Shakyamuni, the original Buddha, and founder of Buddhism, first taught that life is suffering, and that all suffering is the result of attachment.
The end of suffering begins when we see through the illusion that everything is static, and realize that all things are constantly changing and transforming, even if we cannot see it with our physical eyes. We begin to see that nothing truly belongs to us, and is only loaned to us from Source, for even if we were to keep everything and everyone we acquired, at some point we will leave this world and will take nothing with us, except that which we arrived with.
When living blindly in the world of attachments, our viewpoint becomes narrowed and we are “I” oriented. Other people and their struggles don’t really concern us. Our ego runs the show as we attack or defend our futile positions when we come into conflict with others – all in an attempt to protect a phantom, a distorted perception of who we think we are.
But when a great loss occurs, our hearts break, awakening us from our deep slumber – we feel raw, tender and out of sorts, and many will do just about anything to avoid it – jumping into another relationship, using drugs or alcohol, throwing themselves into work, shopping, overeating, the endless watching of television – the list is endless.
But what if we didn’t distract ourselves? What if we sat with the pain, let it be and allowed it to enter our heart, no matter how scary? Our hearts begin to expand, our wisdom flourishes and, ultimately, the experience cultivates the rich garden soil within our beings where the flowers of compassion begin to sprout and grow.
When this happens, we begin to experience what is called “Loving Kindness” – a deep acceptance of who we are and our interconnectedness with all living beings. As this loving kindness towards ourselves grows, so does it extend to those around us – the kinder we become to ourselves, the kinder we become to others, and through meditation we can cultivate this quality within ourselves, deepening and expanding our growth and transformation.
Briefly, when the mind is silenced as best as can be, focus your attention upon your heart. You will experience warmth, tingling, vibration and a sense of your heart expanding. Then call to mind someone in your life who has loved you unconditionally, taking these feelings into your heart with the intention of giving it to yourself, allowing the experience to expand your heart even further. To extend it to others, use the same instructions, but this time, instead of sending it to yourself, send it to someone you know and care for deeply. Going further, extend it to an acquaintance. Then, lastly, send loving kindness to a person you have conflicts with, or who you feel has hurt or wronged you in the past. Do all this with the focus being on your heart, and see what happens.
Through my own practice, I’m now finally realizing that you, me, all people, all things, are nothing but Love. Anything else is an illusion and has its roots in fear. I’m realizing that when people are acting in a less than respectful or humane way, it is because they are suffering and are only expressing it outwardly to others. More importantly, it is a cry for Love. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Lastly, I believe that the major reason we undergo great trials and suffering is not only for our own learning and growth, but to help others overcome theirs. We come to realize that another’s suffering is our suffering. As we learn from our pain, our compassion grows, and when we see another suffering, we are able to reach out and help them achieve a state of inner peace, acceptance, and growth that we would never have been able to do if we ourselves had never allowed our experience to transform us.