Thursday, April 23, 2020

No-Crap Compassion

Click here to watch this short video

What's the best way to grow qualities like compassion & warm friendliness? Should we 'fake it 'til we make it'? Or is there another way?

This was the discussion in my meditation group this week.

"Loving-kindness" meditations are common in dharma practice. Many of us shared that these didn't feel terribly authentic. Like we're saying the words - 'may all beings be well and happy'; 'may all beings be at peace' - but honestly... somewhere deep inside we feel like frauds; like we're faking it. These words don't move us. They don't evoke compassion or warm friendliness, and if anything, they evoke some sense of incredulity.

For me, it brought up memories of sitting through Catholic Mass - reciting a bunch of words that had no resonance with my reality.

Maybe some people find this helpful in building a new habit, in practising good intentions. But I find it leaves me cold. It's like I'm trying to talk some grand virtue into magically appearing inside me. It never happens.

However I've found another method that really works. The task is to look carefully for the real moments of compassion or warm friendliness (the translation I prefer for 'metta', usually translated as loving-kindness) in your day to day life. Some of us might have to look really hard. They might only be tiny green shoots. But they will be there.

It might be a moment of open heartedness for someone you see on the street or in the supermarket, who is clearly not in a happy, healthy space. It might be someone struggling with their body - maybe even walking is painful. It might be simply a look of hurt or sadness in their eye. It might be a post or video you see on the internet. (The one I've posted here opened my heart to compassion in less than 60 seconds!)

Then, when we find those green shoots, the task it to tend to them with great care. Take notice of them carefully, pull the weeds from around them. These weeds might be mind activity that squashes or works against this moment.

Water them - that is, pay full attention to them. What are the thoughts that give rise to the feelings? Give those thoughts lots of air time. Repeat them. What does friendliness FEEL like in the body? Linger on that feeling for as long as you can. Really pay attention to the small moments of these beautiful states. Have your mental radar switched on to look for the experiences you DO have already, and amp them up.

After our discussion ended, I had a funny mental movie arise. I'm standing next to an empty garden bed in my back yard, looking at the soil. I think: Option 1 - say the words "may there be a garden; may it be lush and green". Option 2 - look closely at the soil, find the tiny green shoots, pick the weeds from around them, water them, check on them daily.

I'm not suggesting this is the only way to cultivate the helpful, beautiful qualities we're capable of. But for me, this method works. For me, I've got to "keep it real".

1 comment:

  1. Nice post. But it seems the video you posted is an image not a video. Cheers