The Meditation Mantra of the Month has been The Loving Kindness Meditation. Do you know this one? I think I had heard varieties of it before but really only paid attention when I started using it out of the book Yoga: A Path for Healing by James Fox of the Prison Yoga Project (this is The One & Only book about yoga anyone needs, in my view. It is so thorough, practical, insightful, and concise. Buy one for you and all your people.). This is The Loving Kindness Meditation;
May you be filled with loving kindness. May you be healthy in mind and body. May you be peaceful and at ease. May you be truly happy and free.
I think reading it out of a yoga book written for use by people living in prison made an extra big impression on me. The invitation is to read it through silently several times directing your attention toward someone you love, and then someone you are struggling to love, and then Yourself.
Directing this prayer or meditation towards someone I love makes total sense and I know how to do that. Directing words of loving kindness and peace and health toward someone I am struggling to love is not in my nature. My default words of prayer & meditation would be more about changing That Person’s behavior, view, personality, history, — change Them! Fix Them! My prayer might sound something like; “Lord, how about you direct your attention to That Person Over There who is driving me bonkers. They need some help A.S.A.P.”
And surely some better-hearted & clearer-minded person would remind me of that annoying phrase above…”whenever you point your finger at someone, three more are pointing back at you”. For better or worse I think this is how those kind of finger pointing prayers work. You intend for God to fix them and you instead draw all sorts of attention to your own heart in need of a refill of loving kindness.
I don’t remember who said it but I remember reading that when we pray we aren’t going to change God’s mind, but our own.
When I lived in Detroit with my (best) dog (ever), Rita, we lived next door to a family with 4 kids. The dad hated Rita. She would go nuts, barking ferociously, every time he pulled in the driveway, took out the trash, or was simply visible to her. I felt horrible and would try to corral her inside the house or get her away from the windows whenever he was out. He let me know that Rita was ruining his house for him. I was confused and embarrassed by Rita, and irritated with him. Had he done something to her? Did he hurt her or yell at her?
I talked to someone about it who suggested that possibly I was the problem, not my neighbor. He said that Rita most likely sensed that I did not like the dad and maybe felt threatened by him, so Rita was protecting me. He told me to start sending my neighbor loving thoughts and positive energy.
So I did. And something in me changed & Rita responded accordingly. Not overnight, but after a few weeks, it got much better. Rita didn’t need to be trained out of protecting me. And this poor neighbor had been reasonably annoyed by a crazy, barking dog. I was the one who needed the change of spirit.
So, back to The Loving Kindness Meditation. Imagine being a person living in a prison cell practicing The Loving Kindness meditation above, directing it towards someone they are struggling to love, forgive, understand, accept. Imagine YOU practicing it , directing the meditation towards someone you are struggling to love, forgive, understand, accept. You might start out thinking that it’s all about Them, Over There. And then something in you shifts, loosens, softens, eases up. You were hoping and expecting them to be changed and then the big switcheroo happens and you are the one who is changed, even just a little…maybe when you least expect it. It’s crazy like that.
Maybe give it a try. See what happens. Who knows? Be careful where you point that finger, eh?
Peace on your sweet head, you.