Adapted from Amma Thanasanti’s Interactive Inquiry call Sunday 17 October
Loving-kindness meditation begins by directing warmth and care towards ourselves. For many of us, this is not an easy practice. Some of us don’t have a tangible bodily memory loving-kindness and so don’t know where to begin. In this case, think of someone who is very loving then it can be easier to feel.
Once we can feel loving kindness, we focus on it until it spreads through out our body, heart and mind. When we feel steeped in it and suffused by it, then we can direct it to others. We direct it first towards people who have had our back, who have been our mentors and teachers. Then, we can extend this love toward family, friends and colleagues, to people that we know and care about. Next we can direct it toward people that we don’t know. Lastly, we bring loving-kindness to people who have betrayed us, hurt us and caused us harm, intentionally or through their own pain or ignorance, their own unresolved trauma.
Pervasive love takes loving kindness one-step further.
This picture of the torus depicts the dynamic flow of pervasive love. It is all encompassing and radiates outwards towards everything at the same time love from all around is pouring into the center, releasing the sense of self that holds the duality that we are separate from the world around us.
Many of you have heard me speak about my experience in nature; how it is a portal for me, where I relax trying to do anything; get or get rid of something. In such relaxation, the mind opens to awareness. This awareness is pervasive. That which knows the skin of my body is not separate from that which knows the rock, the animals or the trees. Pervasive awareness and pervasive love are two sides of the same thing. Both are non judgmental, inclusive, vast, and timeless. The difference is that pervasive awareness has the coolness of observation, whereas pervasive love is warm with connection.
Both pervasive love and awareness have opened me up to something bigger, more loving, a grander way of being than the way I ordinarily am, think and function. They shake up the way in which I recognize myself because I’m expanding into that which is a lot bigger, which cannot be contained or easily categorized.
Question from MK: I don’t mean to politicize the conversation, but it’s almost like a dam has burst. We are seeing the worst of human beings. This election has been raised to a level that I’ve never seen in my (70 years). It makes me feel very unsettled. It’s almost impossible to find that quiet space inside. It’s very challenging because the toxicity is so omnipresent. The horror of this presidential race seems to be inescapable, and it’s fairly overwhelming, or at least I’m finding it fairly overwhelming.
Amma: What you’re bringing up is really important. A large number of people are feeling the same, trying to process what is going on, and feeling overwhelmed by it. I too have had my own struggles. How can I have some semblance of clarity, calm and connection with what is sacred when what I hear and see around us is so base, vulgar? It’s so demeaning. When I feel these things, I contract. I’m fearful, anxious, restless, and hunger for a safe place. I notice I’m grasping onto straws that are not strong enough to hold my weight, like sinking into quicksand of psychic filth with no place to find ground.
But when I cease trying to find ground in psychic filth and do what helps me to feel at ease and peaceful– I go spend time in nature or turn my focus to my body sensation; when I open up to the sensate experience of being alive. When I shift my focus from the struggle and sense of impending doom, to something that is wholesome or neutral, I relax. I tap into something bigger. This thing that is bigger holds me and holds the struggle.
A good challenge for each of us is to feel where we get activated and attend to that and continue to bring our attention back to what is wholesome and reliable. When we are grounded in what is reliable, we can then make choices about how we want to respond to the psychic slime fest that’s going on around us.
MK: That resonates with me very much. There is a protective mechanism that gets triggered that’s very difficult to come back to what is wholesome. But everything you said is the only possible direction. What’s going on is activating. It’s terrifying, absolutely terrifying.
I grew up around bullies who wanted to physically intimidate me. So witnessing Trump hovering – his physical body language during the debate just echoed back across thousands of generations of that kind of abusive, bullying behavior. There’s something about watching (this behavior from a presidential candidate of) the United States of America on Prime Time TV that it’s just like, “Oh my god!” It’s hard to breathe.
Amma: I have heard people who have experienced different kinds of abuse are activated from this presidential election. It is important to notice that the things we hear from people in authority are impactful. One way of responding to this is by talking with friends who are trustworthy and can listen attentively and non judgmentally. Warmth from friends combined with their witnessing can support understanding and calm.
The only other philosophical frame of reference that I want to offer is Ken Wilber’s description of consciousness as constantly evolving. He describes different states and levels of evolution in consciousness. When there’s a new level of consciousness emerging, the old and predominant level of consciousness does not just accept defeat and walk off the stage. It’s a battle to death!
When there’s a new consciousness emerging that is more inclusive and loving, the bullying, patriarchal, misogynistic, racist mindset that has dominated this world does not walk off the stage in a gentlemanly manner. What terrifies us is that we don’t have confidence that consciousness is evolving. Our fear is that the old mindset will dominate and the inevitable response is to contract.
But when we invest in practice, release our identification with being small and finite, and connect with the infinite, with what is pervasive, with what is loving, with what is interested in the benefit of all beings, then there isn’t an intellectual argument about whether or not our own consciousness is evolving. From this, we can take a stand for what is wholesome, what is good, what is just, and what is right without becoming righteous about it. We do it because it is the right thing to do. From that place we bring the expression of what is sacred into the world.