In this episode, Venerable Sangye Khadro, author of How to Meditate: A Practical Guide, and Buddhist nun, talks about practical ways to cultivate kindness towards ourselves and others in our daily lives.
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And so the title of the talk today is Cultivating Lovingkindness.
And what I will do is spend some time talking about this topic. We’ll also do a short guided meditation on it.
Then I’ll leave time at the end for questions.
So the topic of loving kindness is quite an important one in Buddhism, but I think it’s important in all religious and spiritual traditions. For example, Jesus spoke about the need to love our neighbors as ourself.
And I think all religions that I know of teach people to be kind and ethical, take care of others and help them when they are in need, when they are sick, hungry, lonely and so forth.
And just the term love or lovingkindness is not comfortable for everybody.
I have heard some people say that they find the term is mushy or sentimental, and they don’t feel so inclined to meditate on this topic.
And perhaps there are other people who’ve had painful experiences falling in love and getting into intimate relationships which then went wrong and they were hurt. And so for them, the word love might bring up those old painful feelings and they may feel like that’s something they want to avoid rather than something they want to cultivate further.
So anyone who does feel uncomfortable with the term love, then you can find alternate terms.
The term in Sanskrit is matri, which as far as I know, has the connotation of friendliness, friendliness kindness, and likewise in poly language, it’s meta, which also has that connotation.
And so, yeah, alternate terms for love would be friendliness or care, concern or simply kindness.
So feel free to try out other terms and hopefully find one that you’re comfortable with. The important thing is to understand what is this state of mind that we call meta or lovingkindness? I like the word lovingkindness because it’s not quite the same as love. Love can have a lot of associations that aren’t necessarily accurate in what we’re talking about here. So I like the term loving kindness, but yeah, again, you can use just kindness if you prefer. So what is this state of mind?
It’s described in Buddhist scriptures as the wish for others to be happy, the wish for sentient beings to be happy. And that can include ourselves as well as others sentient beings. And ideally, we’re talking about feeling this for sentient.
You know, there’s phrases like I love New York, I love chocolate and so on. But in that case, I don’t think that kind of emotion is really love because the object, the recipient isn’t a sentient being. So, yeah, at least in the Buddhist sense, we’re talking here about a state of mind that we feel towards another or other beings or ourself as well. We need to cultivate this state of mind towards ourself.
And so it’s not so much an emotion like something we get all emotional and we want to go around hugging people and kissing people and so on. But it’s more of a state of mind, an attitude that we endeavor to generate, to cultivate towards more and more people and living beings. Not just people, but also living beings. I think everyone understands that people who have pets anyway yeah, I’m sure you love your pets very much.
But yeah, in Buddhism, the ideal, the goal, is to cultivate this state of mind towards all living beings, without exception. And that’s a big goal. And it’s certainly not something we can have right away from the beginning, but we work on it gradually to cultivate this attitude. So this attitude, it’s something we already have.
Buddhism says it’s already a natural, innate quality in everyone’s mind. Everyone has this particular state of mind, this particular feeling, although it’s usually limited, we feel it for some people and beings, but it’s very difficult to feel it for everybody.
And even for those beings that we do have love for, it’s not always there. Sometimes we can be annoyed at them, angry at them, even have thoughts of harming them. So it’s something that comes and goes in our mind and it’s there just for a limited number of people and beings. However, it is something we can work on and develop and increase so that we have it more of the time, more often, and are able to feel it for more and more people and living beings.
And so that’s the meaning of cultivate when we talk about cultivating. And in fact, I haven’t studied Sanskrit, I’m not a Sanskrit scholar, but I’ve heard that the Sanskrit term for meditation is bhavana, and that has the meaning of cultivating. So it’s the same word that’s used for, for example, farmers cultivating crops in their fields or cultivating vegetables in the garden.
And so it’s kind of a very beautiful idea.
Our mind is like a field or like a garden. And we already have within our mind at least the seeds of positive qualities such as love and kindness, compassion and so on. So the seeds are there. And the whole purpose of practicing meditation in Buddhism is to nurture those seeds so that they grow and produce the wonderful qualities such as compassion, love and so forth. And so that’s the whole idea of meditation, is to cultivate these positive states of mind.
And we find a similar idea in the Tibetan language.
The Tibetan word for meditate is gome. And that has the meaning of to familiarize or to become familiar. And so the idea is when we’re practicing meditation, we are familiarizing our mind with certain experiences, certain states of mind, certain qualities that we want to grow.
Because the more we get familiar with or habituate ourselves to these positive qualities such as love, compassion, then the more they become our natural way of being, eventually they become like our default mode. In the beginning, we have to put some effort into it.
We have to try to cultivate these qualities, these states of mind. But after a while, then they just start coming up naturally, spontaneously. And I can say this with complete conviction because it’s been my experience.
When I was much younger, I really struggled with feeling love and compassion.
I had a lot of obstacles to feeling those and instead I often felt angry and critical towards other people and other beings and of course, towards myself.
But I can see that by working on this, making myself more and more familiar with compassion and love and kindness and so on, then they are much easier now. And sometimes they just arise spontaneously without having to make any effort. For example, I’ll just give an example with insects.
I can’t say I ever really loved insects except the cute ones like ladybugs and butterflies and so on. And so the ones that have sort of an attractive appearance, but with other kinds of bugs like flies and mosquitoes and cockroaches, some that aren’t so attractive to look at. I would just feel this aversion for them. And when I was a child, I would sometimes kill them.
If flies got into the house, my mother would say, oh, they are so dirty and if they get on our food, then the food becomes dirty. And so as a favor to my mother, I would take a fly swatter and SWAT the flies and kill the flies. And I thought that was a good thing to do anyway. So that was a long time ago. And then I became a Buddhist and learned a very different attitude, stopped killing insects, but it was still difficult to feel love for them.
And that took a lot more work. But just contemplating the Buddhist teachings, contemplating the various methods for cultivating this quality of love and compassion and so on now, like when I find insects inside or even outside, my first feeling, my first reaction is to protect them.
If they’re in a place where they might be harmed, I want to remove them from that place and put them in a safe place. And I say mantras for them.
That’s just my experience. That gradually, over time, by getting more and more familiar with the budhist ideas and the teachings on lovingkindness and compassion, then they just take root in your mind and become your natural mode of being, your natural way of experiencing.
Ideally, that’s what we’re working towards is cultivating this kind of quality of love, kindness, compassion and so on towards other beings so that it arises kind of naturally.
And it’s there for all beings. And we don’t reserve it only for a limited number of people and beings that we find attractive.
And then we refuse to have these feelings for other beings that we don’t find so attractive.
So it does take time to do this. It does require some effort. But if we can understand the benefits of cultivating this state of mind in the buddhist scriptures, there’s numerous benefits that are explained if we cultivate lovingkindness and compassion.
And I’ve heard that in recent years, scientists, or at least researchers, have done research into the effects of kindness and compassion. And many of their findings confirm what the Buddhist scriptures teach.
And we can experience some of these benefits, ourself even in a short period of time, such as having a happier mind.
Your mind is happier when you have thoughts of love and compassion, as opposed to anger and hatred and healthier. Yeah, so it’s good for our health. We’ll have less sickness, also less stress, which is another factor that can harm our health. We’ll be able to sleep better at night and wake up feeling refreshed and have pleasant dreams rather than nightmares.
And also our relationships with others will be better. Not just our close family and friends, but even strangers, neighbors and so on. So people will like us, people will be attracted to us, and then they’ll be there for us when we need help.
If you’re a loving and kind person, then others really appreciate that and value you, cherish you. And so whenever you need help, it’s easy to receive help. People will be happy to help you.
And also you just feel better about yourself or you feel better about your life. You have a greater sense of purpose and meaning in life, which is very important.
It’s very sad that there are many people who don’t see any value or meaning or purpose in life and sometimes even kill themselves, take their own lives because of this feeling of meaninglessness, which is really a great tragedy.
And so, yeah, the more we can cultivate love and kindness and compassion and act these in our life, live our life in accordance with those states of mind, then we’ll be happier and healthier and have less of these other troubling experiences such as stress, depression, feeling hopeless and so on.
So then it is something we need to put effort into to cultivate. We can’t just sit around and wait for lovingkindness to arise in our mind. I mean, we might be lucky, and it will come up sometimes, but not always.
Buddhism teaches a number of methods or techniques or tools for increasing the feeling of love and kindness and compassion.
And one aspect of this work is to recognize attitudes that we have that are opposite to or obstacles to lovingkindness and compassion.
And the main one, the main obstacle is anger, hatred, annoyance, irritation, that whole type of mental state which is totally the opposite, opposite to love and kindness. So instead of feeling open and warm and caring towards another person or being, you feel just the opposite. I can’t stand that person. I don’t want to be nice to them. I don’t want to show them any love. And we might even go further than that and actually have thoughts of doing something harmful to them.
So my guess is everybody does at certain times have such feelings coming up in their mind because we’re not, you know, we don’t come into this world already enlightened, already perfect, you know, with a mind that’s always loving and always caring and always pure. But, yeah, I think we all come into the world with this instinctive tendency to get angry, to have anger and aversion. And there’s different shades of that particular state of mind. I think at the low end, it includes just feelings of dislike, aversion, distaste, disgust, that kind of feeling, which could be quite subtle. And then it can be stronger than that. It can be actually anger or hatred. And it could even get to the point of aggressiveness where there’s this strong wish to do something harmful. Violent violence leads to violence.
I think everyone does have those kind of thoughts, those kind of feelings coming up in their mind. And I don’t think it’s something we choose to feel. I really doubt that anybody wants to feel that way.
Maybe there’s some people, but I’m sure they’re rare. I’m sure most people don’t really want to feel annoyed and angry, irritated, hateful, because they’re just so unpleasant. It’s so unpleasant to feel that way. But these kind of thoughts, these kind of feelings just come up in our mind kind of almost by themselves, spontaneously.
And Buddhism explains reasons why they like I say, they’re already there in our mind when we’re born, but then in our life, as we go through life and have different experiences, encounters with people, the way people treat us, and then the kind of conditioning we receive from our family, our neighborhood, our environment, teachers, society and so on. So these influences can either increase or decrease this natural tendency towards anger and hatred.
So I think one way we can work with these is just to bring mindfulness awareness, so that when one of these states of mind, either anger or just mild dislike or irritation arises in our mind, we notice it, we pay attention to it, we observe it and don’t deny it. It doesn’t help to deny it, pretend it’s not there. It won’t go away by itself.
So it’s best to be honest and acknowledge the presence, the existence of that particular state of mind.
For some people, this is my experience, and I think it’s probably the experience of many others as well. There’s this tendency to feel ashamed, maybe even beat yourself up, oh, I shouldn’t feel this way. I shouldn’t think this way. This is wrong. This is bad. I am a bad person for having such a thought. So that doesn’t help. It doesn’t help to beat yourself up, to feel guilty and ashamed.
And it’s also kind of unreasonable, because we’re just ordinary beings. We’re not already Buddhas. We’re not already enlightened beings. Even the Buddha himself, he wasn’t always a Buddha. He was once an ordinary being, too. And he must have had anger and other disturbing emotions in his mind, but he managed to overcome them, find a way to be free of.
So we’re not alone.
We’re not alone in feeling this way. And that can be helpful to understand. Oh, I’m not the only one who gets angry and annoyed. Other people do as well. And in fact, some people get so angry that they acted out in horrible ways. They commit acts of murder and violence, terrorism, war.
So they have anger in their minds, and they don’t know how to deal with it. They don’t know how to manage it, and it just takes over, and they act it out in these horrible ways, harming others and also creating bad karma, negative karma for themselves that will lead to really unpleasant experiences in the future.
So it’s really sad that other people don’t know how to manage their anger. And if we learn the Buddhist teachings or other sources of information that teach us how to manage our anger and then we use those methods, then we can do that.
There’s lots of anger management courses available, not tied to any particular spiritual tradition or religion.
It’s possible to learn how to manage your anger, and then it’s just a question of applying those methods, and you can definitely do it.
It’s helpful to think like that, to think, okay, yeah, there’s anger in my mind, but I don’t have to follow it. I don’t have to buy into it and believe in it. There are things I can do to manage it, to decrease it.
And it’s also something transitory, something impermanent, meaning it comes and goes in our mind. It’s not a permanent fixture that’s always there, every minute, every second, but it’s more like a cloud. Buddhism has this nice analogy that the thoughts and emotions come and go in our mind, the way clouds come and go in the sky. Our mind is like the sky because it’s vast and clear and spacious, and then thoughts and emotions come and go.
That includes anger. So any type of anger, hatred, even thoughts of harming, killing, these can pop up in our mind, but they’re not always there, and we can see that for ourselves. We can see. I don’t always feel this way. I don’t always have these kind of thoughts in my mind. So they’re not permanent, and they’re not me. They’re not who I am. They are just transitory mental states that come and go in my mind.
So that kind of thought can be helpful to reduce the strength, the intensity of the anger and also to recognize we have a choice.
So we don’t always have a choice. In fact, I think most of us don’t have a choice at all as to what pops up in our mind. Yeah, what kind of thoughts, what kind of feelings, what kind of experiences come up in our mind. We don’t have a choice about that. But we do have a choice about how we work with them what we do with these thoughts and emotions that come up in our mind.
So that’s really important to understand.
And you may have trouble believing it, but hopefully by the end of this talk, this recession, you’ll be more open to accepting that. Yeah, we do have a choice.
Let’s just say, for example, do you ever meet a person or just see somebody kind of in the distance that you feel, I don’t like the looks of that person. I don’t like now. It’s just something about the person that rubs us the wrong way. We have that expression, something about them we just find, EW, I don’t like them.
So I have that experience sometimes here in the abbey where I live. It’s a monastery and there’s usually about 25 people staying here on a regular basis. But we also have visitors, people who come for courses, retreats, or they just come to volunteer.
So we don’t have choice about who shows up in our community.
And so, yeah, sometimes a person will show up and as soon as I see that person, I just feel this kind of I’m sorry to say that, but I’m being honest and I’m sure I’m not alone. I’m sure everybody has that kind of feeling that this kind of instant dislike towards another person, another being.
And we probably don’t know that person. We don’t know anything about them, but just something about their appearance or the way they stand, the way they walk, the way they talk, their tone of voice, whatever. Something or multiple things about them that we feel. I don’t like them.
When this happens, then it can cause us to sort of close off. We close our mind, we close our heart to that person.
And then we feel, I don’t want to be near them, I don’t want to talk to them, I don’t want to show them any warmth or friendliness. And instead we want to avoid them and maybe even be kind of cold and unfriendly towards them. Those are extreme ways of acting, even if we do smile at them and act in a friendly way. But in our heart, there’s a dissonance there between the way we’re acting and the way we feel inside. We might still feel this sort of aversion towards them.
And another thing that can happen is that our mind might begin making up stories about the person. Have you ever noticed that?
Yeah, just kind of imagine what kind of person they are, what kind of things they’ve done in the past, what kind of things they could do in the future. Like if you do get close to them, then they might be really nasty to you and you’ll have really unpleasant experiences with them.
So your mind can write a whole story, a whole book, a whole horror movie or murder mystery movie about this person.
So if you’ve ever had that experience, then does it feel good? Does it feel right? To let your mind go down that road, get caught up in such thoughts?
Probably not. It probably doesn’t really feel good and it probably just happens without control and sometimes without full awareness. It’s just like your mind takes the ball and runs with it. And now before you know it, you made this person into a monster and you just wish that they would disappear off the face of the earth, something like that.
So yeah, I doubt if anybody really enjoys this kind of mental activity, but it just happens.
And if we ask ourselves, yeah, is this nice? Is this the way I want to be? Is this the way I want to think? Hopefully we’ll feel, no, it doesn’t really feel right. I don’t really enjoy doing it. And it’s certainly not kind.
Yeah, it’s not being kind, not being considerate to the other person.
Also, we may have been on the receiving end of this kind of treatment by somebody else. If you can think back in your life, there may have been someone who seemed to take an instant dislike to you. They didn’t even know you. But for whatever reason, right from the beginning, they were unfriendly, even rude, and wanted to avoid you.
So if we’ve ever been in that experience, in that situation where somebody else took a dislike to us and was unfriendly or even rude to us, we know what it’s like, we know how that feels.
It’s certainly not pleasant.
So then if we ask ourselves, is it right for me to treat somebody else that way?
I hopefully we’ll come to feel, no, it’s not a good way to be. I don’t want to be that way, I don’t want to treat anyone that way.
So one thing we can do, like I said before, is to just bring mindfulness awareness to what’s going on in our mind. Also our body, how we feel in our body, what kind of sensations we have in our body. There might be tension tightness in our stomach or in our back, our neck, and maybe we’re in a sort of defensive posture where we looking for how we can get away from this person, avoid them and so on. So just bring awareness to that, how it affects your body, how it affects your mind to have such thoughts, such feelings.
And it can be helpful to relax physically relax, calm down.
You can use the breathing to do this. Be aware of your breathing coming in and going out. So that’s a very helpful way of bringing about a more calm and relaxed state of body and mind.
And as I mentioned before, just contemplate that these kind of thoughts are not permanent parts of you. They are things that come and go.
And you do have a choice.
You can choose to go with them, believe in them, follow them, get caught up in them, or you can choose to step back from them and look at them and say, is this the way I want to be?
Or do I want to do something different in this situation with this person?
And then to directly counteract that type of thought and the feelings coming with it, we can contemplate that this is another person, another living being, basically just like me.
They want to be happy, and they don’t want to suffer. So there’s actually a whole meditation on that in the Tibetan tradition where we just it’s quite a simple idea, but it’s very profound, very mind altering, just to contemplate other people. Other beings are basically the same as me. They want to be happy, they want to have good experiences, and they don’t want to suffer. They don’t want pain. Nobody wants pain. Nobody wants suffering. People just want to be happy.
It’s kind of obvious, and it’s something we already know. We kind of know it, I think intuitively that others are just like me, but it’s still helpful to bring it up and actually spend time contemplating it, especially in this kind of situation with a person towards whom we have these kind of negative feelings.
So you can just contemplate this other person. They’re just another person, another living being, another human being, basically the same as me. Deep down inside. They want to be happy, they want to have good experiences, and they don’t want any suffering, any problem, any bad experiences.
So that itself can change our mind, soften our mind will become more soft, more open, more loose towards the other person.
And we can go further. We can think that, okay, if they may appear sort of unpleasant, frightening, scary, threatening, whatever, this unpleasant appearance that they have that could be due to experiences they’ve had in their life, quite possible that maybe when they were young, people were mean to them.
There’s lots of cases of that, even within families. Parents aren’t always kind and loving, but they’re sometimes abusive, really doing horrible things to their kids.
So as a child, this person may have experienced that abuse, bullying at school or in their neighborhood.
So, yeah, people may have been mean to them. And as a result of that, they may have developed this way of being, this kind of appearance, way of holding their body, talking as a way to protect themselves from harm, not wanting to experience more of that kind of painful experience they had as a child. So that’s one possibility for why the person behaves the way they do or looks the way they do.
It’s a result of experiences that they had in their life.
So again, contemplating that that possibility can help us open our mind, soften our mind towards them.
And again, remember that beneath this facade, this appearance, what we see on the outside is just a little person like me wanting to be happy, not wanting to suffer, wanting to be treated with kindness and respect.
And also that they’re not really bad. I mean, there’s nobody who is totally bad, 100% bad, 100% of the time. Everybody has some good qualities, and sometimes the good qualities are hidden beneath this hard exterior.
But if we treat somebody with kindness, if we show them respect and kindness and compassion, there’s a greater chance that those positive qualities that are inside can come out, can be revealed.
They’ll feel safe, they’ll feel comfortable to show themselves in that way towards us.
So it’s actually reasonable, it’s much more reasonable and realistic to treat somebody with kindness and respect rather than mistrust and aversion.
Because if the other person feels accepted and cared for and respected by us, then they’ll feel safer, more comfortable to open up and let these good qualities appear.
So let’s just experiment with this. Let’s try this out for a short time. We’ll do a little bit of a reflection, a meditation on this to see if it can be helpful.
It so make yourself comfortable, try to sit with your back straight because that helps your mind to be more focused and clear, concentrated, and let go of any other thoughts there may be in your mind that aren’t related to what we’re doing here. Put them aside for now so that you can really focus on this meditation.
Now see if you can think of someone that I was describing, a person towards whom you felt dislike, aversion, mistrust.
Just by seeing that person, your feelings were other than kindness and respect.
Instead you felt aversion.
Try to have a mental picture of that person as if they’re right in front of you and contemplate how these thoughts in your mind, this thoughts of dislike, aversion and any other stories your mind may make up about this person. Like they’re this way, they’re that way, if I get close to them, they might hurt me, I might get problems with them. Whatever kind of thoughts and emotions there are in your mind that cause you to want to keep your distance from them, not want to be friendly to them, not want to show them kindness.
So understand that all those kind of thoughts and emotions are transitory, not permanent.
They’re like clouds that come and go in the sky. These kind of thoughts and emotions come and go in your mind and it’s possible to change them. You don’t have to believe in them and follow them, let yourself be taken over by them. You can do other things with them to see if that makes sense.
It and then look at this person and contemplate that basically they’re not so different from yourself, they’re another human being with thoughts and feelings.
And deep down inside they want to be happy, they want good experiences and they don’t want any suffering, problems or bad experiences.
And if you got to know the person, if you spent time with them, talked with them, got a better understanding of them, then this might become more clear. You might be able. To see that yeah, they are just another person like yourself who’s trying to be happy, trying to avoid problems and suffering.
And then the things about the person that you find unattractive, unappealing or even scary, threatening, those could be ways that the person has developed to protect themselves from harm.
In other words, to avoid suffering and problems and to have more happiness.
So these things that appear to us are the result of experiences, life experiences that the person has had based on their family, their upbringing, society conditioning and so on. It’s not really who the person is.
Just probably some kind of defense mechanism that they’ve developed.
And again, if you get to know the person, the chances are you will discover things about the person that are really nice, positive, likable. You’ll see good qualities, positive things in them.
Now see if you can generate kindness towards this person.
And one way of doing that is repeating to yourself words or phrases like may you be happy, may you have all you need to be happy and satisfied to find peace, well being.
So those are suggested phrases, but you can use your own, find some ways, some words you can repeat to yourself with respect to this other person that help you generate these positive wishes for them and you.
So a traditional way of cultivating lovingkindness in Buddhism involves bringing to mind different people or beings, starting with someone we already have good feelings for, family member or relative.
And then repeating phrases such as may you be happy, may you have everything you need in order to be healthy and happy and fulfilled and so on. So there’s certain standard phrases that are used in Buddhist traditions but you can also write your own, compose your own phrases that really resonate with you. And so you just repeat those words in your mind with respect to this other person.
And then depending on how much time you have and where you’re at in your development of this practice, then you can bring to mind other people, other individuals, starting with those you like and then moving on to those who are a little more distant from you, like neighbors, people at work you don’t know very well. And then when you’re more familiar with the practice, you move on to the ones you don’t like.
People you find annoying or irritating or whatever. So you kind of start with easier objects and then move to the more difficult ones.
And you just repeat these phrases that express this attitude of lovingkindness.
And people sometimes say that when they do that kind of meditation they don’t feel anything.
Perhaps they expect that their mind will be filled with this wonderful, beautiful feeling of lovingkindness for all these people that they’re thinking of. And that doesn’t happen. And then they may think oh, this isn’t working.
But it said that don’t worry, whatever feeling comes up in your mind, even if you don’t actually feel lovingkindness coming up in your mind. It’s enough just to do this, practice, this exercise and say these words.
And if we continue doing this practice, getting more familiar with it, eventually the feeling will come.
It may not always come every time you do it, but at least sometimes you will have the actual feeling of lovingkindness, because our mind just needs to warm up through the practice, get used to the practice, and eventually, gradually, it will work.
I heard a talk given by one Buddhist teacher who said that when he first started doing this practice, he didn’t feel anything, but he kept doing it. And it took him about five years before he actually felt the meaning behind the words that he was saying. And I felt a lot of admiration for him that he didn’t give up. Some people would give up and they would say, oh, this is a waste of time, this isn’t working. But he kept doing the practice, and eventually, after years, five years, the feeling started to come.
So hopefully it won’t take that long for you, but it just shows that, yeah, in some cases, for some people, it may take a while, but eventually it will work.
So, like I say, it does take some effort to cultivate lovingkindness. But if we compare the feeling of lovingkindness with a feeling of anger, aversion, hatred and so on, which is more enjoyable, more pleasant, more meaningful for us.
And there are lots of benefits to cultivating lovingkindness. So if we compare those two states of mind, then hopefully we’ll see it’s much more beneficial, meaningful not only for others, but also for ourselves to cultivate lovingkindness.
So there’s a lot more I could say. This is a huge topic, but we’re almost out of time.
We have a few minutes left. If someone would like to ask a question, I think you can unmute yourself and just speak.
I was wondering, because you were speaking of developing lovingkindness towards others, and that through the time I’ve been practicing Buddhism, seems to have become easier. What is really difficult is practicing this towards myself, feeling lovingkindness towards myself. And that hasn’t seemed to be it’s been a hard work, and I don’t see any really big progress.
Did you have anything to say about that?
Yeah, I didn’t talk about that. Time was short. But yeah, that is very important.
But it does take time. I have this problem too, and even though I’ve been aware of it for many years, I still fall into it sometimes of beating myself up, being critical of myself and so on. So what I do is I just try to notice when that’s happening. I try to notice when that type of thought, self hating, self critical thought is coming up in my mind. And then try not to feed it. Nourish, it give it more energy. And instead recognize that this is not helpful, this is not the right way that itself can be very helpful. It’s just not feeding it. And then for me, what I find helpful is to think of the Buddhas, buddhas and Bodhisattvas or my spiritual teachers and contemplate how they view me, that they don’t hate me, they don’t feel aversion or hatred towards me. They feel nothing but love and kindness and compassion and lots of other people as well. I mean, there’s people around me who I know they love me and care about me. They show that they say that. And so I think this is just a delusion in my mind to not love myself, to think I’m not worthy of love. It’s a delusion, it’s not a correct state of mind.
So those are some things that I find helpful, but I think each person is different. So hopefully if you read and listen to teachings and experiment with different methods, you’ll find something that will help you. But I think it is something that takes time.
Some of us have been hating ourselves for many years. It’s a long term habit. And so just like with other habits that we’ve been doing, things we’ve been doing for a long time, we can’t just immediately stop. It takes time.
So, yeah, don’t give up, don’t get discouraged.
And then there’s the work by Kristen Neff, who did a lot of research on self compassion and wrote a book about self compassion.
It’s entitled self compassion. And there’s a website as well with resources on self compassion. So self compassion, self love are pretty much the same thing.
So yeah, look into that. And there’s probably others as well, other authors and books on that topic of compassion for oneself or self compassion. So look into those and yeah, it’s in the chat box.
Yeah, there’s a website selfcompassion.org from Kristen Ness. Yeah. So don’t give up, don’t get discouraged, just keep working at you know, I’ll hear this voice in my mind being self critical, saying critical things about myself, and when I step back from that, I say, I think I wouldn’t talk to anybody else like this.
I would be too ashamed to say such things to somebody else. So why do I talk to myself that way?
I don’t know. It’s a habit, something I developed in this life or maybe even from past lives, but it’s definitely not something I want to continue.[00:59:09] Speaker B: Yeah, I have a quick question regarding that venerable, if there’s time still. [00:59:18] Speaker A: Sure. [00:59:20] Speaker B: So when I start thinking about self compassion, I think I had probably still have to some degree a similar issue with that.
Whenever, let’s say, I get more clear about the insight of no self, how to some extent is an illusion, it almost seems easier to be compassionate towards myself because I’m just one more person. I’m seeing one more person that I’m not necessarily differentiating myself from others.[01:00:00] Speaker A: Right. [01:00:01] Speaker B: It’s sort of the same.
And if I can already generate compassion for others, then I’m just one more of others to generate compassion towards.
What should I do with that? Is that the right way to see it or yeah, I’m just curious about any comments on that venerable so let me understand.[01:00:27] Speaker A: Let’s see if I understand. You’re saying that you think I am just another person, another sentient being like everybody else, and if I’m developing compassion for sentient beings, then that includes myself.
Is that what you’re saying?[01:00:47] Speaker B: That’s it. I think it may be not necessarily just thinking about it, but sort of feeling it somehow.
Then it becomes more real.[01:01:01] Speaker A: Yeah, I’ve had that thought as well, that yeah, we talk so much about all sentient beings wanting to be happy, not wanting to suffer, and all sentient beings having the potential for enlightenment and developing love and compassion for all sentient beings. So why should I leave myself out from that?
Like excluding all sentient beings except for myself? It doesn’t make any sense.
So I’m a sentient being too. I deserve to be happy and to not suffer. So, you know, feel those feelings from myself as well. Buddha feels that way. Buddha doesn’t single me out and say, I care about all sentient beings except you. You don’t deserve any compassion or love. I mean, Buddha doesn’t think that way. It’s only my mind that thinks that way.
So it’s definitely a this I’m not sure if this is what you’re saying or not, but it sounded like you were saying something about being overly concerned with oneself, and I think that that is part of it as well.
Everybody we all tend to be kind of obsessed with ourself.
I am the center of the universe. I am more important than everybody else. And this self hatred can actually be connected with that. But that’s something each person has to explore. So, for example, when I look at that in myself, I can see that because I’m so obsessed with myself and think so much about myself, I want to be perfect, I want to be somebody really fantastic, and then I don’t have the qualities I would like to have. I’m not the way I would like to be. And so then I go to the opposite attitude of hating myself, putting myself down, because I’m not this perfect, wonderful, fantastic person that I want to be, so I can see it in myself. But that’s something each person has to recognize for themselves that yeah, this self centeredness, self obsessed attitude that we have might be partly responsible for the attitude of self criticalness. And if we can reduce that obsession with I me, my self importance, if we can reduce that, I think that is also helpful to reduce self hatred and self criticalness and also the whole topic of selflessness or emptiness, where we anyway, what is this self that I’m so obsessed about? Is it really does it really exist the way that I think it does? So I think exploring that topic and doing analysis of that. What is this I anyway?
That is also an effective countermeasure to self hatred and self criticalness. Is that what you were saying?[01:04:17] Speaker B: Yeah, to some extent. Yeah, actually, that was it, so yeah. Thanks for clarifying.
Well, if we don’t have any more questions, then we’re all good to go. Thank you so much, Ben.
Thanks, Parisa. Daniel, david Margaret for being here.
Hopefully see you soon again.[01:04:49] Speaker A: Yeah. Thank you for joining. Thank you for organizing. And I wish all of you the best in your cultivation of kindness for yourself as well as for others.