Loving Kindness

“Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.” -Pema Chodronloving-kindness-meditation

Pema Chodron’s words mean something new to me today than they did when I first read them several months ago.

The lesson I’m currently being taught by my life’s circumstance is the need for compassion and forgiveness. When I am in a place where I view the other as “bad,” I feel a sense of isolation. In this space, I am alone in the world, operating out of survival. It’s a scary place to reside. I feel so much more connected when I hold others in compassion and love. I feel better when I work on forgiveness (however imperfect I may be at this). My burden is less heavy.

Lately I have been seeking for the compassion and forgiveness of others. I have taken an inventory of my inner most thoughts and not-so-great life choices and can only hope that those who have been impacted by me are in a similar process of leaning toward forgiveness and love. I imagine how good I would feel to truly know that I was forgiven, and I start to feel lighter.

The biggest challenge when it comes to forgiveness is forgiving myself.  I’ve lived enough life to have some existential regret.  I wish I could go back and do things differently. I wish I would have taken more time. I wish I would have turned to something greater than myself to help me make a decision. When I view myself harshly, I feel my body constrict and sense a tightness in my heart. There’s not much I can do to learn and change when I’m this tense. Only when I look back on my life and say, “I did the best I could in the moment I was in,” do I really start to make meaning to my experience. This process of being gentle with myself is the way toward spiritual growth.

A skill that I revisit when I’m trying to cultivate more compassion is metta meditation. In Buddhist tradition, metta means loving kindness. It allows us to soften and hold those around us in light rather than darkness. I close my eyes, focus on my breath and begin to say these words:

May I be happy. May I be safe. May I be peaceful. May I be loved. 

Next I bring to mind someone who is easy for me to love, usually my dog or my nephew and I say:

May you be happy. May you be safe. May you be peaceful. May you be loved. 

I start to focus on someone who I have neutral feelings for, like a store clerk and repeat:

May you be happy. May you be safe. May you be peaceful. May you be loved. 

After being filled with loving kindness, I turn my attention toward someone who I have a conflicted relationship with and I wish the same love and compassion for them:

May you be happy. May you be safe. May you be peaceful. May you be loved. 

This practice isn’t always easy, particularly the last part. Yet it usually opens me up in a way that I don’t automatically get to on my own.

What lesson is life teaching you? Observe what happens when you bring compassion into your learning.

 

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