This post is a bit late, as I wanted to write it as a New Years 2017 post, but I feel like with the current political climate in the US and the tensions being created, this post might be appropriate on the day of Donald Trump’s Inauguration.
To follow up my intentions and past year of work being more authentic and vulnerable, I want to make 2017 my year of Loving-Kindness. What is Loving-Kindness and how did I get to this point of inviting it into my life? During my two months of time off for self-care and self-reflection before my Australian Adventure, I began to look into Buddhist practices and beliefs. Prior to this time, I had basic knowledge about Buddhism and what I did know, made sense to me in the broader context of the world. As I explored more into Buddhist practices and beliefs, I stumbled upon Metta meditations, otherwise known as Loving-Kindness meditations.
Loving-Kindness meditations are meant to free us from suffering, by dispelling previously held beliefs that we are all separated, and acknowledging that indeed we, all living beings, are connected in this universe, and that there is potential for love in all of us. For someone who had been closed off to real love, love from within and love from my friends and family, this concept of Loving-Kindness spoke to me as something I needed to continue to cultivate, because for so long, I’ve felt separated, alone, unlovable and unable to love.
Luck came my way when I found a great book on understanding and cultivating Loving-Kindness through meditation and I decided to give it a try. The first phase of Metta focuses on generating loving-kindness from within. In order to be able to transmit Loving-Kindness outwardly, it first must be generated from within, towards yourself, otherwise if you can’t be kind to yourself, you will never authentically be kind to others. The literal translation of Metta means “to be gentle” or “friend”, therefore it is my responsibility to be my own gentle friend.
When thinking about a good friend, they aren’t only there to help you celebrate the good times, they are the shoulder to cry on during the bad. They are constant, through the happy and the sad.This right here, being my own friend, through the thick and thin, is what I was lacking. I was a terrible friend to myself, especially when things would go wrong. When shit hit the fan, I would blame, ridicule, guilt and put myself down. Reflecting now, I truly did not like who I was. The first phase of Loving-Kindness is to be a gentle friend to my own soul. I yearn to be my own constant peace and love, no matter what the outside circumstances.
Part two of Loving-Kindness is to show it to friends and family. Over the holidays, this is what I practiced the most. I made sure to get back in touch with friends who I rarely see or speak to, I continued to show my love and support for friends in my immediate circle of daily life, and I made an effort to show my love and appreciation through gifts, small gestures and cards. These small offerings were gestures of my love and appreciation for my friends and family, and it allowed me to feel more connected to these people in my life. I was able to quell the fear of loneliness and separation by making an effort to stay connected, and be grateful for all who was in my life. This is a continuous process, being self-aware and acknowledging when I am thinking about someone, BUT ALSO making an effort to show them I am thinking about them.
Part three, the part that is most difficult, is to offer Loving-Kindness to others, especially the ones who I may feel don’t deserve it. The challenge is offer Loving-Kindness to those who have hurt me, those who will try to hurt me, those who are hurting, those who have so much hate in their hearts that they project it outwardly. In order to do this, I need to remember that they too were once born with Loving-Kindness in their heart, and the circumstances in their life changed them to be negative, feel bitter, hold hate, project hate, be fearful. They were all victims once, and their actions now reflect their experiences that they are still holding and have yet to let go. For me, this phase of Loving-Kindness will not be easy. It has taken lots of changes in my thoughts and actions to try and give Loving-Kindness to these people , but I’ve found that it is worth my hard work. Not only do I sometimes come out of stressful situations feeling more confident, more at ease, but sometimes the people with heaviness in their hearts come out feeling lighter too.
I am extremely grateful to have found Loving-Kindness and to be practicing it every day. There are lots of people in this world who project hate, fear, and negativity and it is inevitable that I will have to interact with them. Being in control of the way I act, I can project Loving-Kindness no matter the difficulty of circumstances, and in the end I believe that I will be better for it. For me, it is comforting to know when you meet the Donald Trumps of the world, the people who spout hate, and try to divide when you know that we are all spiritually connected, I can be my own anchor of peace and love, and project that outward. Who knows, maybe it might be contagious.