Ancestral energy lives in the stars above us, the stones beneath us. Their memory gathers in oceans, rivers and seas. It hums its silent wisdom within the body of every tree.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Moving Towards Loving-kindness

Seven years ago, at a pagan festival, I attended a series of workshops that would significantly alter the course of my life. At my emotional core, I was full of pain and sadness. I did not know how to let go or forgive. New to my spiritual path, I didn’t yet understand the nature of faith. It is a thing that no religion has claims to. Faith exists without the need for religious construct, but religion cannot exist without it.
I spent four workshops with a woman named Whispering Deer, who walked us through the Buddhist practice of loving-kindness, also known as Metta. I was looking for that inner Zen, that place of peace inside me that hippies and yogis discovered by sitting cross-legged with their hands on their knees and repeatedly humming to themselves. That was the only cultural visual I had to represent what I was looking for.
It’s amazing the stereotypes we create about things we simply don’t understand. They act as resistance-barriers standing between us and the things we desire most. I wanted peace and compassion and yet I did not believe I deserved it. So I made fun of that idea of tranquility, as if to say, why would I want something so silly? Thus insuring I wouldn’t try for it… and fail. Again.
That weekend, listening to Whispering Deer’s story of transformation and seeing the person she had become before me, I suddenly believed that goal was possible for myself. And I wanted it more than I had wanted anything else in my life. I determined that if I could not find it inside myself, I would create it.
A new path bloomed before me.

The loving-kindness work I embarked on was a series of meditations to teach myself to have compassion. The side effect of the repetitive practice was the alteration in how I perceived events that happened around me. I had been stuck inside my own experience, and saw everything that happened as happening to me. It’s a nuanced line, and a change in inflection changes the meaning, but when you experience everything as happening to you, you cease to be in control of your world. You give that power up to the universe and put yourself at the mercy of its whims, like a ship adrift at sea. You become a victim of the world around you.
What I wanted was to be a part of the world with my hands firmly on the wheel. I wanted to be part of what was happening, of creating my own experiences. I dove into the lessons on compassion, spending 20 minutes in meditation every night, at the end of my day, just before bed. One of the things Whispering Deer told us was that the simplest Buddhist level of having compassion for oneself, was the hardest one for Westerners to master. She wasn’t wrong.
Embracing loving-kindness as a philosophy, requires you to build an awareness of how you respond to the events that occur in your life, and then to push into that awareness to understand those reactions. It’s a way of unlearning the way you have been taught to respond and discover your own intuitive way of walking through the world- which also requires that you be open to how different a path that might be.
If I step back and observe the world around me as a larger web, removing any personal attachments I have to how things work, I can see the pattern of emotional dialogue that plays out. We feel an emotion in our bodies and we react to it, at other people, without understanding where it came from or why we felt it in the first place. As a culture we lack awareness of our emotional bodies. How many times have you heard someone say, I don’t know why I feel the way I feel, I just do?
When we lash out against others because we feel a strong emotion, and we do it without seeking clarification, we commit acts of violence. Being angry/ frustrated/ irritated/ mad at anyone else is like sending out a tidal wave whiplash of your bad attitude. Others will feel it. Others will be hurt by it. I’m guilty of it. Whether you intended that hurt or not, you still have to own the responsibility for the effects of it. It’s why this path became so important to me. It’s why being a better version of myself became necessary.

This is a hard world we live in and it’s easy to be overwhelmed with the traumas, hurts, losses and failures we collect on our journeys. It’s no excuse for being careless with the people around us. Our world moves so fast and so quickly that, often, we feel like all we can do is tread water to keep from getting swept away or left behind.
Even our news headlines are sensationalized to best catch our attention and we’ve had to learn to accept exaggerations and misleading implications as truth. No wonder we get depressed by the world around us. This is a hard world, when everyone is only thinking of themselves. But it is a beautiful world, too, where people do work together and help each other out. In order to experience that, you have to be part of it. You have to participate in it.
We all have to be gentle with each other. We can afford to. We need to remember that we are not just individuals having a personal experience in this world. We need to remember that the face we put out into the world is how the world perceives us. We have to treat people the way we want to be treated. When faced with hard times and hard people, patience, compassion and gentleness are a better choice for the health of your own heart.


  1. I need to learn how to get this, or be this. Will you be talking about this more?

  2. Yes! Next week I'm sharing the meditations I used to work towards compassion and the following week I'm talking about what I did to work out my anger ball.

  3. Great, I can't wait to read them, I'm looking forward to the help!! Thank you!


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.