Monday, 29 July 2013

Love and Kindness

Garuda Contemplation: Love and Kindness

The following is excerpted from Running With The Mind of Meditation by Sakyong Mipham. My book-du-jour because, well I want to run and I want it to be fun and I want to find a way to like it. But Mipham advocates not just running (taking care of the body) but meditation (taking care of the mind). And in his book he takes you through the four stages of running - tiger, white lion, garuda and dragon. He explains the significance of each. And even when you're in the dragon phase, you keep the qualities of the other three. Each chapter has a "contemplation" to go with it.

And when I came across the contemplation for the garuda phase, I thought I would plunk it here. Kind of reminds me of he lovingkindness meditation that Emily's sister took us through after we watched the Occupy Love documentary. And discussed it. The energy was just amazing. And after that we walked out of there, floating on a cloud.

I know there are people who think all this is just woo woo. That it doesn't make a difference. But like a network of roots underground that suddenly springs up fully grown (like Athena from the head of Zeus) you won't see it till you see it.

But I digress...

So here is the meditation. And as you read it, know that I am sending you good thoughts, positive vibes, compassionate feelings.

And love.

In the garuda phase, we expand our mind to include others. Happiness is the experience of love and kindness between family and friends. The thought of love is the most powerful of feelings. The love of our parents is what brings us here, and our mother's love especially enables us to survive. The love of one human being for another allows us to communicate and grow. The less intense version of love is kindness. Expressing love and kindness to others benefits them and roots us in our own happiness. This love and kindness is innate is the human mind and heart. Even though most of us experience it in random moments, it is something we can cultivate. Like the freedom of the garuda, it is measureless and limitless.

The way to begin the meditation on love and kindness is by bringing to mind someone you love. When you think about that person, a feeling of kindness, affection, and love arises. Love grows when you feel a wish for another to be happy. It may not be a deep emotional upwelling, but this innate altruistic moment takes the mental spotlight off yourself and shines it on others when you think of what would make them happy. Once you've aroused that feeling, stay with it. This is a very powerful practice because it can overcome our selfishness. And, ironically, the feeling of love and concern for others is the best way to make ourselves happy.

Over the centuries, meditators have determined that the root of unhappiness, suffering and stress is essentially self-centredness. As we do this contemplation, of course we continue to take good care of ourselves, but our attitude has shifted from looking at the world with the question, What will make me happy? When we expect external circumstances to bring happiness, we are setting ourselves up for one disappointment after another. The garuda flies beyond such conventionality and small-mindedness/

The contemplation at the garuda stage consists mainly of the deep wish for others to be happy. After settling our posture and calming our mind, we place our focus on love and kindness. First we think of our friends and family and extend to them our heartfelt love and kindness. Then we visualise the limitless force of those qualities reaching even distant friends and acquaintances. Then we extend it to people we do not know. As we do this, we realize that live is infinitely expandable. Our heart and mind are actually growing larger as we practice. Now we extend love and kindness even to our enemies and other difficult people. This is how we train the innate capacity of our mind and heart.

The contemplation on compassion involves bringing someone to mind who is in pain. Immediately we feel some empathy. We wish for this person's discomfort and pain to stop. That thought is compassion. In this contemplation, we become familiar with compassion, we develop it, and we train ourselves in it. IN this way, a compassionate attitude becomes more natural.

The benefit of contemplating love and compassion is that it allows us to express these virtues more readily in our life. These contemplations are a very powerful way to make the mind stronger and more resilient, and also to make us happy. They enable us to accommodate more with our mind, making the fabric of the mind stronger. Our mind thus becomes less stressed and less taxed by daily activity.

Love and compassion are elements that need to be exercised by the mind. If we exercise unkindness and anger, we only become better at it. In this state, we go from irritation to disregard and animosity. These emotions do not feel good. They weigh heavily on our mind, and we feel worn out, if not exhausted. These contemplations on love and compassion are training the mind to go in another direction - beyond thinking only of our fitness and well-being.

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