How to contemplate – Part 1

Photography: Alex E. Proimos, Sydney

Photography: Alex E. Proimos, Sydney

Contemplation is the most rewarding of skills we may choose to develop in life

Having learned the skill of garnering presence, we may now look at learning contemplation as a structured practice. As such, it’s a mental skill we undertake for a brief spell whilst alone in a quiet environment, sat comfortably upon a chair with our eyes closed. I choose to distinguish the experience as being a contemplative rather than meditative one, as there’s no stress on concentrating the mind as a necessary condition or objective. Whilst the focus of attention is somewhat looser, we become as in any deep meditation, similarly tranquil and insightful, yet are more readily able to transfer the skill out into daily life. Taking this more adaptable approach, little encroachment of time is made into our working day – the commonest cause of any rapid demise in even the most well-intentioned of meditative careers.

We can contemplatively reflect on all aspects of experience

So the technique discussed here is largely introspective – the bringing about of a mental state which primarily observes itself. This isn’t the exclusive sphere of the practice though, and the contemplative mode attends equally to any impinging sensory contacts, which of course still occasionally occur even amidst the quietened environment of the practice with its inwardly directed awareness. This isn’t then, a technique which remains stuck in the head as it were, and the observing state is in fact the whole sensory system reflecting upon itself. We may think of it as our sentient body reflecting its own imagery to itself. For the most part though, we’re observing our private mental sphere and what is generated without overt influence upon the senses from the external world – the senses of touch, taste, smell, sound, and sight.

Spending a few minutes each day developing awareness is time to be cherished

To proceed: Finding a quiet space away from ‘phones and other potential distractions, we predetermine a period of 10 – 20 minutes and set that on a kitchen timer or alarm clock. The morning is the best time to do this as our minds are more alert then. These few minutes are spent sitting comfortably on a dining or typist’s chair, both of which ensure the back is erect. There’s no need whatsoever to sit cross-legged on the floor or in yogic positions. We place the hands palm down on our thighs as this opens our chest and shoulders, though if preferred we can cup the hands together. Our feet can be crossed or side-by-side though we don’t extend our legs as this weakens stability. Lastly, we give our mood an uplifting fillip by very slightly raising the corners of our mouth as in the remnant or subsidence of a smile. We then start the timer.

In contemplation, our cares may dissolve as the world and mind quieten

Next, we spend a couple of minutes doing this: Having closed our eyes softly we then relax our body and mind so as to bring about in them an ‘attitude’ [i.e. a readiness state] of a gentle and non-grasping attentiveness. We can achieve this by imagining ourselves standing alone on a cliff top or deserted beach gazing softly out across the ocean toward the just visible horizon, one which isn’t too sharply delineated by the sea and sky – the horizon is featureless, only barely discernible. We aren’t anticipating anything appearing on this featureless horizon; so whilst we are indeed gazing softly and attentively outwards, there’s no searching for visible changes, no visual grasping. We imagine also that we have no concerns, no commitments, and remain aloof as to the passage of time as well as to all ideas of past and future.

The mind becomes lucid and the body free of tension as presence engages

If we’re successful, our attitude is now one of a gently stable ‘outward gazing’ in a softly pliant, lucid and non-grasping attentiveness. Our body is free of tension as there is no anticipation in the mind, and the two are as if in postural congruence. At this point we drop the imagery as it was only a priming device used to bring about the attitude necessary for our now refined and attentive awareness. To be clear, this awareness is still in some ways dumb, as we have no clear sense of our own being; this is despite the object being extremely refined – that subtle sense of outward gazing. Next, we gently sustain awareness of the attitude that is manifested as gazing softly outwards whilst simultaneously drawing back into a silent knowledge of our being, the ‘I am-ness’ that we learned of previously and which is felt as presence.

We cling to nothing, allowing all things to arrive and pass freely as they will

Without effort or exertion, we remain attentively within our non-grasping attitude whilst all the while gently holding it in this participatory and engaged sense of outward gazing. As we’re not clinging rigidly to any object of awareness, this state can and will repeatedly begin to dissolve, say perhaps 3 or 4 times a minute – we do not resist this. In the course of its dissolution, we’ll find that this attitude of the mind/body system shifts as presence is temporarily weakened and dumb awareness collapses and coalesces around some novel object in a fundamental sense representation. At the point this is noticed we simply and gently re-garner the attitude – if necessary as we did before – and again draw the whole into presence or ‘I am-ness’. As our skill increases, this re-garnering is accomplished within a few seconds or less.

Acceptance and being non-judgemental are key; the ego has left the room

We fully accept that this shifting and dissolving attitude is perfectly natural and is to be anticipated upon commencement of the practice. Resultantly, we make no judgement of our ability, or comparison with prior expectations. It doesn’t matter that we get distracted or lost in thought for a few moments. We simply keep returning to an attitude of gentle attentiveness in a non-grasping, outwardly gazing awareness with presence – our softly pliant, relaxed, lucid and aloof contemplative state. We’ve now brought about the required attitude of the whole mind/body system such that is has become most conducive to contemplation and the practice is underway. I recommend spending at least the first two or three weeks of practice getting a foothold in this skill before moving on to what follows in parts 2 and 3 of this article.

Continue reading in Part 2

49 thoughts on “How to contemplate – Part 1

  1. I totally agree with your approach to meditation. It should never be an end in itself but a way to an end – relaxation of mind and body, and in the process, one’s soul, or sense of self. Self and ego get such bad press from so-called purists and experts, and gurus. We need to develop a loving and respectful relationship within ourselves before we can reach out to develop inclusion within, of all that is without.

    Rigid form surely has no place in deep meditation. Buddha sat under a tree. Now, millions of his followers sit before a stone statue of this seeker of understanding of what life was all about.

    It’s like the Christianity that I was born and raised into. We were taught to worship rigid rules and forms, as if that were possible, except, perhaps for very simple thinkers. The rest followed the crowd and pretended to understand, while following the rules of church authorities, who surely must know they are abusing their position of power over others for their own personal benefit. Perhaps this temptation is more than they can resist.

    I lost the thought I was working toward . . .

    Anyway, meditation is a genuine form of relaxation, and relaxation is a necessary complement to work and exercise, and stress. It is more; it is health-giving in a superior and more natural form than are medications used to reduce stress. But, it seems today’s professional medical organizations are dedicated to monetary profit, not health.

    Perhaps I’m lucky, but I tell everyone that I owe my good health to the fact that I avoid doctors.

    Jean

    • Thanks for contributing your own thoughts Jean. And yes, rule and ritual have to be abandoned for one to progress into deeper contemplative/meditative modes of awareness. Whilst ritual and a formulaic attitude can provide stability and structure initially, as the process unfolds, a less rigorous and controlling approach is adopted quite naturally.

      I was amused by your closing comment about avoiding doctors – my mother, when she was alive, regularly gave the following advice ‘never let the doctors get their teeth into you Hariod’. There are of course many valid exceptions to this rule of thumb, though as you rightly say, relaxing the mind has huge health benefits in its own right.

      With gratitude and respect, Hariod.

  2. With you in mind, Adagio for Mutes came during a contentedness meditation. You’re a giant among women, and I admire that, Hariod Brawn. Your writings are powerful; and though I’m not a fast reader, I don’t mind reading my way to the end of each. I usually just can’t say this. 🙂

    Best wishes in every now. ~ Meredith.

    • Thank you so much Meredith, for absorbing this rather complex and subtle set of procedures, and for your exceptionally kind words, both of which I am most grateful for. What you have read here is Part 1 of 3 in a series, each of which are best printed out so as to be able to refer back repeatedly. [Share this>More>Print]

      These sorts of skills are, as you doubtless know, not acquired with any great ease, though their benefits are truly transformative, again, as doubtless you are aware Meredith. To quote your good self though, ‘words don’t teach’, and it is only through the repetition of practice that skills may be acquired.

      http://healingminds.wordpress.com/2014/11/05/adagio-for-mutes/

      My very best wishes, respect and gratitude to you.

      Hariod. ❤

    • Hello Viking Queen; thank you for taking a moment to consider my words here; I greatly appreciate your presence. And yes, there is nothing particularly novel in what is offered above; rather, it is simply a (preliminary stage) adaptation of certain ancient techniques that, I feel, accommodates more readily the modern Western disposition. It seems quite apparent that you are aware of this, though thank you greatly once again nonetheless.

      With gratitude and respect.

      Hariod.

        • Yes, of course I know it’s you Poppy – legend of both the high seas and South Shields! I was merely adopting a protocol of not using a personal name if it doesn’t appear on the Gravatar, or if I am uncertain as to whether it is acceptable to the commenter – some prefer to remain anonymous of course.

          By the way, I was a little surprised to hear of your contemplating retirement on the British canal network. If I may be so bold as to say so, you look as though you have plenty of adventure left in you yet. Then again, who’s to say that adventure can’t be had on The Grand Union Canal? I know you are keen on grand unions, at least, of the ontological and metaphysical sort. 😉

          I remain in great admiration, yours,

          Hariod.

          • Sorry Hariod, I wasn’t sure. I’m a very informal person unless folk are prying into private matters. I like to feel we have a link as our philosophies are sympathetic. Thanks for the clarification and positive comments regarding longevity! The future is, as I’m sure you’d agree, an open book.

  3. Going to try this method as I am so anxious from withdrawing from a major psych. med. and having a sick husband, I need some extra help to being in the “I am” state Mooji recommends. Will print this out and try tomorrow. Thank you, Hariod, for this offering to the cyber world. We need it. I know I sure do. xxx Ellen.

    • Dear Ellen,

      If you feel that the time is right to explore one or two different techniques, then I would of course wish you well as you do so. I expect you know all too well from extensive past experience that introspective practices can be by degrees challenging at the best of times; and so it would be wise to go very gently and forgivingly as you dip your toes into the water given the external challenges you currently describe. There is all the time in the world for formal seated practices Ellen; and I feel that it’s important to commit to them only when the time is truly right.

      Were you to ask me, I might suggest that just for now you consider bringing the practise of garnering presence into daily activities – however fleetingly – as being an appropriate route to take. There’s a simple question we can ask of ourselves – “where am I?” – and which brings the mind to a momentary stillness as we rediscover ourselves in presence. I really like this little device as it can be used at any time and under any circumstance. All that’s needed is to set up a volition to ask the question at certain junctures in the day. This automates the on-going process, so to speak.

      So, we start the day by volitionally committing to asking that question, say, whenever our posture changes and whenever we reach out for an object – such as a door handle, a cup, or any occasion when the hand and arm reach out. At each of these junctures we pause for just 2-3 seconds and ask “where am I?”. I have found this to be a quite marvellous way of bringing the delicious sense of “I am-ness” into one’s day on a regular basis; and it’s also a supremely effective way to develop a skill that’s needed in any later formal practice.

      Lots of love to you dear Ellen.

      Hariod. ❤

      Presence and being Part 1: http://wp.me/P4wkZJ-3t
      Presence and being Part 2: http://wp.me/P4wkZJ-3v

      • Thank you, dear Hariod, for your thoughtful and considerate response. I do feel some urgency and have for some time; but I can take baby steps as you suggest. Sometimes the anxiety is excruciating and listening to Mooji’s guided meditation takes the edge off things. He suggests practicing presence and asking “who am I?” Yet I think “where am I?” is a more manageable question given the current conditions and I so appreciate you taking the time and effort to consider them. Your generosity is inspirational and the years of meditation you practiced, plus whatever else, have served you well as I see it. Take good care. xxx Ellen.

        • That’s interesting Ellen; I was not aware that Mooji advocated asking a similar question. The difference between “who am I?” and “where am I?” is that the former is purely a way of negation – it is disavowing our erroneous notions of selfhood until a point is reached where no further disavowal is necessary. As you probably know, asking that question is equivalent to the negation principle of Classical Advaita: “neti, neti”, meaning “not this, not this”, or the “via negativa” of certain theistic ways. In asking the question “where am I?”, we always arrive at a positive answer – which is our own silent knowledge of being, or “I am-ness”. So, whilst the answer is not conceptual, meaning it’s not an idea ‘about’ our being, it is indeed an affirmative answer of the most fundamental kind. It’s not a question we ask expecting the mind to come up with an answer, for the mind will simply give facile responses such as “I am in the kitchen/here/at home/by the river” and so forth; rather, the answer comes always silently as our being knowing itself as itself in a vital immediacy. H ❤

          • Actually, dear Hariod, Mooji’s “Who am I” is not a negation. He says it is not the same as “neti, neti.” If I have it right, his is an affirmation of the “I am” and a way into pure awareness and out of the ego and the body/self. I think I am explaining this right. I just find “where am I?” an easier way for my mind to leave and for presence to come – at least for now. Because often I am so lost in anxiety and such, “who am I” comes tinged with guilt at not being present but being the selfish, fearful self, if this makes sense?

            • Aha, then I am mistaken in presuming that Mooji’s method of enquiry is a negation, or a sort of ‘reversing into’ an answer to the question. Not to be contrarian, but what actually happens when this question is asked? I suspect that for the very greater part there is no answer whatsoever because the mind is only able to apprehend what ‘I’ is not. Put more simply, does it ever happen that in posing the question “who am I?”, then this results in an egoless, non-dual and non-local awareness that knows the same as ‘I’? Perhaps it does for a very few, on very rare occasions; though for the most part I strongly suspect that a metaphorical question mark at the end of the enquiry remains and we are left, as it were, ‘hanging’ in silence. Even so, this has great value and may well bring into being what you refer to as a ‘pure awareness’ and also into the desired sense of “I am-ness” that Mooji invites all to experience; though that of itself is not a complete and satisfactory answer to the question as posed of course.

              Via both developing insight and also even as a result of pure reasoning, the mind can establish that the ‘I’ is not a self-construct, nor a perception, nor any identifiable narrative entity; and yet the realisation as to whatever it is that “I am” comes unbidden by such processes of development and thought. And as you know Ellen, such a realisation does not come as an answer to the question “who am I?” because ultimately the question is wrongly put – there is ultimately no ‘who’ as might equate to any personal identity. The realisation is completely impersonal; it has nothing to do with identities and ‘who-ness’. If there was any such identity or ‘who-ness’, it would have been recounted by sages and realizers down through time – and it never has been. ‘Personal’ enlightenment is a pernicious myth; that is of course why some have rightly said that no one has ever become enlightened; and that is why the Buddha said that there is Nibbana, yet no one who realises it, and also that there is a path, yet no one who walks it.

              So, to some extent this is all a question of semantics, because what we’re getting at in asking such questions is the bypassing of conceptual identities by whatever means. This is typical of the apparent contradictions in spiritual seeking wherein some speak of realising the ‘Self’ (e.g. Vedanta) and others speak of ‘no-self’ (e.g. Buddhism). The same holds true for that awkward word ‘God’. What matters is that we practice earnestly and with clarity, such that mindfulness increases in order that inner wisdom may unfold over time. Each of us is different in our psychological constitution of course, and so we must adopt ways that work for us in particular. It very much sounds as though Mooji is right for you currently Ellen; and from the very little I have seen of him, I too am mightily impressed at his style, erudition and manner. If you feel you want to supplement his teachings with some formal practice, then I would see no reason whatsoever why the method I set out here on this site would conflict in any way. “Who am I?” “What am I?” “Where am I?” – just run with whichever of these questions works at any given time; perhaps even switch them around occasionally to keep things fresh?

              Hariod. ❤

              • I am no match for all your points, dear Hariod, and sorry to take so long to get back to you. My best friend is leaving for a few months in NM and I had to see her. And hubbie needed me, too.

                Anyhow as I understand it, asking who is the “I” in any particular moment is to identify when we are in the egoistic person where we don’t want to be. We want to detach and be pure awareness and the observer and see that the observer is also observed. Ultimately we want to be the one Self, aligned with God. This is a very simplistic rendition of what I have learned. I must admit that in all the satsangs I have watched only a few times have I seen this happen. Mooji says it is simple but I think not. Hope all this makes sense.

                Before him I followed Yogananda who I believe is an avatar. But his path is very complex and takes years. And it wasn’t helping that much with anxiety. I have to give Mooji a try. He helps me. His guided medications are really good and he does know his stuff. I just think, like you, awakening by questioning rarely happens. And sometimes he loses patience. His experience came about through association with a mystic. We don’t have that experience so it is not so simple. I don’t know how much of what he teaches is from Papaji and another guru. But I will try, keep trying.

                *♡* Ellen

                • Thank you Ellen; and yes of course I am aware of your extensive experience with Yogananda’s teachings. I love the way Mooji keeps pointing directly at the big picture, the Self, God, non-duality; call it whatever we will. From what I have seen, which is admittedly little, I would have thought that his method of enquiry is far more likely to conduce to results than many of the Neo-Advaita teachers around today. I think you are wise to persist with him if, as appears so, your energy and attentiveness increase in his presence, or even in his ‘virtual’ presence. Something seemed to click with you instantly upon seeing him; and unlike so many contemporary gurus, he emits a very grounded and authentic feel which I daresay assisted in your warming to him. He seems like the real deal Ellen; you are with a good one.

                  Hariod. ❤

  4. I will reply tomorrow, Hariod – withdrawal now; and I want to calm down listening to Sunday tea Satsang. Mooji did Satsang this morning which I listened to in real time. He does it most Sundays. Listening live brings more energy to the experience. I want to reply well to your thoughtful and quite jam-packed response. xx Ellen.

  5. Thank you, dear Hariod, for your esteemed opinion. I am very happy to hear your thoughts on Mooji because of my limited experience. I did not have extensive experience with Yogananda but think he is sacred. My husband’s friend is a monk in SRF and I took the first two sets of lessons with him and have been following him for a couple of years – nothing like all of your experience, so I welcome your judgement and thank you! xx Ellen.

  6. I’m gonna try this tomorrow morning. I like the timer idea. As you know, I’m not into meditating, but I think I can do the ocean part – just not sure about letting that drop away. This sounds really nice, Hariod, and I appreciate such an approach, and using the word “contemplative” rather than “meditative.” That sounds much more do-able.

    • Thank you for considering this Tina; I appreciate your interest. There is a lot to take on board here, and although it sounds fairly straightforward, once we close our eyes the plot is all too easily lost. For that reason, the key thing is to remain gentle at all times, and your sense of humour will help greatly too, because it may well be quite chaotic at first. I know that at this time you have other issues to contend with, and without wanting to prejudge what might happen, I might just add that formal introspective practices such as this magnify whatever is going on in ordinary life.

      For example, if we have concerns, they loom larger, and can actually be rather overwhelming. What we’re doing here in opening our mental sphere up is also stripping away the normal inhibitors that we impose both consciously and unconsciously. So, our suppressing mechanisms are idling, and everything impacts fully. I wanted you to know this because right now may not be the ideal time for you to begin learning a contemplative technique. You may well prove me wrong though, and all of us are quite different. Tread gently and keep laughing! H ❤

      • Thanks for the advice! It sounds like some pretty powerful stuff. I’ll tread gently, as you say.

        I don’t have super high faith in my abilities to achieve it, but I would like that clarity at the beginning of the day. I see what you mean about concerns looming larger. . . lots of little quotidian tasks help keep me bumbling along in happy oblivion for sure. 🙂

        I think focusing on the ocean that you describe so well sounds pleasant and relaxing. I wouldn’t dare aim to think of nothing, but something like that might be a great way to start the day off on the right foot.

  7. Dear Hariod, I was searching for wisdom and I came here, to you. And it helps me today. I’m so grateful, and contemplate with awe the loving spirit of connectedness. Thank you doesn’t say enough. xxx

  8. I have just done this in the peace and quiet of my Rompa Room. Not early morning, but after lunch, though still enjoyable – I really did enjoy this. I had to keep going back to read what I didn’t take in, but it was rather cathartic. Thank you – much better than that raisin lark! 🙂 By the way, Clare is telling me to look at your 2014 posts for one of her comments about a Book Club. Can you direct me in the right direction please? Although saying that, it was by looking through the 2014 posts that I found this, so in fact it was a good diversion. 🙂

    • Thankyou Jackie; I really do appreciate your interest and for having a go at this method. I know it all seems a bit complicated at first, and we can think it may be easier to just focus on a candle and let the world dissolve into peacefulness. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that, not for anyone, and I’ve met hundreds of meditators over the past 30 years, so know that to be true. Meditation, or contemplation (as I call this method), is not a skill so easily won. The rewards though, are immeasurable, as I suspect you already accept.

      The method here is one that transfers into daily life far more effectively and readily than those dependent upon concentrated states of mind. It’s one that can be used in busy shopping malls, in crowded airport terminals, or whilst walking in the garden. I developed it as a result of meditating between 4 and 8 hours a day for the best part of 25 years. It’s something like a hybrid of Buddhist Vipassana and Zen, and has echoes of the 20th. century phenomenology of Edmund Husserl. No one method works for all character types, so please don’t feel you ought to be able to make a success of it. Above all, I would say, go very gently and maintain a sense of humour each time you sit. Have a sort of ‘nothing really matters’ kind of approach. 🙂

      • I had a sense of humour when I kept stopping the concentration/meditation and reading your instructions. You would have laughed, but then I also notice that now I am older, I can’t retain information. On a very serious note, I have heard that this helps, enormously?

        • On retaining information, then it may help to print the article off and read it away from when you’re practising. If you look at the bottom of the article, under ‘share this’, simply go to ‘more’ and select ‘print’. Most people find my book more helpful and practical as regards absorbing instruction, and having that physical reference to read away from practise, but I don’t want you to think I’m trying to extract money from your interest, Jackie.

          And still on retaining information, then as regards this practise, we’re only needing the information until the skill becomes second nature, of course. There’s no information that needs to be retained; merely some that’s vital to understand and be applied initially, so in the early days and weeks.

          I can see that some people may have suggested to you that having a mind like a sponge isn’t that helpful when it comes to mental culture, and I think that’s a perfectly valid point. There’s something paradoxical about knowledge, in that it’s almost all provisional in some degree, and yet once we’ve adopted it, we tend to cling to it unhelpfully.

          You certainly don’t need to have a good memory to practise meditation or contemplation even at the very subtlest and deepest levels. That said, mindfulness, as it’s commonly called, is in fact nothing other than memory; it’s being aware of what occurred ‘just then’. Nonetheless, nothing needs to be retained for one to be supremely mindful.

              • Hmm . . . that’s the equivalent of “you think, so you are”. Or, if others tell you enough, then you must be. I am off to Prague tomorrow, so will look for your book at the airport. If not found, I shall Amazon it. I wouldn’t think you are persuading me to buy it. As you said, I have never been led anywhere in my life, although it is a subliminal way of extracting money with menaces. 🙂 It’s bloody frosty down this way this morning. I hope you have your thermals on?

                • You’ve sussed me. I’ve been exchanging hundreds of comments, and spent scores of hours with you, all in the hope that you’ll purchase my book – from Watkins or Karnac – and as a result of which I might earn the princely royalty of 88 pence. And yes, it’s pretty darned chilly about these parts, although the trusty Rayburn is fired-up around the clock, faithful servant that it is. 🙂

  9. “Lastly, we give our mood an uplifting fillip by very slightly raising the corners of our mouth as in the remnant or subsidence of a smile. We then start the timer.”

    I meant to say, I did this and it really does work. I was pleasantly surprised. Thank you. 🙂

  10. Your words alone are soothing and conducive to a calm outlook, Hariod. If that alone can be achieved by merely reading what you have written, I have very high hopes for the act of contemplation. A most welcome post on a somewhat anxiety laden day. Thank you. I think I mentioned many comments ago that I was trying this, but I fell by the wayside, and thought today would be a good day to re-visit.

    • I greatly appreciate your interest and kindly generous words, dear Marie. There are, of course, many ways to inculcate a contemplative mind, from formal seated practises such as I outline here, to introducing mindfulness triggers in everyday living. Our circumstances and innate predispositions will be the determining factors, and we cannot bend those to our will beyond only a minor degree.

      Many prefer to hold to mental or physical objects of attention, such as in the silent prayer of the Christian mystical tradition, or perhaps on the breath or abdominal region in secular practises. The practise as described here is largely Buddhistic in origin, with something of a Zen flavour in that it seeks for awareness to rest beyond any object that might be volitionally held to in sustained attention. I developed it after some 25 years of intensive meditation practise in prescribed Buddhist methods, it being somewhat looser and more adaptive to everyday living than those I had become versed in, and a natural outgrowth of my own disposition.

      An extremely valuable ancillary practise, and one which I maintain, is a formal concentration meditation on Loving Kindness. I believe there are various theistic and non-theistic variants of this, and it seems to matter little really as the objective is to cultivate a kind-hearted, compassionate and loving disposition to oneself and to all beings – including even those we may regard as our enemies. Any form of Loving Kindness meditation is tremendously powerful and transformative, in my opinion, Marie.

      A good starting point, if you are interested, might be to imagine in one’s mind – whilst comfortably seated, with eyes closed – holding a little bird within one’s cupped hands. Extend a feeling of Loving Kindness towards the bird, and develop a feedback loop of feeling between the bird and yourself in which the feeling radiates to embrace both in a reciprocal manner. After a few minutes, slowly and gently extend this feeling outwardly to include those who you know may be in other rooms, or perhaps in the street. Always return to the feeling of Loving Kindness between the bird and yourself before finishing.

      As the skill develops over time, it is entirely possible to extend that same feeling towards even those who may have harmed us in the past. This accomplishment is hugely transformative, as it progressively burns away our residual resentments and hatreds, yet does so without excusing what may have been immoral or harmful actions perpetrated against us, and which can never be excused in themselves. Evil deeds remain just that, and cannot be changed retrospectively by dint of will.

      Saint Augustine wrote beautifully on this, as have many others of course; though for what it is worth, I can add my own heartfelt and sincere endorsement of such practises. For most people, they prove an incomparable means of both calming the mind and allowing us to escape past conditionings in enmity – however justified those feelings of enmity may be.

      I am sure you will recognise similar such practises, and hope you will excuse me for expressing and extending my own thoughts on this. I speak with a certain passion in the matter, only because I know how valuable developing Loving Kindness can be in transforming the lives of those struggling, quite understandably, with past wrongs. After all, most of us hold to, or harbour, some such sense of wrongdoing against us, although of course the degree to which we experience it varies enormously, and I do not mean to treat the matter lightly or casually, at all.

      Anyway, dear Marie, do please forgive me both for the wordiness of my response here and also for the seemingly impolite delay in replying – I have been away for a few days and unable to attend to my website.

      In Loving Kindness,

      Hariod.

      • Dear Hariod,

        You really are the most wonderful woman. I don’t say this only because you have taken the time to take my comment so seriously and compassionately, but because I also feel the Loving Kindness that you talk about so eloquently resonating even as I read. Thank you.

        A vast amount of what you say in particular regards to the abuse I have suffered since I was a baby, has made life very difficult for me, as I have found it difficult to forgive and move on, as they say. But as I get older, I find myself more forgiving and more able to let go. As you know, this is not an easy thing to do, but once you are on the right path, it is enlightening and amazing to find how much your life changes for the better. It is so damaging to hold on to anger and resentment which keeps you shackled and miserable.

        Thank you for your ‘loving’ words, which I have read through once already and will read again and again. I am not going to forgive you for your wordiness (ha-ha), because there is nothing to forgive. You know I adore your style of writing. I found it difficult at first because I found I had to keep reading and then rereading to get the sense of what you were saying, but once I embraced it, I really would not want you to be any other way. It is part of what makes you, you. 🙂

        I hope your few days away were refreshing and restful, assuming that is why you went away and not for business reasons – which might not have been!

        In Loving Kindness,

        Marie.

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