Metta Meditation For Peace.

Lotus
Lotus (Photo credit: shindoverse)

First, I want to say that aside from some changes here and there, I posted a version of this post in December of 2013. After re-reading it, I find it as relevant now, as it was then, and it speaks to recent thoughts and feelings that I’ve been experiencing.

The past couple of weeks have been filled with highs and lows. The high was the birth of my 7th (Yes, you read it right.) g’child, a perfectly beautiful boy. I came to California to assist my daughter, son-in-law, and 3 year old g’son, in their preparation for the arrival of a new member of the family. Given that they live in California and I, in Texas, I relish all the time that I can spend with them. Unfortunately, fibromyalgia goes wherever I go, and as a result, I am unable to do all that I would like and am expected to do. As a result, feelings of inadequacy and guilt arise and I feel as though I’ve disappointed my daughter and fallen short of the self-imposed g’Mom code of behavior. The ‘low’ that I referred to occurred before I left Texas when, cutting to the chase, I crashed my car into a neighbor’s mailbox. I killed the mailbox, but the car survived, albeit with more damage than I believed. So, it comes as no surprise that I am not experiencing an abundance of self-compassion and self-love.

I believe that everything happens for a reason and that I am being guided on my journey.  I was searching for some other posts and I happened upon the enclosed post. As it happened, it was exactly what I needed at the time. I’d written the post over seven months ago, during another period of self-doubt, anxiety and less than ‘positive thinking.’ As I read it, I realized that though I actively try to treat others with love and compassion (and believe me, it is a constant struggle), I often fail to afford myself, the same treatment. Without, spoiling a point in the post for you, let me say that one of Buddha’s quotes, says it best. He said, 

“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.”   

I’d forgotten that fact and God and/or the universe sent a reminder to me. LKW

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The Pali word Metta means literally – ‘friendliness’, also love without a desire to possess but with a desire to help, to sacrifice self-interest for the welfare and well-being of humanity. This love is without any selection or exclusion. If you select a few good friends and exclude unpleasant persons, then you have not got a good grasp of this Metta. Love is not merely brotherly feeling but a principle for us to practise. It is not merely benevolent thought but performing charitable deeds, active ministry for the good of one and all. A subject – not to be talked about but to be – to put it in your being – to suffuse it within ourselves. It is, then, a dynamic suffusing of every living being, excluding none whatsoever, with dynamic. creative thoughts of loving-kindness. If the thoughts are intense enough, right actions follow automatically. ~ Venerable Ashin Thittila

Today has been one of those days. I think that most of you have an idea of what I mean. In this instance, it began with me making a stupid mistake and from there things went downhill swiftly. It’s one of those days when self-doubt overtakes reason and the negative self-talk and thinking creeps in like a thief in the night. The thing is that I know that there are no benefits to negative thinking, but it is a powerful emotional state, and worthy foe. It strikes when our defenses are weakened and fear and self-deception waltz on in. It has the power to transform the most inconsequential and innocuous mistake or thought into a raging stream of inner turmoil and tumult. Like an out of control boat astride the angry waters of a rapid, we lose our bearings and all reason is tossed out the window.

It was amidst such thoughts when I found myself desperate to regain control of my emotions, and out of the blue, the concept of “metta” or “lovingkindness” came to mind. I adore Pema Chödrön, an American Tibetan Buddhist nun and proponent of the theory of lovingkindness. Specifically, I thought of this article, “Buddhist Metta,” that I’d read a while back. (The opening quote of this post is from this article.) The term is a Buddhist concept, and I am not a Buddhist. Nevertheless, in my mind, the concept is one that transcends one’s spiritual background or practice. It is a universal concept that, if practiced by most of us, would definitely add much needed peace and compassion to this world.

Anyway, my thoughts were peaked in particular because of the common notion that “Metta” or “lovingkindness” is intended to be directed towards others. Of course that is true. Yet, in reality,

“love for self comes first. It is not a selfish love, but love for self- pure love – comes first. When we meditate on love, we meditate on love of self first…(May I be free from harm). By having pure love, Metta, as we defined it, for self; selfish tendencies, hatred, anger will be diminished, [and] unless we ourselves possess Metta within, we cannot share, we cannot radiate, we cannot send this Metta to others.

Basically, we cannot share what we don’t have, and as such, the first stanza of most Metta meditations is a meditation on self-love.

I am in the habit of writing notable quotes, comments, poems, prayers, etc., in my faithful journal. Some time ago, I’d written the following meditation because it touched me deeply. This particular meditation is known as the “Metta Meditation for Peace.” It is in my ‘tool chest’ to be used when I am overly stressed, sad, overwhelmed, anxious, or other than peaceful or relaxed. Sitting with the intention to be still and quiet, while meditating on the words, quells the distress and dis-ease. The words serve to bring me back to myself, away from my thinking mind, and to the level of my heart. Just as it has in the past, the words had the same effect today. The negative thoughts and thinking dissipated to be replaced by feelings of calm, love and compassion toward myself. It is just what the doctor ordered, and exactly what I needed.

The poem is as follows:

Metta Meditation For Peace

May I be safe.
May I be happy.
May I be healthy.
May I know peace.

May the person for whom compassion comes easy for me be safe.
May the person for whom compassion comes easy for me be happy.
May the person for whom compassion comes easy for me be healthy,
May the person for whom compassion comes easy for me know peace.

May the strangers in my life be safe.
May the strangers in my life be happy.
May the strangers in my life be healthy.
May the strangers in my life know peace.

May my enemy be  safe.
May my enemy be happy.
May my enemy be healthy.
May my enemy know peace.

May all beings be safe.
May all beings be happy.
May all beings be healthy.
May all beings know peace.

 

One day, you may find yourself in a situation where you must overcome negative or unpleasant emotions. Perhaps, this meditation may help you too. If so, I’d love to hear how it affected you. Please share your thoughts and feelings in the comments.

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Finding Peace in Forgiveness.

Forgiveness Mandala by Wayne Stratz
Forgiveness Mandala by Wayne Stratz (Photo credit: Nutmeg Designs)

This post is longer than is usually the case, but given the subject matter, I am sure that you will understand. Thank you for taking the time to read and experience it.

My father passed away almost two weeks ago. When a parent dies, it seems that most children feel a sense of sadness, longing, grief and in some cases, regret for missed opportunities and all that will never be. However, those thoughts and feelings are often tampered by the gratitude and precious memories that you shared with this man, your father.

A couple of months ago, one of my oldest and dearest friends called to tell me that her father had passed. Upon hearing the news, tears flowed and I was overwhelmed by a sense of grief, sadness and gratitude. The grief was present for obvious reasons; the sadness because a special man was gone from this world; the gratitude, because as fate would have it, I became best friends with his daughter and through her, was able to see and feel all that the word “dad” entailed, and the importance of the role of a father-figure in one’s life. Nevertheless, when I learned of my father’s passing, I felt a sadness, as I would when told of anyone’s death, but more prominently, there was a visceral void.

I suppose that you can say that our relationship was complicated. You see, he turned his back on our family when I was only five years old. When I say that he turned his back, I mean that his leaving was so complete that it was as if he disappeared from the face of the earth, certainly from my world. In fact, he did for about 11 years. At the time he left, I was the oldest of three girls and my Mom was left to raise us by herself, with no contact or support from my father. As a young child, I didn’t have the tools necessary to comprehend my father’s actions, so for the most part, I was confused, and even guilty, thinking that his actions were my fault. As I grew older those feelings transformed into resentment and anger, feelings that failed to change even after he began making the occasional appearance in our lives. He came bearing gifts, but none that I wanted or needed.

The truth is that I didn’t know this man and I knew no more about him than the passing stranger. What I did know was that he wasn’t there to give us food, shelter, clothing or love. He wasn’t there when I had measles or chicken pox, to pick me up when I fell or to soothe my tears over some perceived devastation that all children endure. Complicating the matter is the immutable fact that he is the man who gave me life, and my rational and logical mind knows that were it not for him, I would not be writing this post.

As is expected, people continue to express his or her sympathy at my loss. I’ve noticed that people use the words “father,” and “dad” interchangeably, and when the word “dad” is chosen, I feel very uncomfortable.  I find it impossible to apply that word to our relationship. In fact, I feel wrong even trying to do so. My mind keeps returning to the same question: what is the difference between a “father” and a “dad?” Why have I always been unable to refer to this man as anything but my father? In fact, more often than not, I instinctively referred to him by his first name, John. Yet, this is a topic for another place and time.

In reality, I’ve been pulled between the angry, confused and sad child that my father deserted, and the older wiser me that realizes that his actions were about him, not me, and that the anger and resentment has harmed me much more than it hurt him. I don’t know how to feel about a man who is a virtual stranger to me, but is a primary cause of my presence in this world. The icing on the cake is that as one of his next of kin, I am the one who has to make post-death arrangements, as well as pay for them. My inner child is stumping and screaming that life is not fair.

Yet, as often happens with life, a sense of closure occurs in the most unexpected ways. In my case, I was standing in line at the pharmacy after having had an amazing experience with my yoga therapist, which I will write about in a later post. I was next in line and I casually noticed that someone had gotten in line behind me. It is a dapper elderly man whom I later learned was a young 82 years, and  a transplanted Californian who moved to Austin five years ago. He said, in a friendly and sincere voice, “How are you today?” The question moved me because so often these days, people don’t take the time to concern themselves with others. This man was different. I turned toward him as I answered and politely asked, “And how are you?” His response took me by surprise. He said, “I am better than great. I couldn’t possibly be better!” I suppose that his answer intrigued me because I can’t recall feeling that way in some time.

As we continued our conversation, I learned that he and his wife had grown children, with lives of their own. Five years ago, they decided that with their children gone and they had no reason to tie themselves to California. They decided to set out to discover a new place to live. Serendipity brought them to Austin, Texas and he is, by all accounts an amiable and happy man. For reasons that I didn’t understand at first, I felt an undeniable bond with this stranger, this man who I’d never laid eyes upon. Before long, it was my turn in line, so I started toward the counter. All of a sudden, I experienced one of those proverbial ‘light bulb’ moments, and in my heart, I knew both why I’d met this man and why he’d affected me so much.

I turned back to him with intense curiosity. Although I hadn’t realized it before, there were definite similarities between him and my father. He was the same height and build with a similar hair cut and the same quick smile for strangers. When I was a kid, this was the type of man who I’d always imagined my father to be. I believe that there is a reason for everyone that we meet and that they arrive at the exact moment when we most need them. Even in his passing, my heart yearned for a compassionate, loving and attentive father who loved and hugged me liberally. I longed for a father just like this man, and I believe that this man represented all that I did not have in a father, and that, if for only a short while, he was God’s blessing to me.

Unconsciously, I reached out to him, grabbed his hand, and thanked him for his kindness. For reasons that I still cannot explain, I felt compelled to explain to him that my estranged father had just died and that meeting him was the balm to my soul that I’d desperately needed. He expressed sympathy and thanked me for bestowing such an honor on him. He hugged me in a fatherly way. I turned back toward the counter, picked up my scripts, waved goodbye and continued on my way.

I was aisles away from the pharmacy picking up a few items when I heard someone call out to me. It was my new “friend.” He’d searched the store for me because he wanted to properly introduce himself and learn my name. He told me that “When he thought about our meeting, he wanted to know my name,” and believed that every experience was a gift to treasure. We exchanged introductions, shook hands and turned to go on our ways.

As I walked away, I felt a weight lifting from my shoulders and an overwhelming sense of peace filled that hollow in my heart. I experienced a letting go, and a sense of forgiveness that eluded me during my father’s life, but now was possible at his death. It is true, forgiveness is more for you than the other. I do not claim to have let go of years of anger, resentment, disappointment and longing in a matter of 15 minutes. Yet, I’ve begun the process and to me, that is profound. As I attend to my father’s post-death arrangements, I intend to extend him the peace and respect that I never received from him. Doing so, brings me peace. It seems to be coming together, as it should be.

Blessings, Lydia

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Chicken Lust

I am sitting on my bed watching a bevy of chickens as they strut across the lawn of my next door neighbors. The

Chickens
Chickens (Photo credit: Allie’s.Dad)

first thought that comes to mind when I hear the word “chicken” is my grandfather, my paternal grandfather. He was a character. In addition to the numerous children that he fathered during his life (It was in excess of 20!), he also had chickens. We would go across the river, which from the city of New Orleans was the Mississippi, to visit him and the rest of the family.

The chickens were kept in a coop beside the shot-gun house and you could hear them making their chicken sounds and watch them pecking at feed and one another.  I never had the slightest desire to go near them or harvest their eggs. I was more than comfortable watching them from afar.  Our relationship involved them staying in their place and I in mine.

So, it has come as a surprise to me, that I have entertained the idea of adding chickens to our family. (My husband thinks I am losing my mind.) I know, I know, it’s weird, but you see, I am surrounded by chickens. Day after day, I hear roosters crowing from the neighbors on either side of us. We live in an area in which each household has a fair amount of land (at least an acre); so, it is not uncommon to see or hear lambs, goats, mules, deer, and of course, chickens.  For reasons that I am not altogether sure of, the sight and sound of nature’s animals instills in me a sense of peace and comfort. I think back to the time when families lived close to the earth and the pace of  life was slower.  Nevertheless, I don’t envision chickens in my future, so I’ll have to live vicariously through my neighbors. Wait, there they go running past my window. I have to go to revel in my daily dose of “chicken” peace.