If you live in an urban or suburban area in the US, you have probably seen what I have – Valentine’s Day “stuff” went into stores right after Christmas. Our retail economy seems unrelenting at times.
And, while all the screaming red cards, teddy bears, and candy are very distracting – have ya seen how kids react? – they represent, for me, a version of love that is of-the-moment, over-hyped and less than substantial.
The harder thing, I have found, is to sustain an attitude of loving kindness toward oneself and others. This can take a lifetime of willingness and practice.
What is loving kindness (alt: lovingkindness)?
Sharon Salzberg is the cofounder of the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) in Barre, Massachusetts, and has played a crucial role in bringing Asian meditation practices to the West. The practices of mindfulness and lovingkindness are the foundations of her work. From http://www.loving-kindness.org/
“Lovingkindness is a quality of friendship. Lovingkindness meditation is the cultivation of a steady, unconditional sense of connection that touches all beings without exception, including ourselves. The quality of lovingkindness is associated with three other qualities: Compassion, Sympathetic Joy & Equanimity.”
How do we proceed? We can use this approach, adapted from http://www.buddhanet.net/metta_in.htm
“The practice always begins with developing a loving acceptance of yourself….Then, continuing to develop loving-kindness towards others.
(there are) four types of persons to develop loving-kindness towards:
• a respected, beloved person - such as a spiritual teacher;
• a dearly beloved - perhaps a close family member or friend;
• a neutral person - someone you know, but have no special feelings towards, e.g.: a person who serves you in a shop;
• a hostile person - someone you are currently having difficulty with.”
Starting with yourself, you may wish to say something like:
“May I be peaceful.
May I have ease of well-being.
May I reach the end of suffering...
And be free.”
And, then, using the name of the next person, repeat those phrases. Run through the sequence of phrases for each person you’ve chosen.
From my own practice, i have found that loving acceptance of myself is no easy task. No wonder, then, that I find it difficult to love certain others.
When I am able to embrace - not hate, deny or compartmentalize – my perceived shortcomings, I am more able to hold others in compassion.