Practicing Love with Compassion and LovingkindnessPhoto by Eliza King

Practicing Love with Compassion and Lovingkindness

Discussion date: Thu, Sep 01, 2016 at our weekly Thursday evening practice

Dear Still Water friends,

A few weeks ago, along with others, I helped facilitate a Day of Practice at Blueberry Gardens for Still Water. Our topic for the day was compassion, and one of the themes that arose from our Dharma sharing was the importance of regular practice in cultivating compassion for ourselves and others. The question arose, how do we practice compassion, especially self-compassion?

Thich Nhat Hanh’s definition of compassion or karuna is “the intention and capacity to relieve and transform suffering and lighten sorrows.” Thay suggests in “The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching”:

To develop compassion in ourselves, we need to practice mindful breathing, deep listening, and deep looking. The Lotus Sutra describes Avalokiteshvara as the bodhisattva who practices “looking with the eyes of compassion and listening deeply to the cries of the world.” Compassion contains deep concern. You know the other person is suffering, so you sit close to her. You look and listen deeply to her to be able to touch her pain. You are in deep communication, deep communion with her, and that alone brings some relief.

Along with the practices of mindful breathing, deep looking and deep listening, another doorway into the heart of compassion is lovingkindness. In Buddhism, compassion (karuna) and lovingkindness (metta/maitri) are two of the Abodes of True Love, the Bramaviharas. So it makes sense that practicing one strengthens the other.

This past month, I navigated through the experience of my house being broken into and the resulting emotional and physical disarray and clean up process. Because this has happened several times to me, as well as to others on my street, I realized I would need to rely on the compassion of my family, friends, and neighbors to help me heal.

What I hadn’t expected was how much I would need to practice compassion for myself! I felt impatient and frustrated with myself for not having done “enough” to prevent the break-in and also with how slowly my emotional scars have been healing. I found that my suffering was impeding my ability to feel compassion for myself and others. I could feel myself closing down around my pain.

In the Plum Village tea ceremony, one takes one’s own cup of tea first before offering the tray to one’s neighbor. Taking care of my own suffering and practicing compassion for myself have become necessities if I want to continue to offer support to others from an authentic place. I’ve found that regularly practicing sending lovingkindness by way of metta meditation to myself helps me to open and soften my heart so I can listen and look deeply into my own suffering. I have needed to remind myself to pause, slow down, and rest so I can start to heal.

This Thursday night at Crossings, we will have an opportunity to practice cultivating our compassion with lovingkindness meditation and then share our experiences. You are warmly invited to join us!

This week is also the first Thursday of the month and, as is our tradition, we will offer a brief newcomer’s orientation to mindfulness practice and to the Still Water community. The orientation will begin at 6:30 pm and participants are encouraged to stay for the evening program. If you would like to attend the orientation, it is helpful if you let us know by emailing us at info@StillWaterMPC.org.

You are also invited to join the Still Water community:

And at our other regular gatherings, now in English and in Spanish.

Many blessings,

Eliza King


Excerpt from Lovingkindness by Sharon Salzburg

Metta is the ability to embrace all parts of ourselves, as well as all parts of the world. Practicing metta illuminates our inner integrity because it relieves us of the need to deny different aspects of ourselves. We can open to everything with the healing force of love. When we feel love, our mind is expansive and open enough to include the entirety of life in full awareness, both its pleasures and its pains. We feel neither betrayed by pain nor overcome by it, and thus we can contact that which is undamaged within us regardless of the situation. Metta sees truly that our integrity is inviolate, no matter what our life situation may be. We do not need to fear anything. We are whole: our deepest happiness is intrinsic to the nature of our minds, and it is not damaged through uncertainty and change.

in: Dharma Topics
Discussion Date: Thu, Sep 01, 2016


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