Having gratitude for our enemies (Day 70)

June 21, 2013

100 Days of Lovingkindness

“Since my adversary assists me in my Bodhisattva way of life, I should long for him like a treasure discovered in the house and acquired without effort.

“…patience arises only in dependence on that malicious intention, so he alone is a cause of my patience. I should respect him just like the sublime Dharma.”
From the Bodhicaryavatara, by Santideva

The 8th century Indian teacher Shantideva gives us a rationale for feeling grateful to those who wish us harm: our enemies give us an amazing opportunity to practice patience.

This can actually work! This morning on a social network something I’d said attracted the attention of a guy whose communication started off as rather brash but … Read more »

Innate purity versus original sin (Day 69)

June 20, 2013

eveOne of my favorite lines in a movie is where a Freudian analyst (complete with thick Viennese accent) asks a man about his childhood.

“I had a normal childhood,” the man replies.

“Ah, so you vanted to kill your fazzer and sleep with your muzzer!” the analyst declares.

I sometimes wonder if Sigmund Freud was an incarnation of Mara, the Buddhist personification of doubt. I’ve lost count of the number of people who have had experiences of happiness undermined because they suspect that they must be repressing something, somehow believing that happiness must be delusional. And many people carry around the notion that there is something fearful and unknown (incest! death wish! penis envy!) lurking … Read more »

Looking deeper for the good qualities of others (Day 68)

June 19, 2013

100 Days of LovingkindnessAt first glance, and maybe at the second or third glances as well, it might seem odd that in the mudita bhavana meditation, where we’re developing joyful appreciation, we’re asked to rejoice in the good qualities of a “neutral person,” who is usually someone we don’t really know. Mostly my neutral people are people who work in shops or post offices, so I have very limited contact with them and don’t know them personally. Yours may have similar roles in your life. So how can we rejoice in qualities when we don’t know the person and may not know what their good qualities are?

Well, one approach to this is just to bear in mind … Read more »

The “magic ratio” of appreciation (Day 67)

June 18, 2013

shellAppreciation of others’ good qualities improves our lives and makes us happier. But it’s great for them, too, and it can also save our intimate relationships.

I remember one time my wife saying, just after I’d made a critical comment, that I criticized her a lot, which surprised me, because I didn’t think I did. I asked her as gently as I could when the last time was that I’d said something critical, and she couldn’t remember. I asked if it was within the last two weeks. No, it was longer ago than that. The last month? She was pretty sure it was longer ago than that.

So this is indicative of the way that … Read more »

There’s more right with you than wrong with you (Day 66)

June 17, 2013

puzzle game solution head silhouette mind brainIn Full Catastrophe Living, Jon Kabat-Zinn writes, “As long as you are breathing, there is more right with you than there is wrong, no matter how ill or how hopeless you may feel.”

From the moment you are conceived, right up until the moment you take your last breath, there is more right with you than wrong with you.

It’s very easy to lose sight of this. When something good happens to us, we often don’t celebrate much and so don’t take it in. And when we do celebrate it’s often almost momentary. And yet we obsess about things that bother us.

Imagine a friend has said an unkind word to you. Often you’ll … Read more »

Appreciation is contagious (Day 63)

June 14, 2013

100 Days of LovingkindnessWhen you practice joyful appreciation (mudita) or any of the related attitudes such as kindness (metta) or compassion (mudita), you become happier.

Your friends become measurably happier because you’re happy.

Your friends’ friends become measurably happier.

And your friends’ friends’ friends’ become measurably happier.

Happiness spreads outward into the world through your social network like a virus — although a rather beneficial one.

This may all seem rather incredible, but I stress the word “measurably” above because the evidence for this is solid, and is based on a huge study carried out by Harvard Medical School and the University of California, San Diego.

Professor of Medical Genetics James H. Fowler (he’s the San Diego guy) … Read more »

The power of gratitude (day 62)

June 13, 2013

100 Days of LovingkindnessRobert A. Emmons, Ph.D., is the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude. He’s a professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, the founding editor-in-chief of The Journal of Positive Psychology, and the author of Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, and so he’s written a lot about the benefits of gratitude.

Gratitude is, of course, an important aspect of joyful appreciation, or mudita, which is the practice that we’re exploring at the moment as part of our 100 Days of Lovingkindness. So here are a few ways that Dr. Emmons has shown gratitude can enhance our lives.

  • Gratitude enhances positive emotions. Emmons points out, as
Read more »

Learning to see the good in others (Day 61)

June 12, 2013

100 Days of LovingkindnessHow open are we to the good qualities of others?

Twenty years ago today, I was in the middle of a four-month retreat in the mountains inland from Alicante, in Spain. This was the retreat in which I, along with 25 other men, became members of the Triratna Buddhist Order.

It was an amazing experience to be on retreat for so long, and to be studying and practicing the Dharma so intensely. We were living in a valley in simple huts, surrounded by towering limestone cliffs and rugged rock formations that jutted above the gorse-covered earth. We ate outdoors, and meditated in a simple hall which was filled with incense and the singing of nightingales. … Read more »

The “near enemy” of mudita, or joyful appreciation (Day 60)

June 11, 2013

100 Days of LovingkindnessAs I’ve pointed out before, we shouldn’t experience mudita, or joyful appreciation for happiness that arises in others through unskillful actions. If someone feels joy because they just swindled an old lady or robbed a bank, or because they’re high on cocaine, those would be forms of joy based on unskillful motivations and actions, and those therefore aren’t the kinds of things that we should, in our own turn, feel joyful about.

But here’s a trickier one. Someone asked me about joy that’s based on luck, or worldly gains: “I know too many folks (above all in the IT field) who stumbled into riches and others who worked themselves to the bone yet nonetheless are … Read more »

Flooding the body with gratitude (Day 58)

June 9, 2013

100 Days of LovingkindnessThe other day I suggested the practice of noticing our everyday blessings — things like having electricity, running water, shelter, a relatively law-abiding culture — and saying “thank you” for these things. I stressed the importance of actually articulating these words in our minds (although saying them out loud could be even more effective) in order to overcome the mind’s negativity bias, where we tend to pay attention to that which we think is going wrong and take for granted and ignore that which is going right.

Today I want to turn that inward, by reiterating a favorite practice of mine, which is of giving thanks to our bodies for the service they give us. … Read more »