Cultivating loving kindness
I write about morality. About how we all can live if we choose to do so. It is the true meaning of “dharma” or the correct path. I write about what is inside all of us – our heart and what we can share with one another.
Three months ago, I turned 70. A big number for sure. A milestone if you think your life might be bound by limitations of any kind. The only meaning a number like that can have and does for me, is that you hope your life has been one of continuously gaining understanding.
Two months ago in the community I helped create over the years, we were rocked by revelations of the disloyalty to the teachings and the outright abuse of power by the founder of that community. We’ve been thinking about it ever since and wondering how each of us would continue.
Three to four months ago, in Wuhan, China, world events started to change in that faraway part of the world. None of us could have imagined how our lives would be affected by the birth of the Coronavirus. In less than a month, the whole world finds itself in the grips of this Covid-19 virus. In a blink of the eye, the world is not the same and we’ve been asked, or rather told, to look at life differently.
The future is tremendously uncertain. We are all facing it in the best possible way. We can’t possibly know what life will be like in one month or even two. Life is on hold. In a way, put on pause. What will happen to all of us if the pandemic keeps us under its throes, is anybody’s guess.
My thoughts vacillate as I silently think of all the possible outcomes with my own life. Like you, I don’t know what will be or how I will be affected personally. You can’t help but find yourself with knowing thoughts of vulnerability.
Today, I read an article written by Marcelo Gleiser, professor of philosophy at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. You can find his article “Covid-19 will change us as a species” on the CNN webpage.
We would be foolish not to embrace the central message of our predicament: that we must come together to survive, that we are fragile despite our capacity to create and destroy, that the tribal divisions that have defined our moral choices over the past millennia must be tossed aside for our own good.
We are entering the age of tribal override, the time when our species will begin to operate as one, as a human hive, working across the planet as a member of a living community of species and not as a destructive parasite. One tribe that embraces diversity and the common good.
…We must think collectively as a human hive, each of us playing an essential role. The first steps are simple: to be humble in the face of what we don’t know, to be respectful of nature and its powers, and to work together to preserve not just our lives and those of our loved ones, but the lives of all of us in the hive, young and old, celebrating the gift of being alive.
In the yogic community we can make a difference. We are service providers not unlike those who are now on the frontlines trying to contain this virus. When the time comes and we can physically reach out to our communities and the fear of our current situation has subsided, our message of wellness, unity and a dharmic or meditative approach to life will be more sought after than ever.
There is something we teach that goes way beyond the fears we may have as a community of like-minded practitioners. Yes, we don’t know how long it will be before people will again come to our classes and how we will survive economically in the interim. The only thing we can do is keep an objective and meditative mindset. We are, after all, capable of observing how life unfolds in front of our eyes and able to accept the wisdom of its learning hidden under all the layers upon layers of uncertain developments.
Remember what we teach: to be loving in nature, to find the importance of your own thoughts, and to be genuinely concerned about the well-being of others. We move forward in life taking each other by the hand and walking together. We are interested in only those thoughts of self that make our hearts come alive and our eyes light up with new found purpose. There is a term for this that I came across in my recent Vipassana experience in Nepal: Metta Bhavana. It means cultivating loving kindness. Here are some thoughts on why the Buddha chose the word Bhavana, which means to cultivate or develop, to define what meditation is about.
I imagine that when Gotama, the Buddha, chose this word to talk about meditation, he had in mind the ubiquitous farms and fields of his native India. Unlike our words “meditation” or “contemplation,” Gotama’s term is musty, rich, and verdant. It smells of the earth. The commonness of his chosen term suggests naturalness, everydayness, ordinariness. The term also suggest hope: no matter how fallow it has become, or damaged it may be, a field can always be cultivated – endlessly enhanced, enriched, developed – to produce a favorable and nourishing harvest.
Glenn Wallis, “A guide to Classical Buddhist Meditation”
The year 2020 has wrung us inside and out, we hardly know how to look at ourselves anymore. Traditional views have been challenged, especially on the spiritual path that has marked Kundalini Yoga in the West. Each of us is being asked to clarify what we believe in and whether or not there is a way forward free from the past. The stopping of society on an unprecedented scale has all of us examining life and its makeup for each of us. We have no idea of what will be.
Yet, as a result of these world-changing events, none of us will be the same. Those of us who have found peace-of-mind in our yogic and meditative practices over the years, now have an opportunity to become the embodiment of what we may have paid only limited attention to in the past. It is time to become humble. To become those servants who share in a non-dogmatic and non-authoritarian way the essence of living to our highest potential. Now more than ever, we have to become what we want to talk about and teach. How wonderful is that. The goal was always to become the teachings and to aspire to a higher consciousness and meaning for life. Trust and plant the seeds of your own understanding in these intense and challenging times. You have the power and the will to do just that. Find and root out all the persistent thoughts that keep you locked-in and chained to your old ways of thinking and doing. Let go of your anger and your need to judge someone else. Be free of all judgments. Metta Bhavana is just that: Wishing goodwill and kindness to all, including yourself.
People will still look for that message because it is still something they want to incorporate in their own lives. They will look to those who seemingly have looked hard at their own self and who are honestly trying to live to a new consciousness of human morality. Invest with all your energy in the fields you want to cultivate. Surely, they will bring the harvest your heart so desires.