If your heart is breaking, I hope it’s breaking OPEN

A friend-of-a-friend sent this to a friend of mine (Ashley!), who sent this to me, and now I send it to you, and maybe you’ll send it on again, and we’ll all Keep Going:

What a beautiful example of Lovingkindness, and Compassion, and Mudita, aka JOY!

And of transferring merits, don’t they show so vulnerably how one’s own practice can become a beacon and an inspiration and an invitation to open to your own experience, and that of others?! Check out how many people wrote in the comments that watching this video is what finally allowed them to cry.

May I somehow manage to cultivate a bit of the beautiful, generous, connected energy they share, especially in the section from 1:37 – 2:30. And her eyes-closed, centering BREATH at 1:53! _/|\_

I hope my rage, I pray that my rage is a fire
That clears my mind out
And makes me ready to listen
I pray my pain is a river
That flows to the ocean
That connects my pain to yours
And I pray, I pray my happiness is like pollen
That flies to you and pollinates your joy
Oh boy!
Oh boy, is that possible?!
I don’t know, I don’t know
We are making this up as we go
We have to make it up as we go

Using the Brahma Viharas to work with their near enemies

I recently spent 8 days at a retreat on the topic of the Brahma Viharas (also known as the Four Divine Abodes, or the Four Immeasurables in Buddhism), which are:

  1. Metta = Loving Kindness / Goodwill;
  2. Karuna = Compassion (…arises when we meet suffering with metta);
  3. Mudita = Joy (…arises when we meet happiness, good fortune, or positive qualities with metta); and
  4. Upekkha / Equanimity (…arises when we meet change or impermanence with metta).

We also covered the so-called “near enemies” of each brahma vihara, which can arise when we tend toward self-centeredness or see ourselves as separate from others:

  1. Metta / Loving kindness can turn into a kind of possessive love or attachment to a particular path for them (eg going from genuinely wanting the best for someone, to believing you know specifically what is best for them);
  2. Karuna / Compassion can turn into grief or overwhelm;
  3. Mudita / Joy can turn into a sense of intoxication with one’s own or another’s joyful situation; and
  4. Upekkha / Equanimity can turn into indifference or apathy.

The most powerful part of the retreat for me was a practice in which we were encouraged to use a specific brahma vihara to “lift up” each of the near enemies as they came up, in a particular sequence.

  • If you start to get too attached to a person or an outcome, compassion can help you remember that they are on their own journey;
  • If you’re getting overwhelmed with your own suffering (or someone else’s, or the suffering of the entire world), you can reflect on people’s positive qualities or the positive aspects of the situation;
  • If you become so intoxicated with someone else’s choices, positive qualities, or way of being that start wanting some aspect of their life for yourself, you can cultivate a sense of contentment with your own path;
  • If you find yourself becoming apathetic or nihilistic because you’re taking “accepting things as they are” to an extreme, a dose of loving kindness can rekindle your sense of care.

Here’s my best attempt at a diagram to describe this practice. May it serve those of us who would like to cultivate a bit more connectedness in a world full of forces that would like us to believe we are separate from each other.

Brahma Viharas + Near Enemies.jpg