In my first post on this practice, I reflected on the need to practicing loving kindness with ourselves as a foundation for using it with others. By developing an accepting awareness towards our own minds, including our selfish thoughts and hurtful actions, we can more skillfully encounter those things in others.
There are endless ways to practice loving-kindness with others in our daily lives. Here are a few:
–when in conversation, we can listen with our full attention, instead of planning our response or jumping in with our comments
–when we encounter a store clerk, bus driver, or neighbor, we can be present to them with respect and care
–when we disagree with someone, we can practice opening our minds to another point of view that may have equal merit to ours
–when we observe the tendency to be critical or unforgiving, we can remember the ways we may have offended someone else during our own struggles, and can practice releasing ill-will that only harms our own hearts.
Pema Chodron beautifully encapsulates this last practice when she writes in Start Where You Are, “The basic ground of compassionate action is the importance of working with…..your own unwanted, unacceptable stuff, so that when the unacceptable and unwanted appears out there, you relate to it based on having worked with loving-kindness for yourself.”
This practice can ultimately be applied to almost anything we do by simply having a genuine concern for someone’s well-being in our hearts. Another Buddhist teacher I enjoy reading, Cheri Huber, expresses it this way.
“First, we can be kind to ourselves. One person can be kind to another. At every opportunity, one person can make a decision toward loving-kindness and compassion and away from violence. There are hundreds of opportunities every day. Could you let yourself open your heart to a few? Not all, just a few. And could you let yourself feel good about that effort? If so, you’ve already improved the entire universe. All that’s necessary is one small step at a time.”
It is so inspiring for me to remember that I can make a difference in our world, one small interaction at a time. Each person’s efforts influence those around her/him and ultimately, the collective consciousness of our planet. If many of us are willing to practice loving kindness, these small steps can go a long way towards positive change. The first benefit happens in our own hearts that open to the natural movement of love that is meant to flow and connect us to all of life.