Last week I completed the 15-session “Lovingkindness” meditation course by Sharon Salzberg on the 10% Happier app. It is so great. She is so great! I feel a noticeable difference in my daily life as a result and now I’m wanting to keep lovingkindness as my meditation focus going forward, at least for awhile. It is both simple and challenging. “May you be safe. Be happy. Be healthy. Live with ease.” The idea is to apply those four phrases first to yourself, then to another person and another and another, and finally, to all beings.
It was pretty easy to apply the phrases to myself and to someone I love or care about. Very easy! Of course I want me and my loved ones to be happy! Then she asks that you try focusing on someone you might just see in passing, don’t really know, whose name you might not even know. That, too, was easy enough to do. Then, a benefactor, someone who has helped you in some way. Sure, easy, as well. But then she asks that you try applying these phrases to a difficult person or someone who has hurt you in some way. Here is where the change really starts to take place. This is where the greatness begins. I experienced an immediate and profound shift, not just while meditating, but the next day, when I encountered a person who had hurt my feelings several times in the past and whom I had selfishly not forgiven.
I say “selfishly” but it can hardly be called selfish to make yourself miserable over a perceived hurt. It’s like, as is said, drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. I was hurting myself by not forgiving.
Finally, Ms. Salzberg asks us to offer lovingkindness to all beings. I found that as long as I could avoid picturing certain world figures along with “all beings” I could do this, too. I know that the idea of wishing safety, happiness, health and ease on a few destructive, vengeful men who create havoc and tragedy in the world has merit. The thinking is that if these individuals were truly happy they would be nicer; thus, we should wish them well. I get it. I’m not there yet but I do get it.
But I can easily say to you, “May you be safe. Be happy. Be healthy. Live with ease.”
“Lovingkindness is so powerful because it reflects the truth of interconnection. If we don’t necessarily like somebody, we don’t need to spend time with them. But fundamentally, our lives are linked because all life is linked. We are part of an interconnected universe. We are all the traffic.” – Sharon Salzberg
“Of all the contemporary female Buddhist teachers, Sharon Salzberg is the most radically open, the one teacher I have met throughout the years who I can spend lots of time with, speaking about both the sacred and the mundane.” —bell hooks, author, professor, feminist, and social activist
“Love yourself. Then forget it. Then, love the world. ” ― Mary Oliver, Evidence
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Thanks for listening,
P.S. MerryThoughts is the name of my first book, out of print at the moment. The word is a British one, referring both to a wishbone and to the ritual of breaking the wishbone with the intention of either having a wish granted or being the one who marries first, thus the “merry thoughts.”