“There is no greater love than the immeasurable friendliness that can embrace all beings, all events, and all experiences with unshakeable kindness. There is no compassion greater than the fearless heart that can turn toward suffering and pain, tremble with empathy, and live with the commitment to end the causes of anguish. There is no greater happiness than inwardly generated joy and peace. There is no equanimity more unshakeable than the profound poise of the liberated heart that can meet the world of ungraspable conditions and events without being shattered”
This is how Christina Feldman approaches the Buddhist teachings of kindness, compassion, joy & equanimity in her book “Boundless Heart”. I am deeply touched by the urgency and clarity with which she transmits this message of peace and deeper connection with oneself and others. and watch myself respond with an instinctive, spontaneous intensity. A warm feeling of coming home as well as a clear determination arise from within. How is it possible that these principles, all very familiar, have such a strong impact on me?
Kindness – Metta – is translated from the Sanskrit / Pali word Mitta as ‘friend’ or ‘growing fat with friendliness’. This friendliness is not considered as an emotion or a state but as an attitudinal commitment and as the indispen- sable foundation for an awakened heart. To cultivate this inner attitude we learn to befriend ourselves with all different aspects that are part of who we are. We learn to befriend others, the lovely and the difficult and eventually we come to embrace all events in our life, the pleasant and the challenging.
How is it possible to befriend unpleasant aspects of our life such as aversion, anger and hatred? Thich Nhat Hanh says: “Anger and hatred are the material from which hell is made”. Like ill will and aversion they create isolation, mistrust and defensiveness. Metta interrupts this destructive wheel. Being a quality of mindfulness, a present-moment reconnection, Metta requests cultivation. Kindness does not ask to love everybody but to learn to see through the eyes of respect and tolerance. Therefore, Metta & Mindfulness are the guardians of the heart.
Kindness is only meaningful when it is embodied! Metta is a training of the heart and a commitment of intention which invites us to move from habitual reactivity to a responsive life. We become responsible for all our thoughts, speech & actions.
Kindness is not something that is done on our meditation cushion, it is a practice for our life.
Human relationships are the most tender and vulnerable places in our lives. Metta brings us out of the shell of self-absorption allowing us to be touched by the world and to touch the world with kindness. With the mindful cultivation of kindness, we open our heart and eyes to all beings equally.
With Compassion we take our seat in the center of the landscape of pain & distress without turning away. Remarkable courage is needed to stay close to suffering that feels unbearable while offering our wholehearted presence and our willingness to stay and sense the trembling of our hearts.
Compassion is a deep understanding that sorrows and loss of our lives are not signals of failure or imperfection but they remind us we are part of the human story.
Suffering is often hidden behind shame, blame or rage. Suffering and pain often don´t have immediate solution. Compassion is the beginning of all healing. Compassion heals our heart even when pain cannot be fixed. Remember, healing does not mean that pain goes away but that it can be held with compassion and insight rather than aversion and isolation. The path of healing is a path of awakening at the core of which lies compassion.
If we keep a green bough active in our hearts the singing bird will come
The ongoing exposure to pain can deplete & exhaust.
Joy is the quality that restores & renews our intention & capacity to cultivate compassion and boundless friendliness. Joy gladdens our heart and eases the mind. Joy is not only the dramatic happiness related to excitement.
Joy is the place where our heart rests. Joy is the song of the awakened heart, a genuine taste of wakefulness. In the presence of joy, sorrow and depression fade away and are held just a little more lighter.
There is no shortcut to Joy! Joy needs space and room to emerge, both of which are found in stillness where appreciation and gladness are at home.
A still mind & heart are the source of joy just like a great river begins in a simple spring. Solitude nurtures our heart and simplicity gladdens our mind.
There is nothing we can gain, possess or achieve that offers the same depth of joy that is inwardly born.
When we understand the meaning of Equanimity we will find great comfort and encouragement to continue the path of awakening. Equanimity gives selflessness to kindness; patience, courage and fearlessness to compassion and it guards joy from sentimentality.
Equanimity requests that we engage with this life. It is a pathway, a way of being present and abide in calm in the midst of agitation, of conflict and of chaos. With impermanence at its core, life continues to teach us the hard lesson of letting go. Experiences of gaining & losing are woven into the rhythm of our lives. Equanimity is a complete, unrestricted co-operation with the unavoidable.
A river emerges from a spring, begins to flow, stretches of white water, places of calm followed by rapids, whirlpool turning into waterfall – We can no more stop the river than we can shield ourselves from events that touch us with their joys & sorrows.