Wander

Courage In Maitri

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In all of her eloquence, Ann Whittaker brings us some inspiring words and thoughts around developing a kind and friendly relationship with ourselves as we approach the end of Aries Season; a season all about recognizing ourselves.

Developing loving kindness + friendship with ourselves

MAITRI: unconditional friendliness, loving kindness, love

What if the bravest, most meaningful, most powerful thing we could do was to befriend ourselves? To show ourselves a deep and honest love? What if we began to cultivate a curiosity about every aspect of ourselves? What if we took time to get to know our whole selves–to know who we are when we’re sad, when we’re content, when we’re angry, when we crash and burn, when we forget to call a friend, when we welcome a stranger into our midst, when we take time to listen to a broken heart? What does it take to really show ourselves unconditional loving kindness? What does it mean to befriend ourselves?

Stay. We must stay with ourselves––our whole self. Pema Chödrön says that

Maitri strengthens us. One of the qualities of maitri is steadfastness, and that’s developed through meditation. So through boredom, through aches, through indigestion, through all kinds of disturbing memories, to edgy energy, to peaceful meditation, to sleepiness, it’s steadfastness. You sit with yourself, you move closer to yourself, no matter what’s going on. You don’t try to get rid of anything—you can still be sad or frustrated or angry. You recognize your humanity and the wide gamut of emotions you might be feeling.

I think it is difficult to stay with ourselves–especially when we are feeling intense emotions–especially when so many planets are in retrograde and everything is undefineably off. Parts of ourselves might show up that we’re not fond of, and, yet, if we stay with these pieces, if we befriend the bits that make us human, we will find strength where we thought there was weakness; we will move closer to ourselves and accept our complex humanity. If we allow ourselves to experience the full spectrum of emotion, and allow ourselves to travel along the spectrum of sadness, anger, joy, and gratitude, we will open ourselves up to loving kindness.

When we accept our own humanity it’s easier to accept others’ humanity–we are curious about them as well as ourselves. Instead of practicing self-criticism and self-doubt, we can begin to nurture self-curiosity––become intensely interested in observing yourself and simply let your emotions and thoughts run their course. Nothing is permanent. Thankfully. We do not have to cling to or identify with any emotion we’re feeling. When we’re feeling sadness, that does not mean we are a sad person––it simply means we are human. If we can love ourselves even when we are angry, jealous, or sad then we can love others when they too experience the ebb of happiness.

So how can we show ourselves loving kindness? Pema Chödrön explains:

For example, you might say that taking a bubble bath or getting a workout at the gym is maitri. But on the other hand, maybe it isn’t, because maybe it’s some kind of avoidance; maybe you are working out to punish yourself. On the other hand, maybe going to the gym is just what you need to relax enough to go on with your life with some kind of lightheartedness. Or it might be one of your 65 daily tactics to avoid reality. You’re the only one who knows.

I think it’s difficult to admit that you are on a journey to love yourself unconditionally. So take courage. Practice maitri for yourself so that you will have the strength to share maitri with others. Be real and honest with yourself––you are a human being running the full gamut of experiences and emotions. No one is exempt, no matter how hard you try to mask it. Own it and take care.

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