How can I give love when I don’t know what it is I’m giving? ~ John Lennon, How?
Before I meditate in the mornings I usually listen to an audiobook with some teaching on the topic of meditation or mindfulness or spirituality. It gets me in the right frame of mind, especially since I meditate first thing in the morning, when my mind often feels very shifty, jumping about from one very random subject to another. One of my favorite teachers to listen to is Joseph Goldstein. He was one of a crop of young Americans who studied meditation overseas in the 60s and 70s and helped bring Buddhism to America and into the mainstream.
This morning Joseph Goldstein was discussing Meta practice, which is the mindfulness practice of loving-kindness and compassion. For Joseph, the idea of a practice of “love” always seemed quite abstract and lofty. It’s a bit intimidating. His suggestion was to make it practical and specific, as in to identify something specific about love, like kindness.
To me, that seemed helpful. I’ve never really thought about it like that, but I’ve definitely felt my Meta practice shift a year or two ago when I started focusing on specific aspects of love and compassion: patience, kindness, and soft-heartedness.
Patience, as an example, is something that I find fairly easy to pinpoint, or to be more honest, it’s easy to see all of the many times that I lose patience. Feelings of impatience are fairly obvious once you start looking for them. Even during meditation itself — and even during the practice of Meta itself! — I often find that my mind is rushing ahead or else I’m pushing myself to be just a little better at meditating. But impatience is an outgrowth of a lack of compassion, and showing love to self and others is exemplified by a steady sense of patience or “long-suffering,” to use the biblical King James phrase.
Noticing impatience and shifting back into a kind patience with one’s self can become quite powerful as it starts to (slowly) work its way into daily life and in interaction with others. It’s also kind of fun, in an ironic sort of way, because the best way to combat impatience is to be patient with your own impatience.