Monday, November 29, 2010

Lovingkindness

When the WWJD? craze struck the nation several years ago, I was too young to appreciate what a good question that is to ask, if one considers what the answer will always be. The New Testament has Jesus out and about doing all kinds of sweet and/or mystical things for people, helping them to know a living, breathing God. Regardless of the story (tax collectors and prostitutes, fish and loaves, etc) the main point is always that Jesus is compassion embodied. What would Jesus do? Love, baby, without limit.


Lately, I've become preoccupied with the term "Christ Consciousness." For those unfamiliar, it is one of many ways people talk about achieving the ultimate level of spiritual development, said to have been reached by people like Gandhi, Mother Teresa and the living, Hugging Saint, Amma. They are proof that it is possible to reach this state of totally boundless, pure love. Take Amma, for instance. A few years ago, a man attempted to assassinate her and was injured in the process. And what did she do? She went to his hospital room and helped nurse him back to health. Aside from my spiritual mentor, Rev. Robert Arpin, Amma is the closest I've come to Christ Consciousness embodied. She has committed to literally embrace the whole world, sometimes hugging people for hours at a time and has never turned anyone away. Simply being in her presence is healing and uplifting. She offers us a divine standard of behavior worth aspiring to.

 

I was in church with my mom and few years ago and the priest gave a really beautiful sermon about inclusiveness with a line I have never forgotten: "All the fish in the sea and the net won't break." What I took from it was that my heart can be like a net that can lovingly hold everyone I encounter. What does this mean? I have to learn to love and embrace everyone. Everyone! Even people who have been unkind to me. Even people who generate feelings of discomfort within me. Because, ultimately, my discomfort speaks volumes about me and who I am, and usually has little to do with the other person. It's my task to work that out, and definitely not up to the people around me to arrange themselves in a way that makes me feel more comfortable. It's up to me to stretch my heart wide enough to hold the whole world. THAT is unconditional love: no borders, boundaries or exceptions.

 

There is a useful tool for cultivating this compassion called "lovingkindness meditation" or Metta Bhavana. Here's what the Buddha had to say about Metta:
"
They may address you in an affectionate way or a harsh way. They may address you in a beneficial way or an unbeneficial way. They may address you with a mind of good-will or with inner hate. In any event, you should train yourselves: Our minds will be unaffected and we will say no evil words. We will remain sympathetic to that person’s welfare, with a mind of good will, and with no inner hate."

 

You practice Metta by reciting a mantra, first for yourself, then for a good friend, then someone neutral who you have no strong feelings for, then for a "difficult" person who you have conflict with, and finally for the whole world. You move to the next stage whenever you feel filled with lovingkindness for the person in question. There are various versions of the mantra, and I have developed my own over time that feels very complete:
May you be happy and peaceful
May you be healthy and strong
May you be safe and protected
May you be prosperous and abundant
May you live with ease and in graceful celebration of the reality of life



I'm not convinced that it's in the cards for everyone (myself included) to reach this level of being in their lifetime. Sometimes I think it takes several circles around the sun to raise our vibration high enough and clear enough karma to get there. However, it doesn't mean that we cannot sincerely try. Because Jackie DeShannon was right- what the world needs now IS love, sweet love. It's all there is, it's all you need and it's way more fun than hate. So get on out there and make some love today. You know you want to.

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