10 months ago when I arrived at the Metta retreat at Cloud Mountain I vividly remember looking at the schedule and wondering if I should probably just go home. It seemed too intense and impossible to meditate for that many hours. I did it though, and I signed up to do it again. It was intense, and at times it seemed impossible. But it was also beautiful, sweet, informative and powerful. I recommend it highly!
This month I have been contemplating the “enemies” of lovingkindness. In my reading I have learned there is a near and a far enemy of lovingkindess. The near enemy is attachment, and the far enemy is hate.
The far enemy seemed obvious to me. The opposite of love is hate, but as I sat with this idea longer I realized that hate and love can and do co-exist. Sometimes I feel like I hate my loved ones because of anger or hurt, and I still feel love toward them. This also helps me during times of tragedy, like what happened at the Boston Marathon. I can feel compassion, anger, fear, sadness, hate and tenderness for what people are enduring. So if hate is the far enemy how do we work with it? When I feel hate arising I try to give that feeling lovingingkindness, rather than try to make it go away. I have found that when I try to make anything go away that feeling or thought pattern tends to get stronger and more persistent, rather than actually fading away.
Then we have the near enemy of attachment. I know I am very attached to my own safety, happiness, health and peace, and when I am not in those states of being I want to be. I can feel the desire and attachment to change when I am feeling despair or unsure. I am also attached to other people feeling safe, happy, healthy and at peace. Yet I can not make anyone feel these states of being. When I get attached to needing someone else or myself to feel some certain way, I am setting myself up for suffering. So if attachment arises how do I work with it? I know I will feel attached to people, feelings, states of mind, animals and things. This is a part of being human, and frankly a beautiful part of being human. I love that I am attached to my partner, my dog, sunshine and yoga. Yet I also know that when I hold my attachments with need (i.e. I need you to be happy, I need it to be sunny, I need my body to look this way, etc.) I am gripping for a reality that may not be available at the moment, and I am moving away from lovingkindness.
In my classes this week I have been using the image of an open palm vs. a closed fist. Hate and attachment can feel like closed fists to me. In my body hate and attachment filled with need are tight, closed and contracted. If I can surround my hate and attachment with lovingkindness I may be able to breathe into the feelings or situations from a more spacious place. I do not believe that a lovingkindness practice will take away hate or attachment, as they are two human experiences we all have. I do believe a lovingkindness practice can give us tools to work with these feelings when they arise. Hate and attachment can be full of suffering, and what needs lovingkindness and compassion more than suffering?
I look forward to seeing you on or off the mat soon. I invite you to listen to my latest guided meditation. This month is a body scan.