Every world religion has its version of what I as a Christian know as “The Golden Rule.” You know, do unto others as you would want them do unto you. Judiasm’s version: What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. Islam: Not one of you truly believes until you wish for others what you wish for yourself. Hinduism: This is the sum of duty: do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you. Buddhism: Treat not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful. And on and on.
But the question is this: how in the world do we manage that? How do we not hate our enemies, or at least, get riled up by them? In light of DOMA and the Supreme Court and the split decision, emotions start running high about those “other people.” And every world religion cautions us. And gives us guidance. And guess what? Research science backs up what religious folk of every stripe have known for millenium!
So here’s today’s meditation, called the lovingkindness meditation. I suggest if you are new to this, pick someone that just gets your dander up a tiny little bit. Don’t go whole hog on the first try.
Get comfortable. Relax. Breathe in on a count of four; breathe out on a count of four. Think of someone you love dearly. Really picture them in your mind. Imagine them filled with the light of God – or the universe – or the divine – whatever works for you.
Flood them with all the love you have in your heart. Breathe in gratitude for their life. Breathe out your love for them. Repeat for four breaths. Ask that they receive what it is they most need in this day.
Now: Think of someone you feel neutral about.
The person who made your Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks cup of coffee this morning. The person who delivers your mail. Your neighbor. An acquaintance. Do the same thing: Picture them in your mind; flood them with light; breathe in gratitude for them; breathe out love for them; ask that they receive what it is they most need this day. Take your time.
Now for the challenging one: Again, maybe pick someone who just irritates you a tiny little bit. Don’t go for your biggest enemy right off the bat. This takes practice. Imagine them filled with light. Breathe in gratitude for them; breathe out love for them; ask that they receive what they most need this day. Take your time.
And your own compassion will flow. (And this is measurably true according to neurological research.)