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!


AL said...


RennyBA said...

Hello again Buddy! Like Al, I wish you the same and God bless you!

oggie said...

very enlightening post. thanks for passing by. i do agree with you that wandering and wondering apply to life as well. if i dare say so, they're childlike characteristics that we, adults, lose later in life. have a good day!

Yesterdays_ashes said...

Thank you for this post Buddy. It is very interesting. Wishing you all the best.

Jeff Pioquinto,SJ said...

Amen to that Buddy.

Take care and God bless my friend.

Buddy said...

thanks to all of you for your wonderful thoughts!

Jeff Pioquinto,SJ said...

nice post. it would be helpful for me in dealing with the so-called "difficult people" hehehe.


i did include you in my prayers during my retreat. God bless

Buddy said...

Thank you, Jeff. I will pray for you, too.