Lovingkindness. I welcomed lovingkindness to my practice this week, as if it were another person, a separate being, its own entity. I quickly considered that this might be the perfect reason to expand my practice to include lovingkindness, as perhaps it should rather be a part of me.
As I often do, I outlined how I would practice with lovingkindness. Steps 1-6. Write out the phrases to avoid interruptions in my sitting. Identify those who I will call to mind. Ready. Set. GO!
It was my number 5 that really threw a monkey wrench into the whole thing. “Call to mind a difficult person, someone you have trouble getting along with.” I would like to say I don’t know anyone like that in my life, but rather, I did not know who to select. Easily, it could have been the parent at my children’s school who wrote about one of mine (not glowingly) on her facebook page, and to whom I immediately reproached in my attempt to discuss and resolve the issue, only deepening the chasm. Or it could be my niece and her parents with whom I am at odds because I didn’t approve of the way they spoke to my mother at Christmas. Or maybe the nurse at my doctor’s office whose delivery I find abrasive. I can only offer my honest response, which was that I did not want to focus on any of them. Thank goodness I had highlighted that “if you pick a difficult person but find that sending her lovingkindness is too hard, then just go back to sending lovingkindness to yourself. In that moment, you’re the one who is suffering, so you’re quite worthy of compassionate attention.”
And so I did just this. Yet I felt like a loser. And an unkind one at that. Why couldn’t I focus on *Kat or *Bella or *Heather? They too suffer. They too have needs. And who am I to police difficult behaviors other than my own? But a funny thing happened when I went back to sending this extra dose of lovingkindness to myself. I began to feel, at small and unexpected moments and intervals in my days, that I could, perhaps, get to calling any one of these people to mind.
That was not the A HA! moment though. The A HA arrived when it came crashing down on me that I am with my most difficult person, a most conflicted person, a deeply struggling person who desperately needs lovingkindness and at times I am unable to offer it. My daughter. I make sure to get her the right school and the right tutor and the right therapist and the appropriate playdates and the warm clothes and the healthy (though rejected) foods, but I cannot always offer her compassion when she is at her worst and obviously needs it most.
So there she was, right before my very eyes (literally and figuratively), a difficult person with whom I often have trouble getting along, but who is suffering and is in need of lovingkindness. I would love to report that this revelation turned the world around for us, but it did not. But here is what I do notice: when I hold her in place as my #5 (remember I wrote out the “instructions” for this practice?), it seems that outside of my practice, I can more easily access moments of lovingkindness for her when our interactions are at their most difficult. When that happens, her destructive behaviors lose some of their strength, and she can move through/around them with more ease. I still deplore many of these actions, but when I feel myself getting most caught up in the conflict, I am trying to remind myself to let the waters still and look at the connection. And in the end of the episode, it feels, again, like an extra dose of lovingkindness for myself.