Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Sowing The Seeds of Love

"All human beings have in common the desire to avoid suffering and to achieve happiness." 
-The 14th Dalai Lama

As practitioners of yoga and meditation we ofter hear the word "lovingkindness". But what does it mean? It seems so easy in theory but how do we actually do it?

Several months ago I planted carrot seeds. In preparation, I created space in my little garden patch. I worked the ground with my shovel, removing obstacles such as stones and roots, and I prepared the dirt by mixing in organic compost. When the earth was ready, I opened the seed packet and spread the seeds over the soft soil, patting them gently into the nutrient-rich loam.

Once the planting was complete, there was nothing I could do to make the carrots grow.  All I am able to do is provide the conditions for them to grow and then sit back and watch them push up towards the light. I can't reach my hands into the dark soil and squeeze them into being through my wish for them to grow.  All I can do is provide the garden patch, warmth, water, care, and then be patient.

The same is true when we start out on the path to cultivate lovingkindness or "Metta Bhavana". For the seeds of love to grow we need soil and water. The soil in this case is our awareness. We lovingly remove the obstacles in our soil much in the way that we remove negative emotions or judgments, and we provide care through the process of observing with attention. We tend the garden of the soul and over time what we begin to see is that negative emotions begin to fade and that positive, more loving emotions begin to blossom.

"Compassion is the heart's response to sorrow.  We share in the beauty of life and in the ocean of tears.  The sorrow of life is part of each of our hearts and part of what connects us to one another.  It brings with it tenderness, mercy and an all-enbracing kindness that can touch every being." -Jack Kornfield

We use the time on our yoga mats or meditation cushions to practice being kind and compassionate with ourselves. When we feel tenderness and compassion towards our own joys and sorrows, we find that we can begin to feel tenderness towards the joys and sorrows of our loved ones, towards those with whom we have difficulties, and outward extending our love to all living beings.

So it all starts with a seed.  Prepare your soil today to sow the seeds of love everyday!

Until next time...

Try this loving kindness meditation by Sharon Salzberg:

You can begin by sitting down in a comfortable position, closing your eyes. Sit with your back erect, without being strained or overarched.

Take a few deep breaths, relax your body. Feel your energy settle into your body and into the moment.

See if certain phrases emerge from your heart that express what you wish most deeply for yourself, not just for today, but in an enduring way. Phrases that are big enough and general enough that you can ultimately wish them for all of life, for all beings everywhere.

Classical phrases are things like, "May I live in safety. May I be happy. May I be healthy. May I live with ease."

You can gently repeat these phrases over and over again, have your mind rest in the phrases, and whenever you find your attention has wandered, don't worry about it. When you recognize you've lost touch with the moment, see if you can gently let go and begin again.

"May I live in safety, be happy, be healthy, live with ease."

Call to mind somebody that you care about -- a good friend, or someone who's helped you in your life, someone who inspires you. You can visualize them and say their name to yourself. Get a feeling for their presence, and then direct the phrases of lovingkindness to them. May you live in safety, be happy, be healthy, live with ease.

Call to mind someone you know who's having a difficult time right now. They've experienced a loss, painful feeling, a difficult situation. If somebody like that comes to mind, bring them here. Imagine them sitting in front of you. Say their name. Get a feeling for their presence and offer the phrases of lovingkindness to them.

"May you live in safety. Be happy. Be healthy, live with ease."

Think of someone who plays some role in your life, some function that you don't know very well, that you don't have a particular feeling for, or against. Maybe the checkout person at the supermarket where you shop, the gas-station attendant, somebody that you see periodically. If someone like that comes to mind, imagine them sitting in front of you, and offer these same phrases of lovingkindness to them.

"May you live in safety. Be happy. Be healthy, live with ease."

We connect into these phrases, aiming the heart in this way, we're opening ourselves to the possibility of including, rather than excluding, of connecting, rather than overlooking, of caring, rather than being indifferent. And ultimately, we open in this way to all beings everywhere, without distinction, without separation.

"May all beings live in safety, be happy, be healthy, live with ease."

All people, all animals, all creatures, all those in existence, near and far, known to us and unknown to us. All beings on the earth, in the air, in the water. Those being born, those dying.

"May all beings everywhere live in safety, be happy, be healthy, live with ease."

You feel the energy of this aspiration extending infinitely in front of you, to either side, behind you, above and below. As the heart extends in a boundless way, leaving no one out, may all beings live in safety, be happy, be healthy, live with ease.

And when you feel ready, you can open your eyes and see if you can bring this energy with you throughout the day.

"The wisdom of the heart can be found in any circumstance, on any planet round or square.  It arises not through knowledge or images of perfection, or by comparison and judgement, but by seeing with the eyes of wisdom and the heart of loving attention, by touching with compassion all that exists in the world.' -Jack Kornfield

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