This week is International Mental Health week. The subject that the week is focussing on this year is kindness. It seems so appropriate at this time of Covid 19 and lockdown when fuses are getting short and intolerance is on the rise, as the frustration grows. Then if we add in the anxiety and fear of getting C10, of what will happen next after the lockdown and if the world will ever be the same.
In my consulting room I am picking all these things up at the moment and also the issues of death and the fear of death. Some current deaths are from the virus, some are because of the virus and some are unrelated to the virus. In each and every case the socially distanced funeral services can never be the same as before and there is no opportunity of a send off or wake. Instead people are agreeing to have a full farewell party once this lockdown is completed. I expect I shall be attending a few.
When it comes to kindness I am reminded of my very first training that was in Ayurvedic psychology. One aspect of that training was in what we would now call mindfulness and involved paying attention to the present generally and also the practise of meditation. There was a strong emphasis on the need for positive feelings towards both yourself and other people. The importance and need for loving kindness between all beings in creation is known as Mettā in Pali the language of Buddhism or Maitrī in Sanskrit the language of Ayurveda.
Metta is something that we would always include at the end of any meditation practise, though it can used as a full meditation of loving kindness. In Metta we are expressing caring and empathy for all sentient, feeling, beings in the universe. That includes all those that you know, those that you don’t know and every living thing on the planet. Traditionally this begins with yourself, which is so important as a reinforcement of self value and self esteem. The loving kindness to yourself spreads from your heart like ripples from a pond in ever increasing circles to encompass all of creation. Some people live in Metta all the time and have a deep level of gratitude and love for all that is around them.
When we think of kindness we might use the word compassion. Compassion means with feeling or with empathy. All sentient beings can feel good or feel bad, and that most of them, given the choice, will probably choose the former over the latter. Such contact with feeling implies that there can be suffering. All living beings can feel sadness and happiness. This is the point in my training where I became a vegetarian. The bottom line is that other animals do not have to suffer and die in order for me to live.
In Metta, in loving kindness, we can feel the connection with all living things, sharing a common aspiration to find our fulfilment and escape our suffering. In this we are all one. If we realise that…
…if we all look after each other we will all be okay…
we can create heaven on Earth right now, but only if we want to.
The empathy of loving kindness involves the willingness to see the world from another’s point of view. When we are awake and aware we can learn from the experience of others. When we are asleep, and lack empathy for ourself and for others, we have to suffer in order for us to wake up and learn.
Some of us will grow through awareness –
most of us will grow through pain.
Someone once said something like ‘I may disagree with you but I will defend to my death your right to hold that opinion’. This is what I call the law of allowing. It is having enough loving kindness to allow an other to grow though their mistakes without the need to be critical or judgemental. I often see this as, just because some people are mad I don’t have to join in, I can allow them to be what they need to be at this time.
Loving kindness is also Karmic. A Karma is often seen as the negative punishment of action. Karma is really the concept that all behaviour is consequential. There will be an outcome of all that I do good or bad it is just the consequence. When we look after others the chances are that they will look after us and wish us well. Creating the positive and peaceful family of all of creation.
Looking after others with loving kindness involves consideration and generosity. Charity is when we offer our friendliness and support to others. This does not simply mean the giving of money, though it may include supporting others. The greatest charity that we can ever offer is loving kindness, It is when we can maintain an attitude of friendliness that meets another person’s suffering and transforms into our compassion for them. It creates an empathic joyfulness that transcends gender, race, ethnicity, orientation, nationality, species…
…in the end we all are one.
One thing that neuropsychology teaches us is that to do good things for others makes us feel good at the same time. When we enact loving kindness we are creating our own emotional fulfilment and at the same time the fulfilment of the emotional development of every being. It is a win win situation.
To wish another well is to wish yourself well
Loving kindness is the real answer to almost every problem the world faces today. We know that politics will not do it. We know that money will not do it. We know that science will not do it and we know the technology and the social media that we hold in our hand will not do it. We do know that loving kindness will.
Politics, news and the media go out of their way to reinforce the differences between us all, and exacerbate strife and problems. The positive news that is going on all the time, but is outside of the regular news media, is Metta. It is this loving kindness that is all around us. We share this planet together not just us human beings but all animals, all of creation, and we can choose how we look after each other. Do we go for Metta or go for self interest?
If you like to investigate Metta have a go at the meditation of loving kindness on the Palouse site and enjoy the other great links, knowledge and facilities offered there.
Here is a link to a full Metta loving kindness meditation…
Lockdown will end. In the post lockdown world we will need Metta more than ever to support each other, right across the world, as we create whatever the new normal will look like. Let us ensure that it includes loving kindness.
Take care, be happy, I send my Metta to you. Who will you send yours to?