Friday, March 26, 2010

Spreading Love

I am not a believer in an afterlife or reincarnation, but I was intrigued when one of my housemates told me he used to do past-life regressions. He claimed that when people were asked the purpose of that particular life, 90% said the purpose of their life was to learn how to love. (The other 10% said it was to learn how to use power more wisely.) Rachel Remen, in her book My Grandfather's Blessings (see my last post and my post of 3/9/10), claims that "According to those who have returned from a near-death experience, we are all here to grow in wisdom and learn how to love better." (Her definition of wisdom is, "Wisdom is not something that we acquire; it is something that over time we may become. It involves a change in our basic nature, a deepening of our capacity for compassion, lovingkindness, forgiveness, harmlessness, and service. ... Our capacity for wisdom naturally grows throughout our lives.")

I am still not ready to buy into an afterlife, but I am intrigued by the notion that the purpose of life is to learn to love better.

I have been practicing meditations on Loving-Kindness everyday for a while now. I have actually started to teach this (occasionally) to other people. It is a wonderful practice. You begin by sending loving-kindness to yourself, then extend it to a beloved person--a mentor, teacher, or very dear friend; then a close friend or a family member that you are close to; then a 'neutral person', someone you have no particular feelings about; then someone you are having difficulty with; finally, extend wish of well being for all 'sentient beings'.

As you work with it, you can just extend that wish for everyone's happiness and well-being into a constant refrain repeated throughout the day. As one teacher I heard said, just repeating it often re-patterns our brain.

Now, I do various versions of this several times a day because I badly need to do them. You can read all my posts on love, compassion, and forgiveness and you might think that I'm this amazing, constantly loving person. I'm not. If you met me in person, you might find that I am often an anxious, frantic, frustrated mess. I can be rude, self-absorbed, controlling, and judgmental. I do all these meditations because I need them. I remind myself to be patient and forgiving with everyone, including myself. I try to be joyful and loving--my latest goal is to look at everyone I meet with 'love and delight'. I don't always succeed, but this is an 'aspiration' meditation. This is my goal and I am slowly working toward being that cheerful, loving person I want to be.

I truly think this is some of the most important work that I need to do, perhaps the work that all of us need to do. Spreading love isn't enough, but it is a profound beginning. I do think that if we could get to a place where most people lived simply, treated everyone equally, acted cooperatively, and practiced sustainability, a place where everyone's basic needs were met, it would make the world far, far better, even without love. I also believe that only when we start spreading love will the real healing of the world begin.

(I hope to put out a list of resources for doing loving-kindness meditation in my next post.)

Quote of the Day: "When the rivers and air are polluted, when families and nations are at war, when homeless wanderers fill the highways, these are traditional signs of a dark age. ...
"Practicing loving-kindness toward ourselves seems as good a way as any to start illuminating the darkness of difficult times.
"... There's so much resentment and so much resistance to life. In all nations it's like a plague that's gotten out of control and is poisoning the atmosphere of the world. At this point it might be wise to wonder about these things and begin to get the knack of loving-kindness." - Pema Chödrön


Jerry said...

I`m with you, but I think I`d have to move if I was really going to have any chance of success in meeting everyone with love and delight. Because it is a rather remote place (population 50,000) that survives largely as a resource exploitation center (much of it sour gas or natural gas wells, complete with a lot of frac activity), there is an inordinate amount of transient population here. This translates into a whole lot of rushed selfishness.

I have to do a sort of meditation just to drive out to the farm and back. Hah! I could stand to do a lot more tho...and yoga.

On wisdom...I still think that we humans, at least in North America, have lost touch almost entirely with wisdom. If we are portions of a larger collective consciousness that are placed in human bodies in order to gather wisdom for that collective, I worry that it is withering away to nothing, based on the last 50 years.

Here`s hoping I am wrong, and here`s to trying to make me wrong!

Peace and comfort, my friend.

MoonRaven said...

I think that you spread a bit of love and delight through your blog, through the caring way that you treat people who comment, and the positive energy you put into many of your posts.

I think that you are right that here in North America most of us have lost touch with our natural wisdom. I think loving encouragement may be the best way to help return some of it.

As to whether any of this will make a difference, who knows? I know it can't hurt.