“I don’t know if I am becoming enlightened, but I am very happy anyway. I am getting better and better at loving-kindness!” – Venerable Bhante Sujatha, Buddhist monk
For me, love your neighbor as yourself is not a commandment; it is just the truth. I believe that we love our neighbor (or anything or anyone) exactly like we love ourselves, all the time.
When people say, “I love you,” I say “me too.” – Venerable Bhante Sujatha
If you don’t actively appreciate and love yourself ( and for me, this is a constant battle), then what good is the admonition to love your neighbor as yourself, or do unto others as you would have done unto you? Most of us wouldn’t speak to our worst enemy the way we speak to ourselves. Many of us neglect our health, our sleep and our relationships in the pursuit of “self-improvement.”
I found myself resisting the urge to shout out “stop!” as I listened to two women in the gym locker room go on and on about the imperfections of someone close to them. Because I’ve made a promise to practice right speech, I realized that it was time to re-engage in the practice of restraint in my speech and thoughts about others for 30 days.
For thirty long days last year, a noble friend and I stopped talking about anyone else unless it was absolutely necessary for a business or informational purpose. We promised to refrain from both negative and positive speech about others. Even though we both failed at this several times each day, there was a profound impact on our mindfulness and our lives.
It is almost impossible to tell the story about my locker room experience without talking about other people; as I try, I find myself awkwardly describing only my internal experience.
“I actively resisted the urge to shout out in the locker room. I felt bad that I didn’t speak up. I felt protective. I felt hypocritical.”
This morning, I was affected by a careless comment from a stranger on my way to work. Again, I want to tell you all about the person and what they said. It feels extremely vulnerable (and lonely!) to let go of the story, and just describe my experience.
“I was hurt today.”
Naturally, as I let go of so many (excellent, I think-ha ha) stories, I spend more time in silence, listening for guidance.
Simple, tough, temporary practices like this allow me to wade hip deep into the slippery hot muck of my flawed perceptions. The only way out of that foggy swamp is to grab the bright floodlight of awareness and turn it around, inch by painful inch, away from others and back onto me.
The brilliant lights blind me to your imperfections and forces me back inside, where I have to gently and firmly learn to love and accept every single part of Mary G, so that I can love and accept every part of you.
Whether I am meditating, driving according to the all the rules without exception for a time ( thank you Bhante San!), refraining from speech on a long hike with a friend, praying for the farmers who cultivated the plants on my plate, or disengaging from gossip, I have only one purpose in mind; I want to experience and offer unconditional love. I believe that this is the purpose of my life.
This idea is not new-it’s present in Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Muslim practices, and the twelve steps. Self-awareness is the cornerstone of almost every healthy practice, yet only a small percentage of faithful people engage in meditation, therapy or concentrated introspection about their lives.
Today might be an especially great day to fall back into love with yourself and your life. There are several mindfulness practices that support this effort, and many people who can light your way.
Thank you for reading my post, and enjoy Thursday.
“He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8).