Mar 16, 2013
This week one of my students described how she tends to talk to herself in a very harsh tone of voice — much harsher than she’d ever use with other people. And that’s a very common experience. In our own minds we often describe ourself as “an idiot,” tell ourselves that our actions were “stupid,” or limit ourselves by telling cruel stories about how people don’t like us and how we’ll never be good at the things we do.
We tend not to talk this way to others, or at least to a much lesser extent. Of course if we do there tends to be a backlash. We cause hurt, anger, …
Feb 02, 2013
Sometimes people have problems with the final stage of lovingkindness practice — developing goodwill for all beings. Because how can you possibly relate to all beings! It’s impossible!
I think the language of “all beings” can be misleading. We can’t literally have metta for all beings because we don’t know who they are, or where they are, or even if they are!
The final stage is called, in the commentaries, “breaking the bounds” and I see it as breaking the bounds of one-to-one relationships. The middle three stages all include a one-to-one relationship with someone: a friend, a neutral person, and someone you have difficulty with. A visual comparison …
Jan 24, 2013
We’re almost a quarter of the way through the challenge!
One thing I’ve been working on is cultivating more lovingkindness in daily life. I find that if I don’t deliberately do this, then my mind often has a bit of a hard and brittle “edge” to it that can come out in irritability and even in anger.
Lovingkindness meditation helps, but it’s not enough. There are still live, unexploded reserves of anger inside my being, and they need to be defused.
Practicing lovingkindness in daily life is like sending in the bomb squad.
So as I’m driving, or walking, or standing in line in a store, and even often when …
Jan 18, 2013
Sometimes people have trouble wishing a person well when that person has done or said something they disapprove of, or that was downright wrong, because it seems like they’re “rewarding” that person. But not cultivating lovingkindness to a person you find difficult is, to use an old expression) cutting off your nose to spite your face. Our lovingkindness helps us to be happier.
It’s worth remembering that the lovingkindness we send people isn’t a “reward for good behavior”. It may help them indirectly or directly, or it may not help them at all, but we always benefit. Our lovingkindness may benefit the other person because we’re no longer as …
Jan 11, 2013
It astonishes me how much time I spend making judgements about people, but the truly surprising thing is that although it makes me feel bad, I keep doing it. And it leads to unfortunate interactions with people which ends up causing them suffering too.
One thing that protects us against this kind of self-imposed suffering is lovingkindness (metta) practice. Lovingkindness is an important complement to mindfulness practice.
To cultivate metta we can do something as simple as repeat to ourselves, “May you be well; may you be happy” as we see others. We can do this while walking or driving, for example.
We can take a more reflective approach …
Rick Hanson PhD
Dec 28, 2012
Friendliness is a down-to-earth approach to others that is welcoming and positive.
Think about a time when someone was friendly to you – maybe drawing you into a gathering, saying hello on the sidewalk, or smiling from across the room. How did that make you feel? Probably more included, comfortable, and at ease; safer; more open and warm-hearted.
When you are friendly to others, you offer them these same benefits. Plus you get rewarded yourself. Being friendly feels confident and happy, with a positive take on other people, moving toward the world instead of backing away from it. And it encourages others to be less guarded or …
Rick Hanson PhD
Nov 27, 2012
Take a breath right now, and notice how abundant the air is, full of life-giving oxygen offered freely by trees and other green growing things. You can’t see air, but it’s always available for you.
Love is a lot like the air. It may be hard to see – but it’s in you and all around you.
In the press of life – dealing with hassles in personal relationships and bombarded with news of war and other conflicts – it’s easy to lose sight of love, and feel you can’t place your faith in it. But in fact, to summarize a comment from Ghandi, daily life is saturated with moments of …
Nov 19, 2012
Recently I received a few questions about the relationship between lovingkindness and “toughness.”
1. When practicing lovingkindness, how do you respond if people around you warm to you, but misconstrue your kindness and friendliness, and then become disappointed that you don’t want a “relationship” with them?
Well, that’s an interesting question. I suppose the short answer is “kindly.”
It’s great if people are noticing you becoming friendlier and are responding. But these things can be complicated, especially when people have strong emotional needs (because they’re lonely, for example) or where friendliness is being interpreted as an overture to romantic involvement.
And sometimes we may need to look at the signals we’re …
Sep 06, 2012
I was drawn to my first Buddhist mindfulness retreat during a time when my son, Narayan, was four, and I was on the verge of divorce. During a slow, icy drive through a winter snowstorm on the way to the retreat center, I had plenty of time to reflect on what most mattered to me. I didn’t want a breakup that would bury the love I still shared with my husband; I didn’t want us to turn into uncaring, even hostile, strangers. And I didn’t want a breakup that would deprive Narayan of feeling secure and loved. My deep prayer was that through all that was happening, I’d find a …
Aug 01, 2012
If your life feels like a struggle with the world, it may be that your real struggle is with yourself. But if we turn towards our experience with kindly awareness we can find the deepest kind of peace and happiness that comes from within
Mindfulness means paying attention. Simply paying more attention to our surroundings brings many benefits, but something interesting also happens when we also pay attention to the thoughts in our heads and the feelings that go with them.
Many people notice how hard we on ourselves we can be. There’s a constant commentary on everything we do, often including self-criticism, harsh judgments, chivvying and berating. That has an …