In the last few months I have noticed a great leap forward in the lessening of levels of stress and reactivity on my part. I’m more content, things roll off my back a little easier. When I do over-react I catch it quickly and don’t leave a lot of mess in the wake. I procrastinate less because, well, why not just get it done now ? The level of my acceptance of “the things I cannot change” is so much better…not that there aren’t a LOT of things I’d like to change, not that I can’t complain (and certainly do!) about things, but, overall, I can really see and feel a shift.
I absolutely credit meditation with this leap forward; the consistency of my daily practice and the way I am seeking out opportunities to meditate in community, both in person and online. These things make a difference and I can clearly see and feel the results now.
I sm particularly entranced of late with Sharon Salzberg and her Metta teachings, or Loving- Kindness meditation. In Metta you choose words/phrases to offer in increments, starting with yourself and then expanding into the world at large. Typical statements might include “May I be safe, may I be happy, may I be healthy, may I be free from suffering, may I be free”. My personal favorite, and hardest one for me is “May I learn to live with the ease of an open heart ” (open heart = trust, right?). We can make these phrases personal to us, change them up. There are as many different ways to practice Metta as there are people practicing it. The order of sending the loving-kindness is very important, however. We begin by offering it to ourselves, and oftentimes this can be very difficult. It feels odd to wish ourselves well, I know I had trouble with it at the beginning. Now I say “get over it”! It ALL starts with us, and until we are at peace we can’t truly reflect it.
After ourselves we send the Metta to a loved one, one we care deeply about (this is often the easiest part , we love who we love!). Next we pick a neutral person, It might be a grocery clerk, someone we practice yoga with but don’t really know, our waiter at lunch…there are many options here and I find it fun to picture these people receiving little bombs of loving-kindness, not knowing what hit them.
Next we are asked to choose someone who is difficult in our lives. In early practice of this we choose someone just difficult, and not attempt to jump right to a person who has deeply hurt us. We wish these people the same things we wish ourselves and our most beloved. This can be transforming; in my life it has changed relationships and also allowed me the space to sever relationships kindly. It’s given me a personal sense of freedom from always holding on to the bad ….that illusive “learning to live with the ease of an open heart”.
Finally we bring the Metta out into the world, into the part where we say “may ALL beings be happy, free from suffering, healthy. May ALL beings be free”.
This feels so good!
Until it doesn’t.
Because when we do this we must include ALL beings. And when we really think about that we understand that none can be excluded, that everyone deserves to be happy, free from suffering, at peace and free. Those we hate, whose behavior is disgusting to us, who we fear…they are included in the “all beings” and wishing them all of this good stuff is hard, hard, HARD! I know that for sure; it sticks in my craw. When I first started the practice I loved this part of it because I would imagine the whole world all shiny and lovely, bathed in a golden light of love I was emitting forth (screeeeech! full stop!). As I understand it more I see my Metta going to despots, to politicians that I despise, to members of ISIS. I realize I have to include them and see them as human beings who, just like me and the people I love, want to be happy and free. How they got twisted and awful is none of my business. I know this can be vey subjective at times. We all hate ISIS, a clear and common enemy, but what about that politician you disagree with, or the one I do? It’s an election year; this can get tough.
Yet I keep doing it, even as I get more frustrated with the state of the world the environment, the economy and politics , ours in particular. I know we don’t talk about that much on here, at least in this part of the blogosphere I inhabit. We are trying to stay sober, live lives we can feel proud of, be people other than what abject self-centered selfishness have made us.
Hence the loving-kindness meditation. Hence the imperative to include ALL people.
Because once we are well, our directive is to help others. The moral imperative that we are charged with as recovered alcoholics. Now I am not saying we can’t have opinions, can’t work for causes, can’t believe what we believe. Far from it. We actually need, I believe , to be more involved, to jump out of the hole that we’ve been in for so long and work to make things better. To do that we need to have opinions and act on them with our time, our money, our vote; whatever it takes. But at the same time,for our own sanity, we have to be able to let it go, to live with whatever happens. Accept. This is not easy shit, this is, at times, impossible shit!
And that’s where the Metta meditation can really work it’s magic. Because even though WHATEVER… even though! we just turn our thoughts to wishing all beings happiness, health, safety, peace and freedom. And by starting with ourselves we become the change that we want to see. As we act in service to that change that light WILL emanate outwards to others, and then to others and then on and on until who knows?
I’m writing this for myself. I am writing this atop another completely different post I wrote in a rage last night. A screed on politics and politicians, a brilliant example of a rant offered by a completely closed heart. It was , in my opinion, justifiable anger (right? LOL…the worst!). But I have learned one of the most perfect lessons in AA….”pause when agitated”, and so I did not push publish. And today THIS is what I really mean and want to say.
I will publish this. I will erase the 1000 more angry, useless words below this post.
Both are true to me, both are me. But this represents the me I want to be as I move through the world. The other? Not so much. Expansiveness over limitation. Freedom over bondage.
The ease of an open heart.
May I learn to live with that.