Monday, March 20, 2006

Affirming...versus...Asking for Well Being

This post is a reflection on the meditative practice of Metta...the Buddhist-based practice of discovering and affirming the essential goodness of ourselves and others.

This tool is designed to help us soften our hearts to compassion for ourselves...and others.

For many, it is a particularly helpful method of dealing with difficult people, remembering that, despite the current situation, these people are basically good...and they desire to be happy -- just as we do.

The practice consists of meditating on a series of traditional phrases:

  • May I be safe

  • May I have peace of mind

  • May I have physical well-being

  • May I have ease of well-being.

Many people who practice Metta often have trouble with the words "May I."

For me, the conflict arose when my meditation teacher instructed us that, when we say these words in this practice, we should remember to affirm our right to safety, peace of mind, physical and overall ease of well-being.

We are not asking for these things. How, I asked myself, could I get my mind around the dichotomy of meditating on these affirmatively...while using words that evoke a request, as in a prayer. In fact, my struggle with this is deeper than using words that don't seem to fit the occassion.

It has a lot to do with feeling deserving of these states of being.

But that's a whole 10 sessions on the therapist's couch. Rather, I want to share here a realization that I recently had -- which I think helps me understand Metta better (that rhymes). I hope this helps others who may be struggling with affirming...asking...being aware.

This is a letter that I sent to my meditation teacher on March 19, 2006. Please forgive my irreverant humor.

Dear Carole, I had a revelation…an “A-ha!” moment last night at Mass that I’d like to share with you.

After meditating with the Host at communion, I heard the priest say: “The Lord be With You.”

Now, that’s a phrase I’ve heard by rote since I was in short pants and Jack Kennedy was sleeping with hookers in the Lincoln bedroom. This time, however, the meaning of it hit me in a powerful, new way.

I suddenly realized that ‘the Lord be With You’ is an affirmation…not a request. The Lord is with us always, and if there’s any request at all in that phrase…it’s not to the Lord…it’s an implied request for us to wake up & recognize that the Lord is with us.

It’s like Metta’s “May I be safe.” We’re not asking for it…we’re already safe, and we have the capacity to know this essential truth. We’re just reminding ourselves of that inherent safety…and perhaps more importantly, our ability to wake up and know that we’re safe.

Carole, this has reaffirmed by belief that it is beautiful to learn about all our brothers’ & sisters’ spiritual traditions.

The truths of Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, any tradition that draws us closer to the Spirit…are like so many flickers of gold in the divine stream. If we do the work and pan for those glimmering bits of wisdom and insight, we become rich…enlightened.

Thanks for your priceless guidance!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Christopher Reeve's Widow Dies at Age 44

Perhaps today Dana & Christopher Reeves are running together, hand-in-hand, through a celestial blue surf.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

The Space Between Breaths

During meditation yesterday, as I was focusing on my breath, I became aware of a message.

It was a kind of 'knowing': 'Pay attention to the space between the breaths, too.'

So I began to become aware of that space, how my lungs feel as they get ready to fill up again...the slight pang of compression that comes before I actually draw in the new air.

That space...that second in which the body takes a break from very interesting. It is also uncomfortable.

As I practiced over and over again, I became aware that this space, this uncomfortability, is part of the process. It is to be noticed...even appreciated...along with the joyful reassurance of full, satisfied lungs.

I think that this was a good message for me to hear...and to know.

The uncomfortable parts of life are part of the process, my process. The stuff you can't figure out or that causes you pain and suffering--they are tied into the fun, peaceful times.

Sad or happy, mad or at peace...these are just states of body and mind. They don't define me.

And, if I choose to...or if I'm disciplined enough...I can recognize that...and accept the pluses and minuses together--as just experiences, simply experiences.

One by one, they will arise and fall away...but I'll still be here.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Sometimes it's so hard for me to just be.

It's like I've got this war going on inside of my head, a series of debates.

It happens when something makes me sad or angry, and the internal conversation typically sounds like this: "Oh, that's not right...I shouldn't have thought that!" Or, "Don't be so judgemental of him/her."

I get so tired sometimes because I don't want to figure everything out...and yet...I feel like I have this need to do that. And then there are situations in life, encounters with friends or family--or personal issues that I deal with daily--that I haven't got any power over. But I'm still left with these feelings of helplessness or anger or judgement -- a sense that something is wrong, like a murky cloud that hugs the earth...obstructing my view.

I don't like feeling this way.

I'm throwing my hands up. I surrender.

  • May I have compassion for my feelings.
  • May I feel God's spirit telling me that it's okay.
  • May I just be.
  • May everybody, everywhere know that it's okay to just be.