It’s quite shocking to witness the cruelty coursing through our mind when things don’t go our way. Somebody upsets us and a cruel thought arises in the mind. We might not act on it, but it is still quite a shock to witness this tendency. The cruelty we have in ourselves is part of nature. -Ajahn Sundara
May I be safe. May I be healthy. May I be happy and peaceful. May I live with joy and ease.
May you be safe. May you be healthy. May you be happy. May you live with joy and ease.
Loving-kindness practices incline the heart towards goodwill, by watering seeds of compassion already present. Sounds great doesn't it? The bad part is that the opposite is also true: our inner arguments are also inclining the heart, watering seeds of ill-will which are also present, darn it! Focusing on kindness, strengthens kindness, and creates a mind-stream less reactive to ill-will's triggers.
What flows through the mind, shapes the brain, habitual thoughts clear the way for more and more of the same kind of thinking. Sustained anger fertilizes the ground for more anger, sustained kindness is nutriment for kindness.
Intentionally repeating phrases of loving-kindness, or performing other heart practices is like preparing the ground in early spring. It is as if the ground of the earth is tilled and fertilized especially for those seeds. Kindness leaves a deeper impression, grows deeper roots, healthier shoots.
Seeds of ill-will are less supported, but continue to arise. For a long time, thoughts of ill-will continue to arise. I wrote that twice because it is so often misunderstood. We do not instantly turn into soppy greeting cards, or perfectly enlightened beings. Because the mind is conditioned intentionally for kindness, we do slowly start recognizing destructive thoughts, and slowly lose faith in them. As we feed them less, they become weaker, less interesting, less compelling, and eventually they are harmless, because they have no power over us.
By extending the time we spend in a sustained positive mind-state, loving-kindness becomes a strong guardian of the heart, protecting us from our resentment, envy and all the rest.
We need some humility to let go of our righteousness. The wisdom of anger is accessible without ill-will, change is possible within the commitment to non-harming. You know that lighter feeling you experience when you let go of a resentment? Lightening. We cannot will it to happen, a shift of the heart happens in its own time. Trust your basic good nature. Only loving-kindness can protect us from our own ill-will, only compassion is wide enough, deep enough, wise enough, to hold the truth of our lives.
Our Monday evening practice group at the Methow Valley Wellness Center has grown up! It began as a direct outgrowth, of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Course. Each week I offer reflections on a specific topic, this blog is an excerpt. The process of preparing the talk has become an important dimension of my practice, for which I am deeply grateful.
I draw reflections from the psychological and philosophical aspects of Buddhist teachings, and a wide range of Western psychology, evolutionary psychology, neuro-science, and culture. I try to leave a few minutes for questions. Questions asking me to clarify the teachings are welcomed! Scheduling a private appointment is the best way to explore personal issues, or to generally deepen practice.