On our radio show last week (Going Out Of Your Mind) we talked with Chuck Lief, the President of Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, about the dichotomy of wanting to open our arms with kindness and compassion to the Syrian refugees while also acknowledging the fear that we may be opening to terrorists.
Chuck spoke about the “seduction of ignorance,” which beautifully illustrates how easily we get drawn into the fear of the unknown and how that immediately hampers our ability to give or to care.
Then we remembered talking with Ram Dass at the time of the Clinton/Dole election (way back in 1996). He told us he had a picture of Bob Dole on his meditation altar, as: “Dole needs the most love and compassion as he is the one being so vilified.” Ram Dass was practicing true loving kindness, aka metta.
There are a lot of people who need our love and care at the moment, such as most of the Republican party, Syrian refugees, Planned Parenthood doctors and clients, the police and both the black and white people they shoot, whether accidentally or not, to name but a few. They need our love for the same reason Bob Dole did: because ever more people are maligning them.
Certainly it sounds easy to be kind and loving—how great, what a cool idea. But in practice it’s rarely so simple, like when someone says or does something that is personally dismissive, derogatory or hurtful. Can kindness still flow when the ego-mind is upset? Or when we see huge injustice: can kindness still flow in the face of inhumanity?
Focusing on metta brings us up against our limitations and boundaries. Where do we meet our edge? Where is our capacity to step over the edge into greater kindness? How genuine is our ability to be altruistic in a difficult situation? It highlights those places that are bound in selfishness: does fear limit our capacity for caring?
Metta asks that we stay caring, that we keep our heart open to the situation we are struggling with and all the accompanying fear and anger, and hold ourselves with gentle tenderness. For instance, if we feel affected by someone being negative then metta shows us where such negativity triggers hidden feelings within us of unworthiness, insecurity and self-doubt, and therefore how that is actually the very time to extend even greater compassion, to both ourselves and others.
We can do this because we are bigger than the world situation would make us believe we are: our hate, anger and fear belong to times of struggling for survival, not to our present circumstances. We are capable of loving far more than we realize.
Loving kindness is the missing link between us all. We can come together and realize we are not so different to one another and that we can meet within those differences. Let us nurture ourselves and love others, whether we agree or not. Then change is truly possible.
5 minute Loving Kindness Meditation
Begin by breathing into the area of your heart, softening and relaxing with the in-breath, letting go of tension on the out-breath. Repeat your name or imagine an image of yourself in your heart and say silently: May I be well, may I be happy, may I be filled with loving kindness.
Then wish that the beings around you be well, wish that they be happy. If you are at work you can repeat the names of co-workers and wish them joy. At night, think of your family and friends and wish them wellness and happiness: May they be well, may they be happy, may they be filled with loving kindness.
Now hold all beings in your heart, whoever they are and wherever they may be, while you silently repeat: May all beings be well, may all beings be happy, may all beings be filled with loving kindness.