November 13, 2012

The Leap to Lovingkindness

You've laughed at Pema's words, "If it weren't for my mind, my meditation would be excellent!"

It is so tempting to believe that a meditation practice will make me whole, forevermore.  But meditation will not make Step One go away. I will always be powerless over my emotions. 

That's where Lovingkindness comes in.  

Lovingkindness allows us to admit that we are still crazy after all these years. We may still feel unworthy. Our inclination may be to pull at the threads and undo whatever progress we have made.  But we don't need to throw anything away and start with new or better materials. Instead we befriend ourselves, we accept our powerlessness, we study ourselves. We let ourselves be.

The first obstacle to Lovingkindness is our common misunderstanding that being comfortable here is our primary goal in life, and that a good life is pain-free.  

Pema cautions,  "If we're committed to comfort at any cost as soon as we come up against the least edge of pain, we're going to run; we'll never know what's beyond the thing we  [fear]."

My relapse in 2010 was ironically driven by a need to hold on to my mental health at any cost. In trying to hold onto the comfort I call "emotional wellness,"  I found myself  paradoxically running into a cul-de-sac of  illusion. This was neither pain-free (emotionally, or to my family) nor comfortable.

Being totally honest, on any given day, I  want nothing more than to be master of, or unaffected by, my emotions. I would readily deny my emotions or run from them, so as to meditate peacefully. 

Here's where Pema helps:  she invites me to give up  these ineffective defenses, by being curious about them, rather than trying to overcome them. This is the practice of loving-kindness. Isn't that also the goal of the program? To love ourselves as we are, with complete awareness of our strengths and weaknesses? 

We do not wait until we have made progress and improved ourselves before  we show up and accept the Grace of our Higher Power, or the guidance of a teacher, or a Sponsor. 

We come as we are. Like we do in Emotions Anonymous, or in Alanon. 

We decide to become fully awake to who we are, being curious about ourselves. Curiosity means being gentle and precise and open.  

Gentleness is being good-hearted to ourselves.   Precision is allowing ourselves to see very clearly without fear of what we will see. (We need this skill too in order to do Step Four), Openness is being able to let go and stay receptive.  

For me, being open, means letting go of expectations.   

When I brought meditation into my healing practice, my goal was let go of the conditional thinking that got me into the hospital.  But I needed to let go  too, of the expectation that meditation would keep me "well."

For expectations, as we say in Alanon, are premeditated resentments. Each kernel of resentment keeps us from being gentle with ourselves.

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