Loving Kindness

There is a Buddhist practice called metta, or loving kindness.  It is the practise of sending feelings of loving kindness to the people you know, the people you don't know, the people you don't like, and to yourself. 

It's easy to direct love to those we care about.  They have features or characteristics that we already associate with love.  When we think of them we automatically feel warm at heart. 

And it's a simple matter to send loving kindness to those we don't know: most of us wish the best for all human beings in the world.  Strangers have never done us harm.

It gets trickier when we consider those who we find difficult or who we don't like.  When we bring them to mind, they do not naturally inspire feelings of love, kindness and generosity.  Thinking about those people might make us feel angry, frustrated, disgusted, jealous... a whole host of unpleasant feelings.  Buddhist teachings point out that it is only the person feeling these emotions that suffers from them: we are left feeling uptight, while the object of our dislike remains oblivious to the bad feelings raging in our heart.  Therefore practice sending them love for the sake of your own heart; for your own well-being.

It can be incredibly hard to send loving kindness to yourself.  Can you truly love yourself exactly as you are, here, now, today?  Can you see the faults and the weaknesses as well as the talents and positive attributes that you possess and love it all?  Do you know that you are good enough and are deserving of love?  Can you direct that loving kindness to yourself right now?  Not in a year's time, when you get your promotion.  Not next month, when you'll have lost some weight.  Not tomorrow, when you will have achieved more than you managed today.  But right now, with all your faults and failings and things you wish you weren't.

Learning to love and accept ourselves is not a selfish pursuit.  Think about how you feel when you are sad, upset, angry, full of bitterness.  Think about what your face looks like, how your body feels and how you interact with strangers when you are in that mindset.  Now think about a day when you felt great.  You got the girl/boy, you wore the right outfit, you were with your favourite people, the sun was shining. Whatever. Think about what your face looked like, how your body felt, how you interacted with friends and strangers alike.
Did you give more that was positive and good to the world on the bad day or the good one? 

In metta we are practising being kind.  To everyone.  We are learning how to approach the world with love and open-hearted trust, so that we respond better, act more kindly, feel more positive.  And it has to start with you.

"For solemnity flows out of men naturally; but laughter is a leap.
It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light."
G.K. Chesterton


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