Napa Valley Insight Meditation Message Board › Relearning Our Loveliness: Reading for the Oct 15th NVMG meeting
At our upcoming meeting on October 15th we will finish the 2nd Chapter of Sharon Salzberg’s book, “Loving-kindness.” There are two exercise at the back of the chapter that you may want to try before we meet tomorrow night. One focuses on becoming mindful of our good qualities and the other describes how using metta phrases can help us cultivate greater love for ourselves.
You can download a copy of the reading by clicking on the link below. Please bring a copy with you to the sitting.
There is a belief I’ve often heard repeated that meditation practice, and loving-kindness practice in particular, is self-indulgent. That by focusing so much attention on ourselves we are withdrawing from the problems of the world. I believe this view, however, ignores the fact that without a sense of self-love and compassion for ourselves, our actions in the world can often end up doing more harm than good, even if our intentions are noble. As Sharon puts it “Generosity from self-hate becomes martyrdom. Morality born of self-hate becomes rigid repression. Love for others without the foundation of love for ourselves becomes a loss of boundaries, codependency, and a painful and fruitless search for intimacy.”
This does not mean that we must choose between devoting our time to our practice and taking action in the world. As Donald Rothberg writes in his book The Engaged Spiritual Life, “our times call for both spiritual and social commitments. There is the irony of attempting to overcome self-centeredness, hatred, fear and confusion through meditation practice while ignoring the cries of the world.” Yet it is the cries of the world that call for self-transformation. Without transforming the world reflected within us, we may unconsciously do more harm to our friends, co-workers and society than good. So in this sense inner transformation entails outer transformation.
I bring this up, because one of my great difficulties in the past has been to practice loving-kindness toward myself. I can remember being on retreat and having no problem practicing the metta phrases for others – my friends, my mentors, people I barely know, even some of the more unpleasant people in my life – yet when I’d try and direct that love towards myself, I’d balk. I’d often feel guilty, anxious and annoyed. The practice seemed so pointless and completely self-absorbed.
What I’ve learned since then is that without self-love, much of the energy I put into helping others is completely co-dependent. I felt pain and loneliness inside and was trying to heal these wounds by playing the saint. As I’ve worked with the metta phrases over time, directing them towards myself as well as other, I have felt a shift in consciousness and a greater sense of acceptance. I fee l like I’m less likely to hurt others out of a desire to have my “needs” meet. I still slip up, but that’s why they call it a practice. We move forward slowly, learning to love ourselves more, bringing greater awareness to the layers of pain and sadness that may surround our hearts, and then allowing our light to radiate out to the world.
UPCOMING DHARMA TALK ON NOVEMBER 12th
On November 12th, Ayya Anandabodhi and Ayya Santachitta are coming to Napa to share their wisdom with our Sangha. They are co-founders of Aloka Vihara, a training monastery for women in San Francisco, dedicated to practicing the Buddha’s teaching in the style of the Theravada Forest Tradition. They have been practicing meditation for 25 years and are frequent teachers at Spirit Rock, the Insight Meditation Center, and other retreat centers throughout the bay area.
For more information on the sisters and Aloka Vihara: http://saranaloka.org...
Please mark this date on your calendar and plan to attend.