When I was first introduced to Lovinkindness practice I thought it was totally hoaky and annoying.
Then I read Sharon’s book Lovinkindness. She talked about having trouble accepting that practicing lovinkindness towards herself was worthwhile.
Then she broke something. Her reaction started the same as it always would have: “Sharon, you’re such a clutz!” But she found herself adding a clause that shocked her: “You’re such a clutz…but I love you.” She realized that the practices were sinking in despite herself, retraining her reactions and building compassion towards herself.
The story planted a seed. Maybe all that debilitating self-criticism that ran through my head approximately 80% of every day could be magically go away! Maybe I could train myself out of it and finally be free! Maybe I too could one day look in the mirror and say genuinely ‘I love you!’ I experimented, but for a long time I could never direct the practice towards myself without my mind spinning out with self-defeating thoughts.
Then at some point it sunk in that all the other categories of people we work with in Metta practice are just different aspects of ourselves. If I could open my heart to them then I could soften into accepting a little self-love from that place deep in my heart where all love merges.
It’s not that the “what’s wrong with you/you’re such a fucking idiot!” voice went away completely. But it comes a lot less frequently. And now when it does come, I’m often able to respond gently, along the lines of ‘yeah ok, so maybe you did something kind of dumb. So what, you’re human. Moving on.’ Often I’m able to smile and laugh at myself, like I’m giving the little girl Adina a soft pat on the head and telling her it’s actually ok to mess up, that there’s this thing called love, and it’s available without being this made up thing called perfect.
This week I’ve been working with letting the words emanate from my heart instead of my head. I like playing with that line where the feeling of compassion replaces the need for words, and seeing how long I can capture that feeling before my mind wanders off and I need to anchor it with the words again. And then I start again, maybe with a tiny bit more love.