Hello my fellow human Beings:
GIVE, GIVE, GIVE.
Sometimes that can become our silent mantra as we go through our daily duties in life. We give of our time, talents and treasures to serve and help others. But if we continuously just give to others without taking time to replenish our reserves we will feel empty, burnt out and poor.
The late Maya Angelou, celebrated poet, memoirist, educator, dramatist, producer, actress, historian, filmmaker, and civil rights activist said:
“I do not trust people who don’t love themselves and yet tell me, ‘I love you.’ There is an African saying which is: Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt.”
When our resources are depleted and our coffers are empty, the quality of our love for others isn’t as full and enriching as it could be. So instead of feeling joyful in our giving, we can feel drained rundown and naked. (Those people who work in service fields (like daycare workers, teachers, elder care workers, health care workers, and full-time parents, to name a few) can easily experience this without the guidance of meditation.)
The practice of loving-kindness reminds us that we need to love (befriend or offer kindness to others) AS we love (befriend or offer kindness to ourselves).
Although the loving-kindness meditation practice has an order to it,
(We offer happiness, peace and freedom from suffering to ourselves, then to our loved ones or those who have helped us, then those who are neutral to us, then those who have hurt or harmed us, and finally to all being.)
the loving-kindness practice in our daily lives need not follow this order.
We can love the different groups simultaneously.
That said, we need to be careful that in loving others, we don’t forget to also love ourselves.
In her article, “Lovingkindness For Yourself as Well”, author and teacher of Buddhist meditation practices in the West, Sharon Salzberg explains the goal of loving-kindness meditation practice. She writes:
“The invitation in this meditation practice isn’t to be narcissistic or self centered, which we can and certainly often do manage without the time and effort of meditation. Rather, it is building and renewing the reservoir of feeling whole within, feeling complete, so that we can offer and give and serve without feeling depleted, overcome or burned out.
The goal is also not to undertake lovingkindness for yourself as some kind of strategic project, refusing to consider others before you “finish” having lovingkindness for yourself. There are many people who care for others in a disproportionate way, leaving themselves out. The goal here is a kind of balance. As we explore this balance, we are also exploring skills of resilience.
We can cut through many obstacles, overcome many fears when we realize it’s alright to want to be happy.
And just as we ourselves want to be happy, all beings want to be happy. We all want a sense of belonging, a feeling of being a part of something greater than our limited sense of self, a home in this body, in this mind, in this life. We all want to be happy. In a way, we all deserve to be happy. That includes you. And as I came to learn, that includes me.”
So as you go about your daily routines, remember to take time to be still, to connect with the Infinite Source Within and replenish your resources. Love yourself as you love others. Love others as you love yourself. Find the balance in this loving-kindness practice.
Be happy, be peaceful, be free from suffering. … and live more abundantly!