Friday, April 20, 2012

The Trouble With Loving Kindness


You'll think of something, she said. You always do.

I'm sitting in my basement office, I call it The Nook, typing these words with my wife's words lingering in my ear. I was upstairs putting the dishes in the washer and said to Stephanie, I just have nothing much to write about tonight and she told me that I would find something and let me know that she believes in my abilities.

Thursday evening at my last meditation class the instructor led us in a bit of yoga, then a body scan, and finally a session of loving kindness meditation. In the question and answer session that followed, I had a lingering question but kept myself from asking it because...I'm not sure why, but I kept it. The question was this: Does anyone else here find it almost impossible to accept loving kindness?

In the practice, leader provides us with thoughts to repeat and linger with. They are affirming and should make me feel better but, like some bad tissue grafted onto my body, I find myself rejecting them. I can't believe that they are for me, that I should be deserving, or that even if I am deserving it would be at all within my right to accept such things.

I'm reading Stephen King's memoir/writing craft book On Writing for the third or fourth time and I like it (aside from the usual section in the middle of most all of King's books where you just want him to get to it). In it, he talks about how he drank and used coke through too many books, that he had trouble accepting help and that his wife was one of the forces that got him through.

I'm not a drunk and I haven't ever touched cocaine, thank goodness, but I have my own demons and my wife is the one who is standing by me. She is one of the people who tells me things that are loving and kind. Things such as, "you'll think of something. You always do." It's the quiet kind of reassurance at which she excels. And she has learned that she has to repeat it often enough for me to begin to hear it.

Loving kindness is pretty tough for me to bring up from within. First I'm learning to accept it from without. Stephanie patiently offers it, free of charge and without strings, on a daily basis and I'm beginning to notice it. I'm beginning to feel it. That, for me, is a strong step toward the next step which is to accept it.

I wonder who else there is in my life who is offering me thoughts of loving kindness hoping that I can repeat them and believe them from within. Surely my friends with whom I run, the parents of the girls on the soccer team I coach, my brother, my best friend, and so on.

At school this week, a student offered me a compliment, told me that I was different from other teachers because I listened and asked for things instead of demanding them. Another student added, "and you're not a total dick." I blew both comments off. "No," I said, "I'm nothing special," but before I could begin to explain how I was ordinary, I realized that they were offering me loving kindness of the first order and that blowing it off was the opposite of kindness. I stopped and thanked them for having said it and then I explained how much trouble I have with compliments, how they make me squirm. They looked at me like the fool I must have sounded like. So it goes.

Where do you find loving kindness? Are you someone who can offer it to yourself and then accept it? If so, I'm impressed and I'm hoping to join you in that club someday. I wonder what it is that keeps me from believing it.

I think it's my stomach.

I know, now you think I've gone completely crazy. I probably have, but I think about my stomach which is too big, my weight which is too high, and my fitness which is way down and I think, no one who looks like this is deserving of loving kindness. But then I turn it around and consider if I knew someone who was struggling with such a thing, I would offer them as much kindness as I could muster. I would want them to feel loved and appreciated. Maybe, the way to a flat stomach then, is simply to be kind and loving toward myself and believe that anything is possible. That and hanging on tightly to the love I have for Stephanie and feeling hers for me.

That sounds good to me. Makes me want to say, "write on!"