Filled with Loving Kindness: Who Makes a Difference?

Stay close to any sounds that make you glad you are alive.

Hafiz

Over the last few weeks, I’ve shared posts that include reports from brain research about how the content of our thinking can change our brains.  When we focus on negative things, in particular things that bring us to worry and fear, those kinds of thoughts over time change our brains affecting our abilities to think clearly, affecting how we perceive ourselves and ultimately affecting how we perceive the external world as well.  As might be expected, those perceptions tend to be negative themselves.  We really do become what we think.

Likewise, positive thoughts change our brains, too.  Thoughts that are hopeful keep our brains–especially those parts that engage in creativity–functioning well and capable of expansive ideas and the ability to consider a broader range of possibilities than if we collapse our thinking into worry and fear.

No one that I know wants to reduce ourselves to what we might think of as Pollyanna style thinking–the inauthentic happy face forced onto any situation.  I have grown quite tired of being told regarding our national politics to “just pray” and that everything is happening “according to God’s will.”  Prayer is sort of meaningless to me if we are not going to be engaged in our community and its issues, and turning difficult issues over to “God’s will” strikes me as a dangerous cop out when our attention to issues is sorely needed.

So, is this metta practice–sitting and focusing on “May I/you/we be filled with loving kindness–” isn’t that just simplistic thinking?  I don’t think so, and I can tell you why.

Today, we are going out into the world to do what we do.  I happen to be a teacher.  You happen to be and do other things.  We go out into the world to do our thing, and there is a real racism at work in our world.  There is still a willingness to see women as second-rate human beings.  There is still a fear of “the other” however people see “the other:”  people of other than their own religions, people of other than their own ethnic backgrounds, people of other than their own sexual orientation and gender identification.  There are still people in our community who think they know better about a woman’s health and reproductive choices than the woman herself does.  Every single one of those issues require my response.  In some cases, they require me to confront fellow citizens.  I want whatever I do out in the world today to matter.

So, it matters how I leave my house.  I need to walk out the door this morning clearly grounded in the best place, the best mind, the best heart, the best attitude that I can muster.  So, stay close to any sounds that make you glad you are alive today.

So, stay close to any thoughts that make you glad that you are alive today.
So, stay close to any sights that make you glad that you are alive today.
So, stay close to any sounds that make you glad that you are alive today.
So, stay close to any smells that make you glad that you are alive today.
So, stay close to any tastes that make you glad that you are alive today.
So, stay close to any sensations that make you glad that you are alive today.

Because, when we find ourselves needing to confront what is not right in our world today, we need to come from a place of sheer joy at being alive if we hope, at all, to influence another human being to give up the way of death and to embrace the way of life.

From whom would you more willingly receive the message that you must let go of what you hold and turn around, repent, and take up another way?  Someone who was sad, angry and bitter? Or someone who was full of the joy of being alive today?

Bob Patrick

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