The Surprises of Loving Kindness

It’s been such a long time since I last wrote a personal post I almost don’t know where to start. I should acknowledge that the blog is now over a year old and is now the first body of work I’m actually remotely proud of. I actually lost a post earlier on which I was quite proud of – I’d forgotten to close the window on my computer at home which housed the first draft I’d set up this morning, and when I opened the lid, it reverted straight back to its Stone Age incarnation. C’est la vie. I’m sure you don’t need me belittling Jacqui Smith, the Home Office or the Metropolitan Police on a night as cold as this – you’ll be expecting it anyway I’m sure.

I never published the post I still have from my last meditation retreat to the Abbey with Alistair Appleton. To say it changed everything once again would be an understatement. Since starting with the more intensive mindfulness practice, a lot has unlocked, become visible, been forced to change through gaining awareness of things. Starting to see the thinking processes I choose out of habit allows the sometimes better alternatives to become visible, learning how authentically human it feels to hold on to your pain, and know it rather than escape it, and picking up small emotional shifts through getting to know small but significant physical shifts have all had unexpected knock on effects. This post is going to connect quite strongly with the next (which I’ll encourage a debate on, for those interested), and I was originally going to have them as one, large post, but it’s been a long time since I engaged you directly, rather than as acerbic commentator and wondered what you’d make of this instead.

Last night’s final meditation class of the year was relaxing and intriguing in equal measure; we went back and did a ‘loving kindness’ (metta) visualisation. It wasn’t anything new, and I thought I’d have a strong idea of what I’d find. But the mindfulness practice had an effect here too – it was indeed no surprise that wishing others well was easy, but this time what I wasn’t able to do stood out like a sore thumb; it hadn’t before. I couldn’t imagine flights of fancy, crazy, uninhibited well-wishing – for me, the person closest to me, the person I barely knew or the person I found difficult. I could imagine terribly practical well-wishing, but nothing more than a means to an end. It wasn’t new, but my awareness of what I wasn’t able to imagine was new. And it felt like part of the ‘missing link’ to why so many of my relationships (friendships/acquaintances) just feel ‘off’. I don’t have answers yet, but I do know for sure that I can’t think my way to them – they’ll just happen.

So many of my recent choices have been good, even when I haven’t been happy as a result. I’m starting not to be afraid of my thoughts by allowing them freedom, I’m practicing creating space and allowing feelings of well-being to arise, I’m practicing looking at the meaninglessness of thoughts, but also how they arise, display and dissipate and allowing them to. Alistair was right when he said that the answers tended to be 180 degrees from where you expect them to be and that you get them by being, not by doing. So I’m practicing going-to-the-gym my way out of problems rather than thinking my way out of them. I’m retreating into my body rather than my thoughts when I feel physically or emotionally awful. I’m seeing where thoughts become thinking, and finding out what thinking genuinely works for me, rather than what I’ve thought works. I still have more self-hatred than I’d like, but I am proud of where I’ve got to this year.

The next Abbey retreat is in January. I can’t wait. I want yoga to take hold in 2009 as well, and I will find a way to investigate Buddhism seriously at last.

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5 responses to “The Surprises of Loving Kindness

  1. I’m glad your feeling a sense of growth and happiness. Hope it continues for you and that you your happiness brings extra joy to the people around you.

  2. It’s more a sense of growth than happiness, I suppose. Happiness is the target, but I really appreciate your well-wishing 😉

    I’m still not convinced of the health of fixing thoughts down so firmly as the internet encourages. I’m starting to get a little concerned at how unhelpful it can be with any context. But for now it’ll stay as it is…

  3. I was trying to keep it simple, I actually had a thought about accidentally over correcting, rather than just making small positive changes in ones life. I struggled with that for a long time till i just started on the small instead of the big and was much more satisfied with the results.

    The internet is about connections, however learning to handle the flow of information and the attention of others is still an important social issue that we will be struggling with for the next hundred years or so as our society adapts. I suspect many problems will have to bleed themselves out as the poisons of the past float out and are absorbed by the masses.

  4. I have a horrible feeling yo u said something profound there, but I didn’t quite get it ;):

    I suspect many problems will have to bleed themselves out as the poisons of the past float out and are absorbed by the masses.

  5. think of cities and towns and villages as organisms, within themselves they have mostly balanced out the positive and negative aspects of their own culture, inoculated against it you might say. Though the internet, however, we are all touching and are not inoculated against their verbal or religious virus’s.

    Sadly historical precedent shows we could loose up to half of those affected. and I have no idea of how to stop it. I’m hoping that psychology will make leaps and bounds and help humanity survive the huge increase in our knowledge base.

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