Recently, I was reminded that I’m alive when an unexpected event stopped my mind long enough to realize the fact. Last July, on the belated third anniversary of CARLESS, I described my spiritual side, and the Journey to and through Chicago that woke me up to it.
Of course, anyone who’s ever gained an iota of clarity about anything will tell you how easy it is to lose focus again. I hadn’t realized how much of a sleepwalker I’d become again until a friend pointed it out indirectly last week.
That’s a shame. Those who know me know the terror I can be when I fall off my cushion. My middle masthead icon is meditating (I know, I can’t believe you didn’t see it, either) in order to remind me of the overwhelming, demanding, judgmental, and just plain bitchy sides of me that come out when I stop keeping an eye on them and bark at friends, co-workers, and–as regular readers well know–blog subjects. [Ed. note: this is a reference to the masthead used on Chicago Carless from July 2008 until January 2010.]
They sent my friend running for a time-out of monumental proportions. It was an overdue signal that my friends’ lives are their own to lead, and a reminder that my duty to them and to all beings is simply to be here for them, unconditionally.
That’s the Buddhist concept of metta, or lovingkindness (best described in Sharon Salzberg’s seminal 1995 book, Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness). Not the love of grasping desire or craving for transitory pleasures, metta instead is love simply because we are divine if confused beings in a divine world, and deserving of the care of others by dint of that alone.
(Video: We live life as we believe it to be. Credit: linepie2–RSS subscribers follow link to view.)
Metta never seeks anything in return, and resides nowhere outside of us. It is cultivated from within, and is a powerful tool to rely on at those moments when you teeter towards making an enemy out of a friend simply because they don’t live up to your unfair expectations of them.
It’s what allows a brave heart to open wide and embrace happiness and sadness without placing blame or pretending that previous joy has suddenly ceased to have meaning merely because of circumstance.
I spoke indirectly of metta when I disclosed my spiritual worldview last year. Among others, I shared these longstanding beliefs:
- That love and compassion are the driving forces of the Universe;
- That true happiness, security, and well-being come from within; and
- That we as humans have a limitless ability–and responsibility–to allow love, compassion, joy, happiness, and peace to course through our lives and into the lives of those around us.
More immediately, metta is among the vows I make every morning during meditation–or, of course, used to make. As I strive to return to my seat, it is worth noting the key promises I had forgotten:
- I vow to see my patterns and do something different.
- I vow to allow others to learn their own lessons in their own time.
- I vow to avoid reacting in anger and causing harm.
- I vow to cultivate compassion and lovingkindness.
- I vow never to throw anyone out of my heart.
- Instead, I vow to allow joy.
Most of all, though, I vow to remember. For myself, for my friend, and for my world.
I seriously need a better alarm clock.