It's Week 4 of the 28-Day Meditation Challenge, and the technique switches to lovingkindness meditation.
I'm a big fan of lovingkindness meditation. It's one of the first practices I learned when I started meditating in 2006, and it's still one of the most profound. You walk through an ever-expanding circle of beings, directing toward them the wish that they be safe, be happy, be healthy, and know ease.
The wishes or aspirations or intentions may be modified; you can use language that's meaningful to you.
I did the practice Tuesday evening, using phrases that I've used often: May you be free from fear and harm; may you be happy as you are; may you meet what comes with kindness; may you be willing to open to all aspects of experience.
Since I just came back from a two-week retreat, I was feeling pretty warm and fuzzy. I settled on a mentor, saying the phrases with deep gratitude for what I've learned from her, and moved on to myself. At the loved one, I decided that my two offspring count as one, and held them both in the warm light from my heart. The neutral person was the new receptionist at work, no strong feelings there. So far so good.
Then I came to the difficult person. And it wasn't working at all. Guess that's why it's called the difficult person?
The problem was that this person seems to be all too happy as he is. And he is all too happy to point out how your happiness is inferior to his. He meets what comes with sarcasm. I imagine that if he knew I was sending him lovingkindness, he would mock it. Loudly. With a distinctive heh-heh-heh.
Now I have some experience with giving out sarcasm. I used to be quite good at it. Not so much anymore.
Sarcasm is deadly defense. It keeps people at an arm's length because they won't risk handing you the dagger you'll use to stab them in the heart. It also keeps you acting and reacting on a superficial level -- everything is deflected with a joke. Nothing is examined or considered. The shield is up, full power.
I'm not sure that my thoughts can crack his armor. But they did cause me to take off much of mine so that I greeted him with a genuine smile. I'm not, in turn, reflexively dismissing his comments. Maybe some gentle conversation will cut through.
May all beings be happy.
May all beings be safe.
May all beings be healthy.
May all beings be at ease.
Lovingkindness meditation allows us to use our own pain as the pain of others as a vehicle for connection rather than isolation. Maybe when people are acting unskillfully we can look beyond their actions and recognize that they're suffering, and too want to be happy. Sharon Salzberg
- Nancy Thompson