A friend said to me the other day, “I was born to love everything and everyone.” This sheer trust in the natural goodness in the world blew me away. Especially because he is not exactly a naive person and comes from an “eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” culture.
I tend to sometimes feel overwhelmed by the problems that we face in these times. Recent reports of how the climate change is endangering wildlife and news from the Middle East or Ukraine, are so tragic and so depressing that I sometimes lose faith in the power of the natural goodness in the world.
Can I love everyone and everything? Am I capable of love when my children or grandchildren are threatened? I am capable of anger, as I pointed out in my last blog. The more I explore this theme, the more I realize how closely related anger and love are. Anger is possible because we are capable of caring so deeply about those we love. And we grow angry when we hear about war and the wanton destruction of nature because we care about the world so very deeply.
As Albert Einstein pointed out, you can’t solve a problem with the same thinking that created the problem. And so trying to defeat hatred and intolerance with more hatred and intolerance will only increase this type of energy. Turning my back to the pain in the world and making sure I and my family get what we deserve, even though this is empowered by love, will end up feeding the selfishness and greed that I despise.
It takes something radically different to turn this paradigm around. And maybe this won’t change the way things are in our lifetime, but it will keep us from being devoured by the same demon of hatred and greed that is threatening all we hold dear. And, possibly, this spirit of love and compassion that we bring into the world will eventually bring about a healthy world for future generations.
Tibetan Buddhism, as taught by Pema Chodron, has a meditation practice known as tonglen. In this practice, you breathe in pain, taking it into your own heart, and then breathe out loving kindness. This meditation practice, done regularly, actually softens the heart and makes compassion for yourself and others easier, more natural.
At first you should practice with your own pain and negative emotions. As that grows easier to do, you can extend your awareness to those people around you who have hurt you or whom you have negative feelings about. And once you start feeling how this softens and opens your heart, you can extend your awareness to the pain of the world and your feelings about those whom you feel are the perpetrators of the pain.
Practicing loving kindness, compassion, makes us more and more aware how we are all interrelated. All humans, all life forms. And so we open the door to loving life and loving everything and everyone.