Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Loving-kindness meditation?

One of the things that mindfulness meditation carried across into the West from Buddhist practices is a concentration on loving-kindness, on compassion.

I had a bit of a problem with meditating specifically on loving-kindness, right from the start. I felt I couldn't aim a meditation at it, it seemed too deliberate, somehow. This was especially true when we were asked to think of someone with whom we had fallen out, or someone we didn't like now and never had.

I was greatly relieved to read stuff by a teacher of meditation who ackowledges the difficulty of thinking compassionate thoughts about someone we don't like, and offers a much more productive route. 

This isn't (just) me being old and cynical. Any increase in compassion from me towards fellow-creatures arises as a by-product of meditating, I'm sure of that. It's not been as a direct result of meditating on loving-kindness per se.

Ezra Bayda 

is the author of a book that I greatly value: "Being Zen: Bringing Meditation to Life."

(If you don't like the "idea" of Zen, worry not - he hardly mentions Zen or Buddhism in general.)

He wants to fuse meditate with the rest of our lives. It's not always a comfortable thing, because it involves much examination of our thoughts about the self - rigorous if followed, and very helpful too. But the last part of the book is about loving-kindness meditations that just might work, even for me. 

And that's because he is entirely alert to the dangers of pasting "may I feel compassionate towards X" on top of actual feelings such as "who I actually think is a bit of a shit." 

I'm not going to stop thinking he's a bit of a shit because for a few meditating minutes I am trying to think differently about him, and extend something as abstract as "loving-kindness." I don't have much kindness for him at present; I might one day, but it'll be a long road. This book is, for me, that road.

Bayda works you towards a point where you might actually be able to extend the range of kindness that you feel, firstly towards yourself and then growing carefully from that, towards someone dear to you, and then to some more people. 

Perhaps even one day, to that shit X! That would be good, because such negative thoughts and feelings are, after all, ultimately self-defeating. It's surely better for each of us and all of us to feel an informed and unsentimental compassion when we can, instead of revisiting hurts and anger.

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