Sunday, February 13, 2011

maitri or true love

For Valentine's Day, I thought it might be nice to contemplate maitri, or loving kindness. Pema Chodron has a great teaching on the subject. Chogyam Trungpa often translated maitri as "unconditional friendliness", which I find wonderful and piercing.

Maitri is one of those brilliant innate qualities that we can use our practice to uncover and nurture. In our daily lives, it can seem difficult to be unconditionally friendly towards ourselves and others. We usually put all kinds of conditions on our friendliness. We often won't even say hello to someone unless they say it to us first, and sometimes even then, we are a bit reluctant to respond in kind. It can be hard to open our hearts, to let down our guard. It can be hard to be truly gentle to ourselves and not find fault in how we are feeling, or what we are doing. Maitri transforms all that, transforms the hardness into softness, the habitual tendency to close up into just opening and extending out.

If you have a bit of space in your day to sit still, ground yourself, and place your attention on your breath as it goes in and out of your body - in other words, to meditate for a bit, you can introduce this maitri practice. Once you feel your mind is a bit settled, wish yourself happiness. You can simply say "may I be happy." It can be that simple. Once you feel relaxed with that, you can bring to mind someone dear to you, like your children. "May they be happy." Once that is settled in, bring to mind a neutral person, someone you have no strong feelings for or against (maybe your postman, or the cashier at the store). "May they be happy."

Then bring to mind someone you have trouble with. It doesn't have to be big trouble. You can start with someone that is just a little bit troublesome :). "May they be happy." Once you have worked with that person for a bit, you can extend out to all beings "May all beings be happy." Then just let go and relax. Be in the space where you are. Let the environment wake you up. Come back to the breath. You have now done maitri practice.

If this is a bit too formal for your schedule, just try and pause during your day and wish yourself happiness. When you have another little moment, wish your child happiness. Another moment and wish the postman happiness. And so on. These little moments are watering, watering the seeds of unconditional friendliness in your heart.

I always feel like I fall in love a bit when I do this practice. I can feel my heart open, little by little, and often when I see the person I have been contemplating, wishing happiness to, I feel my heart jump and get a bit happier myself. It's very softening, like a lovely, warm spring rain.

Wising you all true happiness, great ease, and love this day and all days.

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