of relating that I call “loving gaze.” This is borrowed from Jan Chozen Bays, who writes in How to Train a Wild Elephant of the practice of “Loving Eyes.”
In her book she says:
We know how to use loving eyes when we are falling in love, when we see a new baby or a cute animal. Why do we not use loving eyes more often?
So what we can do is to recall, or even just imagine, the experience of looking with loving eyes. You can recall (or imagine) looking at a beloved child, or a lover, or even a pet. I find that the sense of …
Nov 21, 2013
Some of us in Wildmind’s Google Plus community are working our way through exercises from Jan Chozen Bays’ book, How to Train a Wild Elephant. We’re now on week 17 of the book, and this week’s exercise is called “Entering New Spaces.”
Here’s a brief outline of the practice:
The Exercise: Our shorthand for this mindfulness practice is “mindfulness of doors,” but it actually involves bringing awareness to any transition between spaces, when you leave one kind of space and enter another. Before you walk through a door, pause, even for a second, and take one breath. Be aware
Nov 21, 2013
The Urban Retreat, Day 4: “Protecting oneself, one protects others. Protecting others, one protects oneself.” The Buddha
The Buddha said, “Protecting oneself, one protects others. Protecting others, one protects oneself.”
Lovingkindness helps us protect others, and it helps us protect ourselves.
At one time I used to have the New York Times delivered to my house every morning. It was one of my great pleasures to have a leisurely breakfast with a cup of tea, toast, and some intelligent analysis from the Op-Ed pages. But first I had to get the newspaper, which was tossed onto (or near) the front porch every morning by the delivery driver.
It was always an awkward moment for me walking out onto the porch in my bathrobe and slippers, with my hairy legs and knobbly ankles …
Nov 20, 2013
When the rubber hits the road is a great time to practice lovingkindness, and I mean literal rubber and a literal road.
There’s a lot of irritation involved in driving, even far short of the extreme of road rage. It can be irritating to be in slow traffic, or busy traffic, or to be cut off, or to be held up by roadworks, or stuck at traffic lights.
We’re emotionally cut off from other drivers because we’re all in our own semi-private metal boxes, and so we don’t have access (usually) to their body language and facial expressions. So we often take things personally that aren’t necessarily personal. As comedian George Carlin said, “Have …
Nov 19, 2013
In yesterday’s post I talked about the fact that many people have misconceptions about what metta (lovingkindness) is, and how those misconceptions can lead to disappointment, despair, and to giving up on the practice. The main misconception I addressed is that lovingkindness is an emotion. Actually, lovingkindness is a volition. It’s classically defined as the intention that beings be happy. So it’s something we want, not something we feel. Although the volition may lead to certain feelings, like warmth, an open heart, a sense of cherishing, joy, etc., the feelings are secondary.
Another thing that often happens is that we try too hard to make something happen. This may have happened to you …