Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Loving-kindness Easier for Dolphins (video)

Seven, Amber Dorrian, Sayalay Susila and other Buddhist teachers (Wisdom Quarterly)

Give the body a blast of healing oxytocin by practicing metta for easy-to-love dolphins.

Loving-kindness (metta) meditation, when perfected, is universal: It is extended to ALL living beings without exception. How does one begin? First, Step 1, one imagines oneself well and happy. It's easy if one remembers and reflects again and again on a time of being happy. And seeing oneself smiling, one sends oneself these or similar thoughts:
  • May I be free from danger.
  • May I be free from mental suffering.
  • May I be free from physical suffering.
  • May I look after myself with joy and ease.

Those who live in the past limit their future.

This is very hard to do, particularly for Westerners. We are trained not to love ourselves. We seem to be operating under the delusion that we should love others instead of ourselves. But we cannot love others without really loving ourselves first. If one loves oneself, one will treat others very well, and it will be very easy to do.

  • A man* went to India, came back, and said: "Love others as you love yourself." He didn't say instead of yourself. Nor did he say love them first. How can we love them as ourselves if we won't love ourselves? If we reverse the syntax, the meaning becomes clear: "Love yourself then love others in that same way." And we won't be able to love them as ourselves if won't love ourselves first. What motivates unselfishness? Self-sacrifice comes from loving others, not from hating ourselves. But most of us usually practice it as self-hatred in the form of guilt or obligation. It's like a mom's self-martyrdom that makes everyone feel bad rather than loved. People love us, and they want to see us happy, and they want us to help make them happy -- and it's all possible with love! But if we won't love ourselves and care for ourselves to the same degree we're caring for others then it all falls apart.

It feels nice in legends, but it's not sustainable. To love, in the Buddhist sense, is to look after yourself with joy and ease AND extend that joy and ease to everyone around you. That's metta (universal love), one of the Four Divine Abidings here and now. The Buddha called it "divine" because this is how brahmas dwell all the time, having been reborn in Brahma worlds on account of jhana (Sanskrit, dhyana).

Step 2, when loving oneself comes easily, one chooses a living person of the same sex whom one respects and admires.

(Are we all one? Due to quantum entanglement, or some stranger and as yet unexplained universal law, it is impossible to attain meditative-absorption, jhana, if the other person is no longer alive. And due to the loving nature and good feelings of this practice, we can easily go astray and have lust arise. So we pick someone living and not lusted after -- maybe a dolphin?)

Then one mentally pictures that being smiling, being well and happy, and sends it/her/him those kind thoughts.

Step 3, when this comes easily, do the same for neutral beings. These are our favorites! They're the easiest to do! The first group is nearly impossible to love, ourselves. The second group is hard because we already love them, so we're just loving (and maybe feeling guilty about not calling or paying enough attention to) what we love, which is like not doing anything special. The fourth group is going to be as tough as the first. But neutral people, perfect!

  • Who are "neutral" living beings? Strangers. See that person over sitting in meditation over there. Never met her/him, probably never going to. I'm going to send that person all my love. S/he'll never know what hit him/her. A real neutral person is not involved with us in any way, but we can see the person, and know that's a real person (not some idea of a starving child in India/Africa/Iraq, and here comes the guilt again because we're not doing enough). No, this is that stranger right there. This is that person, and there's nothing in it for me -- except, oh there's so much:

We can't love without being loving. We can't be loving without becoming more lovable to others. We can't love and be loved by others without getting just a tiny bit happier and having others be happy with us. It's guilt-free win-win-win. And if there's guilt we're not winning because we're not doing it correctly. This is a practice; it needs practice.

No one is more deserving of your love than you.

When this comes easily and we begin to feel the sublime-bubbly headiness of just blissful love for no special reason -- other than that feeling is so wonderful and natural, the way we were as kids with cr*ppy childhoods, who nevertheless were just foolishly happy, trusting, and loving -- we move on to Step 4, the fourth group: our enemies.

The mind says, "I don't have any enemies!" Sure it does! Enemies aren't exclusively beings we hate. The mind is right: We may not hate anyone, especially when we're feeling so blissful about neutral people. But, as usual, the mind is also wrong!

You don't have to believe everything you think.

Who are our enemies? They're beings we think hate us. In return for their hate (unkindness, envy, jealousy, gossiping, subterfuge, malice, or wrongdoings), imagine them well and happy, smiling (maybe even delighting in the hurt and harm they're causing), and send them universal love in equal measure, to the same degree the other three categories got it. That man who went to India also said, "Love thy enemies." This is what was really meant. We can't love them just like that, just by willpower, particularly when we're hurt and have a real gripe about how unfair it is. Speak up, complain, conflate, combobulate then discombobulate again, but love them nonetheless. Love "bad" people, too. Whatever we choose to do about it, the hate drops away.

How will we ever be able to start this daily practice if it ends with doing the impossible -- namely, loving my neighbor, whom I'd rather judge or kill or move far away from? Step 1, pick someone who's easy to love, like Moko the dolphin or any dolphin in this video.

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