The Dalai Lama famously said, “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” (www.dalailamaquotes.org)
Kindness, compassion, patience, and understanding, all seem to arise naturally when we see the suffering of another person. And yet … when confronted with our own suffering, we often respond in other ways, with judgment, criticism, or anger.
Is this dichotomy helpful? Do we really benefit by treating ourselves differently? Isn’t it possible that by setting boundaries on the kindness we show ourselves, we also set subconscious boundaries on the kindness we are able to show to others?
Kindness starts at home.
Here are some simple instructions for a meditation on being kind to yourself courtesy of Kristin Neff (Lion’s Roar, 9 Oct 2015, Be Kind to Yourself).
Geshe Thupten Jinpa is a former Tibetan Buddhist monk, the principal English translator for the Dalai Lama (since 1985), and a Cambridge-educated scholar (BA, PhD). He spoke in Kaul Auditorium this past weekend as the guest of Maitripa College to speak about his new book, “A Fearless Heart: How the Courage to Be Compassionate Can Transform Our Lives.” He also spoke with OPB’s Think Out Loud about The Science of Compassion (11 May 2015). You can listen to this interview by following the The Science … link.
My taxes are due in a couple of weeks. I think I have a few more days to turn in my 2014 medical receipts for reimbursement. Half the yard is covered by moss and weeds, the rest by grass that grows 3 inches every night. Dishes to wash, thesis drafts to read, lectures to write, assignments to grade – who has time for meditation?
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‘Metta’ is a word in the Pali language that has been translated variously as boundless friendliness, general benevolence or goodwill, and even loving kindness (the last one is probably the most common phrase on the web, but I have seen scholars grind their teeth over this rendering).
Metta, however you translate it, is associated with a type of meditation practice in which one silently recites a set of phrases that are designed to open the heart and cultivate a friendly attitude towards oneself and towards others. The phrases can be very simple and can be recited anywhere (for example, when waiting for the bus).
The Metta Institute offers this simple list of phrases along with a basic set of written instructions:
- May I be happy
- May I be well
- May I be safe
- May I be peaceful and at ease
The phrases can also be reworked according to one’s muse. Here is a portion of “Maylie’s Metta Prayer” (quoted by Robert Meikyo Rosenbaum in “Walking the Way”):
- May I be at ease in my body, feeling the ground beneath my seat and feet …
- May I be attentive and gentle toward my own discomfort and suffering …
- May I be attentive and grateful for my own joy and well-being …
- May I move towards others freely and with openness …
- May I receive others with sympathy and understanding …
Remembering the phrases and the instructions can be taxing at first so I found it helpful to start out by listening to audio instructions while I meditated in this way. Here’s a 27-minute audio session with well-known Buddhist teacher, Sharon Salzberg.