I’ve been practicing Loving-Kindness (Metta) Meditation several times a week since the election. Although I’ve considered it to be part of my activism, I only recently began to think of it as an act of Resistance. In this form of meditation, you send thoughts of kindness and well-being first to yourself, and then towards others — including those you have a difficult time with. It is based in Buddhist practice, but can be adapted and used with any religion or spiritual practice. There are a variety of phrases that can be used. For example:
May I/you be happy.
May I/you be well.
May I/you be safe.
May I/you be peaceful and at ease.
I have done this practice off and on for years and often revert to the phrases I first learned:
May I/you be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.
May I/you awaken to the light of my/your own true nature.
May I/you hold my/your heart open with loving kindness and compassion.
May I/you be happy.
How is 30 or so minutes on my cushion repeating these phrases an act of resistance?
Because research shows that “a single short session of about 10 minutes, can kick-start a positive ripple effect, leading to increased feelings of social connection and positivity towards stranger.” There are greater effects for those with a more frequent practice including increased empathy and compassion(see all six benefits here). And this is why my practice is a form of resistance.
I will not let my heart harden towards 45, his administration, or those who voted him into office. I will not add to the story of Us versus Them.” I will not join the liberals who are responding to ” . . . stories about hardships and deprivation in Trump-leaning communities with unqualified disdain” as described in the article “Compassion and Politics.” While the article is referring to unqualified disdain by wealthy and elitist Democrats who have “strayed from their basic principles of compassion and empathy for those on the bottom rungs of society,” I’ve seen that disdain alive and well in my Facebook feed in both posts and comments.
I understand wanting to say, “Ha. Ha. Got what you deserve” to those Trump supporters who recently faced (and will possibly face again) losing their healthcare through the repeal of the ACA or the farmers who cast their vote in his favor and are now facing a worker shortage due to increased immigration raids. I understand wanting to sarcastically chime “Is this Really What Jesus Would Do?” to conservative Evangelical Christians who support the ban on immigrants and the possible de-funding of programs that help the poor. I understand the sadness and anger that follows reading articles about the dropping of MOAB and wanting to place the blame on X, Y and Z. But, not only does “I Told You So” and blame games get us no where, according to the article, “How to Train Your Brain to See Beyond Us Verses Them” doing so strengthens the part of the brain that sees us as separate and creates a sort of loop of contraction that builds on its self.
It may be rational, or even an evolutionary survival tactic, to contract against difference; to close ranks against it. But, I choose to Resist following that path just because it may be the “normal” way to react. Awareness brings choice. The changes I would like to see in our world are going to require partnership and collaboration, which necessitates trust — the opposite of contraction.
And so, I will sit on my cushion and say the phrases of loving-kindness, not in the hopes that 45 or my neighbors who voted for him will become more empathetic. But to strengthen the senses of interconnectedness, compassion, collaboration, and expansiveness in my self. So that when I meet indifference, hate and aggression in this world, I will not see them as existing solely outside myself. So that through this practice I may root down even more strongly into the truth of who I am and rise in the strength of love. This practice is not my only act of resistance. But, it forms the foundation for all the others I undertake today and in the future. Because loving-kindness doesn’t mean sitting on the sidelines, ignoring injustice or hypocrisy.
May we be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.
May we awaken to the light of our own true nature.
May we hold our hearts open with loving-kindness and compassion.
May we be happy.
Blessings to all on this path with me.
Feature Image cartoon is from The New Yorker