Saturday, February 28, 2015

Loving-kindness



“Even as a mother protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all living beings”

The Buddha’s words on loving-kindness

I love this quote by Buddha and I want to add that both a mother and a father love their child, and their love can be projected on to all living beings.
My hubby has cultivated a special interest in meditation and mindfulness. Six weeks ago he encouraged me to join a meditation retreat. I’m glad I followed his advice. Since I attended this retreat I’ve been practicing meditation every day.
I’m not going to discuss the benefits of meditation on this post. There is research on the psychological and medical effects of meditation, but I will focus on another dimension that is often overlooked. Yet it has the potential to permeate all aspects of our lives.
  After I expressed my interest in loving-kindness meditation, the kind lady who led the retreat gave me this book by Sharon Salzberg entitled “Loving-kindness”.

 You don’t need to practice meditation or to be a Buddhist to appreciate the power of this book.  It inspires you to build a fortress of loving-kindness, regardless of what you encounter.
 The wisdom on these pages is a harbor of peace, a beacon of hope.
 How do we find peace amid the chaos of the world?
 It is through metta that we take the power of love beyond the sphere of our thoughts.
 Metta is the sense of loving-kindness that is not bound to desire, that does not have to pretend that things are other than they way they are. It overcomes the illusion of separateness, of not being part of a whole.
 Metta is the ability to embrace all parts of ourselves as well as all parts of the world. We can open to everything with the healing force of loving-kindness. When we feel love, our mind is expansive and open enough to include the entirety of life in full awareness, both its pleasures and its pains.
  
 The other root meaning for metta is “friend”. A good friend is someone who is constant in our times of happiness and also in our times of adversity or unhappiness. A friend will not forsake us when we are in trouble nor rejoice in our misfortune. The Buddha described a true friend as being a helper, someone who will protect us when we are unable to take care of ourselves, who will be refuge to us when we are afraid.
 The practice of metta is also about befriending ourselves and uncovering the force of love that is stronger than fear, anger and guilt.  It has nothing to do with sentimentality and desire.
 Desire says, “I will love you, I will take care of you, I will offer you this or that as long as you meet my expectations and satisfy my needs.” This kind of “love” is a bargain based on attachment and desire.
 "True happiness cannot be found in something or some person, because as everything changes, that level of happiness is bound to be temporary."
                  Sharon Salzberg
  
 Many human beings tend to live under the delusion of separation, and yet we are all interconnected. Those who cause suffering do so out of ignorance. Those who slander, gossip, kill, hate, rape, torture, do so without knowing that they are hurting themselves. But hate only perpetuates hate.
 Consider anger, for example. We don't have to deny it. Anger is something we have to acknowledge and accept. The energy of it can be turned into wisdom. It can encourage us to do something to change or improve a certain situation. 
 We have to remember, however, that anger is like the clouds over a mountain. It is temporary. The mountain symbolizes the strength of love: it is the solid foundation that does not disappear, even when the clouds are dense and seem to conceal the mountain.
  All dark emotions can be overpowered by love. 
 I picked the image of an ocean at the beginning of this post to symbolize our inner worlds. Our inner world is boundless. By meditating we tap into it and meet that spaciousness. The vastness of our interior worlds is a part of the outer world as a whole. We are all connected to a boundless universe. 
 When we sit to meditate we do so without expectations. We are not attached to the outcome of the practice.
 "Loving-kindness" tells us life anecdotes and delves into many subjects: kindness,  compassion, morality, suffering, judgments, envy, jealousy, forgiveness and many others.
  Sharon Salzberg explains the concept of mudita.  I sense that many people I've encountered have trouble understanding the concept of mudita. Interestingly,  I can't find a word in English for mudita. Mudita is the joy and happiness that we feel at other people's happiness. It is the pleasure that comes from delighting in other people's well-being. When I was writing this post I reflected on the concept of mudita. 
  Why do people find it so difficult to believe in mudita? Why do they treat it with distrust? Are their minds clouded by competition and judgments?

I will share some quotes from this book:

“We can give in so many ways. We give materially, in terms of goods and money. We give time, service, caring. Even to allow someone to be just the way they are is a kind of giving. We have endless opportunities every day to give.”

“As mudita grows, we see that the happiness of others is our happiness; sympathetic joy allows us to open further and further with loving-kindness, so more and more we really do want other people to be happy.”

"Contemplating the goodness within ourselves is a classical meditation, done to bring light, joy and rapture to the mind. In contemporary times this practice might be considered rather embarrassing, because so often the emphasis is on all the unfortunate things we have done, all the disturbing mistakes we have made. Yet this commitment fills us with joy and love, and a great deal of self-respect."

“There is always blame in this world. If you say too much, some people will blame you. If you say a little bit, some people will blame you. If you say nothing at all, some people will blame you. This is the very nature of life. No one in this world experiences only pleasure and no pain, and no one experiences only gain and no loss. When we open to this truth, we discover that there is no need to hold on or push away.”

“Despite the hatred and monstrous egoism evident in some human actions, remembering the fortitude, courage and love people are capable of can awaken our appreciation. When we feel happy for others we feel happy and connected ourselves.”

"I have met beggars on the streets of India whose spirits were enormous. I have seen a beggar in Calcutta, with no arms or legs because of leprosy, crawling along the streets with a bucket in her mouth into which people dropped money. Despite her suffering, she wanted to live. "
"Love exists in itself, not relying on owning or being owned. Love is not a matter of currency or exchange. Everyone has enough to cultivate it. Metta reunites us with what it means to be alive and unbound."

22 comments:

  1. Julia: Good for you! I absolutely accept the principles of meditation and mindfulness, and as a lifetime martial artist, I have practiced both for most of my life.

    I love your comment: "Anger is something we have to acknowledge and accept. The energy of it can be turned into wisdom." Perhaps, it explains the spirit in which I express my blogging opinions.

    Thank you for the reference to Sharon's book. I will check it out.

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    1. Thanks, JJ.
      Meditation is a powerful practice when it is done consistently, and this is what I have been doing.
      Peace and metta,
      Julia

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  2. What beautiful thoughts! Thank you for sharing them. I'm glad you went to the meditation retreat as well, because clearly it had a tremendous impact on you. It sounds like it was a life-changing experience.

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    2. Thanks, Karen.
      The retreat was a profound experience.
      Meditation has many health benefits too and reading this book was a source of comfort and understanding. It expresses my ways of experiencing life and my own views. It was refreshing to read it.

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  3. Dear Julia,

    I can say a lot in brevity. The eloquence of the words you have shared are embraced with all the goodness I sense in an intertwined willingness.

    A peaceful Sunday to you, my kind friend.

    Gary :)

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    1. Thanks, Gary.
      A peaceful, enlightening week to you.
      Peace and metta,

      Julia

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  4. What a wonderful recommendation from your husband, what a gift, I love Sharon Salzburg's words and wisdom and how mindfulness is making it into the mainstream of living. Loving kindness is a cure all :)

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    1. Thank you, Claire.

      Peace and metta,

      Julia

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  5. Wow! such a wonderful read...this blog post just inspire me alot

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    1. The ther root meaning for metta is "gentle". Sharon says that metta is like a gentle rain that falls everywhere. It is like the force of love connecting us all.
      Metta and mudita,
      Julia

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  6. love and kindness is something which the blind can see and the deaf can hear...awesome post with a beautiful message :))

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    1. Thanks Adhi.
      Your comment reminds me of Saint-Exupery's quote: "What is essential is invisible to the eye."

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  7. That sounds like a powerful book. I meditate almost every day. My wife teaches yoga and taught me about mindfulness and meditation.
    The practice has made my life better.

    Hope all is will with you Julia. I haven't visited in too long.
    Rick

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  8. Hi Rick. I agree, and I think Jilda and you will love this book.

    Metta and mudita,
    Julia

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  9. A beautiful post Julia!
    Oriental philosophies (include Buddhism) sound so much more human in western translations. One day an American lady passed me a note, claimed it was written by Lao Tsu: "Because of love, one is courageous". I was surprised because as a Chinese I did not feel like that was what Lao Tsu said. Later I realized original term of "Love" in this translation is "慈", which means "Metta" (thanks for writing this post so I know this English word, because I had not hitherto found the right English translation). My personal understanding of this concept of metta in oriental tradition is way negative, or passive I should say, than how it's being taken by modern western world. It's a term more close to "kind" than "love", also contains more obedience, indifference and submission, than tha tself-motivated love we talk about today. However, I think it's a good thing that the acient oriental philosophies have fresh countenance in new world.
    Indeed love is courage and strength. I think the definition of love given by a blogger friend as "a desire for others' happiness" (may not be exact original texts) really nailed it, either metta or mudita, it said it all.

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    1. Indeed, love is about courage because courage involves trust, understanding and patience.
      And even when we take a distance from somebody we love we do it for love, because no matter how much we love somebody we cannot build a person's self-esteem.
      Here's an insightful quote by Buddha:
      "No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path."

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  10. Although I'm not a Buddhist, from everything I've read about this religion, a lot of their beliefs certainly resonate with me. So do the things you've written about this book. To me, the things Ms. Salzburg says ring clearly with pure and simple truths. Just beautiful. I'll be sure to look for this book. Thank you!

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    1. I'm not a Buddhist but these thoughts I shared resonate with me. Thanks, Susan.

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  11. I love Buddha’s quote too! Julia, how wonderful that your hubby has cultivated a special interest in mediation and mindfulness, and that you went on the mediation retreat. I used to love mediating. Prior to getting married (20 yrs ago) I was involved with mediation and new age philosophies but after meeting my hubby who disdains it all, I fell away from it. I really should not have let that happen so now, and especially after reading your post, I am going to being mediating again. It’s so peaceful and yes, so many benefits. Sharon Salzberg’s book sounds quite inspiring and I love the quotes you selected. Thank you for this post!

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    1. Excellent, Madilyn. It is never late to do what we are inclined to do. Life is a journey of infinite possibilities. Life is about change and growth. It is dynamic.
      Life is a masterpiece and we are the artists that create it.
      Love and light,
      Julia

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  12. Loving your pictures and the simple and beautiful way you have put your story across - you're an inspiration and I am following your journey - awesome work!

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I appreciate each and every comment. Thank you.