I just read this interesting article from Buddhism Now. It seems that resistance to experiencing or acknowledging having truly loving feelings toward the self might also be an American problem, or perhaps simply a Western problem. But I suspect that cultivating Metta, or loving kindness, toward the self is quite difficult for many of us living human beings. What is especially wonderful about John Aske’s very British difficulty with Metta, is how he used his successful conduit into Metta to address and eliminate his depression!
Read on to enjoy this most Buddhist perspective on a most ubiquitous Western malady, by clicking on the link below.
Our need for diversion continues, but so does the need for a bit of healthy reality testing. The world is watching a political circus unfolding in many places in the West as anger and prejudice against others less fortunate or just different seem to gain footholds against civility. The indomitable and inspiring Pope Francis speaks out against populism and xenophobia. To me, he embodies the Buddhist ideal of Metta, or loving kindness.
Image courtesy of Imagen Subliminal
What would it be like to be immersed in translucent color, wandering through a colorful maze of visual intensity? This Chinese exhibit gives visitors that very experience.
Image courtesy of musictreasures.com
The rest of the diversions I found for you this week were inspired by the Grammy Awards. Sure I found recipes, stories and other interesting things to share, but, music!
Did you see and hear Maren Morris win her Grammy with “My Church,” Best Country Solo Performance this year? I really enjoyed her fresh and courageous style.
Reading a list of awards given out before the broadcast, I saw that one of our national treasures, Willie Nelson, won a Grammy for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album with “Summertime: Willie Nelson Sings Gershwin.”
Listening to a commercial, I heard this amazing song, “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free,” by Nina Simone, and while I do not recall what product was being advertised, the song really moved me. What a woman, what writing, and what a voice!
As a Buddhist and imperfect vegan who more accurately fits the definition of vegetarian, this post offers much food for thought, if you’ll pardon the unfortunate cliché, and the comments that follow are every bit as thought provoking and helpful in their way as the author’s most excellent writing on the subject. Let us all reason together, explore, discuss, evolve and change for the better. May we try each day to live Metta, or loving kindness, to the very best of our imperfect ability. Namasté, Sonnische/Shielagh
The Buddha ate meat. This is a fairly well attested fact. The issue of vegetarianism is addressed a few times in the Suttas, notably the Jivaka Sutta of the Majjhima Nikaya. The Buddha consistently affirmed that monastics were permitted to eat meat, as long as it was not killed intentionally for them. There are numerous passages in the Vinaya that refer to the Buddha or the monastics eating meat, and meat is regularly mentioned as one of the standard foods.
For these reasons, the standard position in Theravada Buddhism is that there is no ethical problem with eating meat. If you want to be vegetarian, that is a purely optional choice. Most Theravadins, whether lay or monastic, eat meat, and claim to be acting within the ethical guidelines of the Buddha’s teachings.
This position sits squarely within a straightforward application of the law of kamma, understood as intention. Eating meat…
In the two years since I first published a post on compassionate listening, I’ve had many opportunities, both personally and professionally, to experience how very essential to our wellbeing and our relationships compassionate listening truly is.
Whether our listening involves another person face to face, on the phone, or via text or email, or just watching a speaker on TV, we can miss a lot if we aren’t giving what we hear (or consume electronically) our full attention. True wisdom mandates we really attend to the other person openly, empathically and with kindness.
I have encountered two more potential impediments to compassionate listening and both relate to aging that I experience in my work as a psychologist practicing psychotherapy. Because I’m now a Medicare provider in an area with fewer such providers, my psychotherapy practice embraces more older men and women than ever before. As I and those around me get older I’ve had many personal experiences with these listening impediments as well.
The first impediment is impaired hearing in which the listener mishears or fails to hear all our words and “fills in” what they think we said, sometimes getting it very wrong. Later someone one tells us emphatically that we said thus and so, perhaps something very contrary to our intent or even tragically so, creating a conflict we must now try to resolve, a potential distraction to the potentially sensitive work at hand. It can be extremely frustrating to both speaker and listener for the communication to break down simply because one or both parties can’t hear as well as they think they do. While it can be amusing, as the photo below illustrates, usually communication failure due to hearing problems is far from funny. It’s embarrassing and frustrating and interferes with friendly interactions.
The second impediment is the increasingly frequent word-finding difficulty most older people experience. We all do this from time to time, and as we get older it happens with greater frequency. Speakers may pause as they search for certain words or familiar phrases, creating gaps in the narrative. A frustrated listener might quickly offer suggestions, and this can be perceived as a failure to respect the speaker’s competency or autonomy.
Another variation on the word-finding phenomenon is the speaker reaching into his or her vast vocabulary database, as it were, and pulling out a similar but incorrect word. The similarity may be sound (e.g. tractor for factor). It may be the way the word begins or ends (shrimp for sharp), or relate in some other way we cannot fathom as the speaker struggles to get a point across. The listener then wonders what this is supposed to mean and may ask. The annoyed or frustrated response may follow, “You know what I mean!” Perhaps we do, but what if we don’t?
Compassionate listening involves seeing and feeling the struggle that others are experiencing and giving them time and space to find their way. If they grow silent with overwhelm or discouragement, or say, “Forget it!” we might ask, “Want me to try to help you with what you’re trying to say?” If they ask us to suggest a word, we should do so, but with the tentative deference suggesting we leave it to them to confirm or reject our suggestion. I find it helps to offer something like, “I’m having trouble hearing what you’re trying to say. My fault. Would you please try again?”
As we ourselves get older we probably will do the same sometimes. Our compassion for others with these difficulties will help us be compassionate towards ourselves if we fumble to express ourselves so that our listener understands. And if we have developed compassion towards ourselves by practicing Metta, or loving kindness, in our meditation practice as well as our daily interactions, we will naturally feel more compassion as we listen.
In New Zealand it appears that the advertising business gets that not everyone sees pigs as edible commodities. At least the Vodafone people get it! Watch this cute video, maybe more than once as I did, to savor the full message.
Needless to say, pigs make great pets but they don’t stay small, even the so called “teacup” variety. Best Friends Sanctuary shares their insights here. There are a myriad of deceptions breeders employ to sell buyers on the belief the piglet they buy will be “tiny”, “teacup” or “micro”.
Pigs are big creatures in maturity, and loving, intelligent and playful non-human animals. Visit the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary, as we have, to get up close and personal with wonderful adult pigs. By the way, WFAS has moved to better, bigger digs closer to New York City, in High Falls, New York, and will have their Grand Opening Labor Day Weekend! They could use your help, both hands on and monetary. Maybe this will be the year you get to celebrate Thanksliving with the animals, including sharing pumpkin pie with the turkeys! Learn more here: http://woodstocksanctuary.org/news-events/events/
Remember our nonhuman brothers and sisters today, every bit as deserving of compassion and caring as the human family. The world is changing, and in this case, in a good way!
Moon Bridge by the Japanese Teahouse at the Huntington Library, San Marino, California
Long ago in my childhood, as I was growing up in Southern California, I was blessed by parents who both savored beauty and creativity. Together we went to museums, gardens, arboretums, botanical gardens, and historic places including the old Spanish missions erected by the monks who helped settle California, led by Fra Junipero Serra, about whom I learned in elementary school.
Recently in a guided meditation, I was drawn back to the Japanese Teahouse of the Huntington Library in San Marino, near Pasadena. This teahouse fascinated me with its low cushions and tables and delicate rice paper shoji screens. I might have forgotten it except for my son reminding me not long ago of my taking him to the same beautiful place in his childhood, and he remembered Gainsborough’s “Blue Boy.”
Thomas Gainsborough’s “Blue Boy” painted in 1770, from the collection of the Huntington Library
When he mentioned the painting, I recalled my many trips to the Huntington Library as well, and I mentioned the Japanese Teahouse which suddenly came into my mind complete with full-color impressions. He recalled it, too, and we spoke of how lovely it was.
Japanese Teahouse Interior
In my meditation some time ago I saw myself in the teahouse on a cushion, the shoji walls moved aside to reveal the beautiful gardens outside. I saw a woven basket filled with gorgeous lotus flowers beside me. First someone who helped raise me came to me and presented me with a lotus blossom, a loving gift teaching self-love and acceptance, for it is sometimes easier to accept the love from another than to give it to ourselves. Then as I sat, one by one my close friends and loved ones approached me and to each I gave a flower. Next came those towards whom I feel neutral feelings, and lastly those with whom I am or have been in painful conflict, and each received a flower.
The next time I sat in meditation and brought up this scene, I found that I was sitting just outside the teahouse on a rock near a stream, surrounded by manicured lawns and shrubbery, and in my basket were dahlias.
Each, as before, but in different order came and were given a flower. Some came by for a second flower and this was fine. Water flowed by me, making its sweet fluid music, and early crickets chirped in the reeds. Orange and dappled koi circled lazily in the waters by a stone footbridge linking me to the lawns of the teahouse.
Koi by the Japanese Teahouse at the Huntington Library
I will share with you now a Metta (loving kindness) meditation I use every day, in one form or another. This one is taken from Making Space: Creating a Home Meditation Practice, by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. May it serve you as well as it has served me. The sounds behind my voice are those of a stream and crickets, punctuated by a Tibetan singing bowl.
Please enjoy, and share if you feel so inclined.
Click on the link below for a 7.15 minute meditation.
Loving kindness meditation includes aspiring for ourselves and all other beings to know how to nourish the seeds of joy and happiness in ourselves every day. Daily practice of seeing, recognizing and nourishing those seeds of joy is not only a pleasure but an obligation towards our well-being, just as eating, breathing and sleeping are equally important obligations. Oh sure, we can get along without nourishing our happiness, but as a wise one said, “man does not live by bread alone,” neither can we flourish without regular infusions of joy. How do we know how to nourish joy? I find that it is mindfulness to daily experience, even the smallest things and seemingly irrelevant events, that provides the seeds of joy. Once perceived and appreciated, and shared, the small things and brief events are ours to savor with joy. In the past few days, here are just some of the things and events that have brought me joy:
Watching a chipmunk eat piece after piece of a cut-up peach, filling his cheeks, running back somewhere in the underbrush, and returning for more
Seeing the white-tipped, bushy tail of a red fox as he lept in tall grass near my garden, as this beautiful drawing by irishishka portrays
Red Fox Pounce by irishishka
Smelling a skunk under our window at night, the pungent aroma signalling some distress or confrontation but no indications of what by morning.
Pepe Le Pew, courtesy of Walt Disney Studios
Hearing the amazing hooting of an owl in the middle of the night, and learning that it was a Great Horned Owl
Great Horned Owl
Seeing wild raspberries near my garden Buddha
Seeing Spotted Touch-Me-Not near the raspberries
Realizing that my anger can teach me something wonderful and useful, healing, peaceful and divine, by reading “The Poison Tree” by Judy Lief in the latest Shambhala Sun. Click here for a preview.