Mindful Musings

“The Power of Loving Kindness”

By: Forrest Rivers

Home 2018 - Buddha Weekly: Buddhist Practices, Mindfulness, Meditation

Two of the primary purposes of meditation is to learn to let go and to recognize one’s interconnection to all things. During this period of mass sickness and poverty, Metta is a profound meditation technique that at once achieves both goals. Metta roughly translates to “benevolence” or “loving Kindness” in Pali, and comes to us from the Buddhist tradition. The purpose of this exercise is to focus on cultivating and sending feelings of goodwill to all beings. I was first introduced to it at my first group meditation I ever attended. The session was led by an inspiring dharma teacher named Dave Smith. Smith, who has made it his life’s work to aid in the recovery of those with substance abuse issues, led us through a 20-minute Metta practice. In that first sitting, we were asked to imagine sending rays of love to all sentient beings. This guided meditation so moved my spirit and opened my heart that I began attending Dave’s Sunday evening session each week.

Looking back now on that fateful day in early 2013, I am amazed at how completely this simple yet meaningful practice touched my soul. After seven years of reflection on the power of Metta practice, I have come to realize why it is so impactful: loving kindness meditations simultaneously quiet our restless minds and open up our wayward hearts. In these times of fear and uncertainty, what could be more inspiring than sending our deepest wishes of love and goodwill to the planet when we wake up in the morning or go to bed at night?

Through the ages, it has been said by more than a few sages that meditation is the highest form of prayer because it breaks down the separation between the external world and our own soul’s inner yearning for peace and oneness. If it feels right for you, you might find the following COVID-19 adapted Metta practice helpful:

“Find a comfortable position either sitting cross-legged or on the floor or seated up right on a chair of your choosing. Then, slowly close your eyes and bring your awareness to the center of your heart as you begin to inhale and exhale long deep breaths. As you deeply breathe in and out, imagine filling your heart with pink or green light(colors of love) on the in breath and then imagine sending that same light out to the world from your heart on the out breath as you repeat these words to yourself: may all beings be free, may all beings find peace and may all beings be blessed with good health as this pandemic passes like the seasons.” Try this practice for 15-20 minutes. But by all means, feel free to do it for shorter or longer intervals than what I suggest if it feels more comfortable for you”.

Metta meditation has the power to heal our minds and hearts. Remarkably, too, it could also heal the whole world in a time when we are in desperate need of healing. Two studies on the power of loving kindness were conducted in Jerusalem and in Lebanon in the 1980s. In both studies, Scientific researchers found overwhelming evidence of a powerful link between the practice of mass metta(loving kindness) meditation circles and lower incidences of war. As originally reported and published in the academic journal of Conflict Resolution (1988), during days of high attendance at a peace meditation held in Jerusalem, war deaths in neighboring Lebanon decreased by 76 percent. On those days of intention filled Metta Practice, crime and traffic tickets in the near vicinity went down as well. Incredibly, the exact same study was replicated again (with even stricter controls) and produced the same results as reported in the academic journal of Social Behavior and Personality (2005).

If Metta meditation practice can bring peace to a war-torn people imagine what it could accomplish in terms of alleviating all suffering related to COVID-19! When love meets prayer full intentions the possibilities for the evolution of human consciousness are endless. However, one question does arise: how can one go about starting a meditation or prayer circle during a time that requires social distancing? Max Reif, an inspiring writer for the conscious writing collective, the Mindfulword,org, may have the answer. In one of his many thoughtful articles written for this online publication, Reif relates how he has learned to tap into virtual online spiritual communities through Zoom(the interactive web interface program that has soared in popularity during the crisis) to cultivate the feelings of loving kindness:

In Reif’s Words:

“I rise, as often as possible, at 5 a.m. At 6:30, I attend “Virtual Morning Arti,” an international Zoom gathering of Meher Baba devotees. We recite prayers, sing two spiritual anthems and then spend an hour sharing whatever songs, poems, messages or anecdotes people are inspired to contribute. This event often leads me to great heights of joy! While the external world continues its hard slog, my internal world is brought to a point of shining—more than before the pandemic I think.”

Maybe, we can all follow Reif’s example. Is it really a stretch for our imaginations to envision meditation circles popping up all over the world through virtual connections? I don’t think so. Besides spreading some much needed peace and love right now, the emergence of such gatherings(even if they are only virtual) will also inspire hope…..the true motor of the human experience.

 

Mindful Musings

        *****Originally published on themindfulword.org
Like any other night, Colin Gordan went through his usual per-bedtime routine. The 74-year-old former-reality-TV-star-turned-dictator-of-a-nation admired his Botox-injected face in the mirror, and then pounded his chest with pride. He removed and cleaned his dentures, and took a seat at his laptop to fire off his (customary) angry midnight social media rants at his political enemies.Chancellor Gordan, as he was known to the nation, then climbed into bed and called for two of his assistants to tuck him snugly under the covers. With his aides still present, the dictator turned over on his side, and within only a few moments, suffered a heart attack. As his servants screamed for help from the palace’s doctors, Gordan went unconscious and found himself beyond the void of form.Hovering over his body, Colin could see the palace doctors desperately trying to revive him. Confused, he tried to speak, but no words came out. Suddenly, Colin found himself in a swirling cosmic tunnel and felt the overwhelming presence of a white light envelop him. Nothing in his day-to-day life or beliefs had prepared him for the reality he was now experiencing: life after death.Repulsed by the pull and the feeling of this “white light,” Colin quickly maneuvered into an emerging reddish-orange light. As soon as he made that choice, horrific visions from what appeared to be his “life review” flashed before his eyes.
The dictator saw images of his wealthy father verbally abusing him for his displays of cowardice at a family retreat, with other “high-class” families in attendance. He then relived past scenes of himself in both prep school and college, during which he failed to find meaning in a life that transcended his own ego and inflated sense of self-importance.

Colin then watched in horror as scenes replayed from his three failed marriages and tumultuous divorces. He also relived scenes involving the many women whom he’d sexually exploited in his relentless pursuit of power and fame.

Next, he saw haunting images of all the poor tenants he’d evicted from his sprawling real estate empire, homeless and begging on the streets for food. Finally, Colin revisited the one excruciating and painful moment he’d tried to bury deep within himself over the years… the death of his father.

Now, covered in a cold sweat, he recalled standing by his father’s bedside and uttering the words “I love you,” for the first and only time, to any human being. The dictator, in spirit form, also relived the soul-crushing final words his dying father spoke before dropping his body:

“I’m ashamed of you. Had your younger brother not died in childhood, I would’ve left the keys of the family business to him.”

Colin felt the reddish-orange light grow hotter and stronger, as he began to revisit the horrid scenes following his father’s death. He saw his continued sexual exploitation of women; his meteoric rise to mega-stardom with the success of his reality show; and finally, his unexpected rise to power and the consolidation of it through brutal aggression and deceit.

The images he saw grew darker at this point. Colin began to feel, for the first time, the immense suffering he’d inflicted—not only his nation, but on the world as well.

He saw his political critics being tortured in jail, the bodies of journalists who’d opposed him in mass graves that he’d ordered, refugee children separated from their mothers in government detention camps, and his own heartless response in allowing thousands of poor and elderly people to die from starvation amid a financial collapse.

Colin closed his eyes, and for the first time in his life, he felt waves of regret and compassion pulse through his body. Tears began to flow down his face, as the white light that he’d pushed away returned. This time, Colin made the choice to merge with it. The light seemed to have the radiance of 10 suns, yet it didn’t feel too blinding.

For the first time ever, Colin felt like he was “home.”

A being emerges


Jesus Christ in clouds

Suddenly, as Colin acknowledged this feeling, a being emerged from the light to greet him. As this being drew closer, Colin began to recognize his dark and saintly features. It was none other than Jesus Christ!

The bearded, long-haired sage approached him, but didn’t move his mouth to speak. Instead, Colin heard a voice emerge within his mind, and it became clear that Jesus was initiating telepathic communication with him. With this, Jesus spoke:

“My child, you make frequent references to my name down in the Earth Realm, to win the adoration of supporters. However, has it occurred to you that in so doing, you show that you neither understand nor follow my teachings?”

Still immersed in the white light, Colin looked shamefully down at the ground, as he uttered what would be the most honest assessment of his life up until that point:

“I’ve been given the blessed opportunity to lead 100 million people, but I’ve squandered this chance through vanity, fear, aggression and intolerance. Truly and regrettably, I’ve tarnished your good name by using it to justify horrific actions that you’d never condone.”

Colin then began to sob uncontrollably, as he added:

“Oh, great Prince of Love, I’m truly sorry for all the suffering I’ve inflicted upon the Earth and humanity. Now, I can only watch as my body dies. Yet, I stand before you as alive as I’ve ever been. Tell me, how can this be? Is it true that one survives death, even after the physical body perishes? Is the “I” that exists really in the form of spirit, rather than flesh and bone? And, what about forgiveness? Can I possibly be forgiven for all the harm I’ve caused through my hellish obsession with inconsequential worldly things, like money, power and fame?”

Jesus beamed a warm and loving smile, and slowly nodded his head before replying telepathically:

“My child, you’ve already been forgiven by me and the universal spirit of creation that I am one with and the two of us are part of. Soon, you too shall experience the bliss of inner communion with the One that is the many. In fact, in this moment, you’re getting a taste of its eternally rich and sublime power.

“This white light you’re now being bathed in is none other than the ONE, though you may feel more comfortable calling it God. However, know that any words you ascribe to this transcendent reality cannot do it justice here. For IT defies all descriptions or conceptions of it. IT can only be experienced as you and I are doing right now—beyond the folds of time and space.”

Jesus took a long, deep breath before continuing:

“Now, as for your other questions. Yes, it’s indeed true that the real you survived the death of the body. My Hindu friends back in India, where I spent that period of my life that your supporters refer to as the “lost years,” call this real you the “Self.” The Taoists would call it “energy” or “life force.” Your scientific mystics call it “consciousness,” I know it as the soul. Again, what you call it doesn’t matter one bit in this realm of spirit that you’re presently visiting, but in reality, never left.

“You ask, how and why did this mystical interplay between the form and formless come to be? If I were to reveal this secret to you now, without you finding out for yourself through direct experience, then I’d be doing you a great disservice and interfering with the cosmic rules of karma and destiny.

“I’ll say this to you, though… you’re a young soul. Meaning, you’ve not yet taken many births in human form on Earth. So, while you’ve caused incredible destruction on the physical plane through your ego and selfishness, you can be forgiven for your transactions. It wouldn’t even be possible for an older and more evolved soul to carry out the kind of callous behavior that you’ve shown in your most recent incarnation.”

Colin took a long moment to process Jesus’s words, before asking one final question:

“So, it’s true that there’s a part of us that transcends death and takes birth again in a human body, through an eternal cycle? I now understand that. And you say that it’s also up to me to realize why this all came to be. I suppose that once I’ve realized that, I’ll have also stumbled upon the purpose of taking form in the first place. Right now, I can’t understand why any soul would consciously choose to leave this heavenly realm. I’ve never felt so at home.

“This all leads me to my final question. If, as you say, I’m a young soul, why was I elevated into such a position of power and influence? Clearly, my soul wasn’t yet mature enough to be trusted with such a role of leadership and responsibility.”

Jesus flashed another loving smile at Colin and took two steps forward in his direction. Now, standing only inches from Colin’s face, he looked him dead in the eyes and said:

“You’ll soon find out why, as a less evolved soul, you were put in such a position to begin with. The story of your soul’s evolution is not yet fully written, nor is your higher purpose yet realized. You see, your suffering in childhood was destined. So was your ego and your sense of entitlement. Your rise to and misuse of power were also destined, as was your heart attack and this encounter with me.

“As I said before, this is all the interplay of your karma and your destiny. Put another way, your choices or ‘free will’ from your past incarnations create your cosmic patterns, known as your karma, and in turn, your karma creates your destiny. Viewed from this spiritual plane, your free will and destiny are one and the same. Now is not your time to die. It’s your karma to return to your body and carry out your destiny. And, you’ll know soon enough just what that destiny is.”

A new path for the Chancellor


Older man sitting on luxurious deck

At the exact moment that Jesus stopped speaking, Colin found himself in the same swirling cosmic black tunnel he’d passed through before. On through the tunnel he went at a blazing speed, until he found himself inside his body once again. Now, united with his physical being, Colin opened his eyes as a group of doctors and nurses gathered around in wonder.

“We thought we lost you,” said one doctor, in a high-pitched voice.

“You were clinically dead for at least five minutes,” said another doctor, with a look that expressed total bewilderment.

Colin looked around the stolid hospital room, with its beige walls, dim lighting and sanitized medical equipment. He shuddered, deep within himself. Where was the dazzling white light that he’d at first denied, but had then fallen in love with? And where was Jesus, that venerable sage, saint of Compassion and God incarnate?

At that moment, he felt Jesus’s presence, and Colin instantly knew what he must do, the moment he was well enough to leave the hospital.

To the utter amazement of the hospital’s medical team, the 74-year old Chancellor was deemed healthy enough to be released, only two days after suffering a heart attack that brought him to death and back.

Back home, Colin spent his first evening reliving his experience beyond the void. The next morning, as news spread of his recovery, Colin called over his own doctors and thanked them for saving his life. He then did something they’d never seen him do before… smile and hug them! Colin also asked his PR representative to arrange for a major televised address to the nation later in the day.

In mid-afternoon, Colin Gordan appeared before the cameras to address the nation as Chancellor, for the very last time. With millions of his fellow countrymen (no longer subjects in his mind) watching, the same leader who’d dragged his people into a life of misery was now about to surprise everyone with a message of hope and peace. Colin took a deep breath and delivered the most authentic and inspiring speech of his life:

“My fellow countrymen. My brothers and sisters. I stand before you a changed man, a more compassionate man, and hopefully, a humbler man. You see, I’ve seen the light. No, really, I’ve seen the light! Three days ago, I suffered a heart attack and was pronounced dead on the operating table. But now I stand before you, having gone where all souls will one day travel.

“I had a near-death experience and it taught me so much. I learned that when we die, it’s only our body that dies and who we truly are is eternal. I learned that not only are saints real, but they really care about our fate! I also learned that love is the strongest form of energy in the Universe, and that every being is always extended the gift of redemption. Finally, I learned that each one of us has a destiny and that the Universe conspires for us to achieve it.

“My brethren, during my time beyond the void, I was also made to relive all the horror and suffering that I’ve inflicted upon you. I silenced you. I imprisoned you. I even had some of your loved ones executed for opposing my tyrannical rule. I now realize that I’ve committed unspeakable acts, whose impact can never be undone. I can’t even begin to express, through words, how much sadness and regret I feel for so thoroughly breaking your trust.

“It’s with a very heavy heart that I now beg for your forgiveness. However, I know it’s not enough to ask for your forgiveness, but rather, I must earn it through my actions. So, effective immediately, I resign from my chancellorship and dissolve the entire executive branch of government. This invests you, the people, with the power to determine your own democracy.

“Effective immediately, all 586 of my propertied estates will be converted into homeless shelters and centers for refugees fleeing from war-torn nations. Effective immediately, I’ll invest 90 percent of my $17 billion fortune into a massive fund for the needs of the poor, and for the preservation of our sacred lands and wildlife. I will then contribute the remaining 10 percent of my wealth to a special compensation fund for the families of those who were victims during my long and abusive reign.

“You have my word that I’ll do everything to ensure that each of these orders is implemented immediately. Once I’m confident that they have been, I plan to head east to India for a year of uninterrupted meditation in the Himalayas, as this will help me become the perfect servant to you. After that period, I vow to return to my homeland and assist in the anti-poverty and wilderness preservation programs in any capacity I can. In addition, upon my return, I won’t work for money, and will only receive my allowances for food through alms.

“Finally, I wish to extend a special promise to the victims of my regime: If, after one year following my return from India, you still deem me worthy of death, I’ll willingly give up my life to you. I want all of you to know how sorry I  am for all the suffering I’ve caused you. I love you. Blessings and Peace through eternity. Signing off. Your friend and fellow countryman, Colin.”

With the cameras now off him, Colin took another deep breath; then, he turned and walked away from the Chancellor’s podium for the last time, with Jesus’s words still ringing in his head: “ Now is not your time to die. It’s your karma to return to your body and carry out your destiny.”

Colin smiled. For the first time in his life, he knew what his destiny was: to serve others with unbounded love and compassion.

 

Mindful Musings

Our Collective Moment of Awakening Has Arrived

By: Forrest Rivers

(Originally published on the mindfulword.org)

Amid all the fearful media coverage and chaos surrounding the current COVID-19 pandemic lies a hidden truth that is just beginning to come to light: from a spiritual perspective, the current health crisis is something of a collective blessing in disguise.

Let me explain. While the world has been hit hard with both existential and economic catastrophes, something beautiful beneath the surface has emerged… unity and compassion.

Exposing societal injustice


Statue head covered in bandages

On the surface, it might appear that mounting death tolls (particularly, among the elderly and those with per-existing conditions) and runaway unemployment have, so far, defined the narrative of this virus’s fallout.

However, what has not been adequately accounted for by the media is the fact that this ordeal has pulled us all closer together. For the first time since possibly the Second World War, the whole of humanity has been forced to confront the painful truth that ignorance, intolerance, hate and greed wind up producing terrible effects for all inhabitants of this glorious planet.

The COVID-19 crisis has exposed societal injustices that have many re-questioning the values that are guiding humanity. For example, in countries like America, the health crisis has made it crystal-clear that the needs of living, breathing people should be placed before the profit of a wealthy few.

Basic social benefits that most industrialized nations enjoy, like comprehensive paid sick leave and universal health care, have long been absent in the United States. This is due to the fact that the U.S. government has long prioritized the political and economic interests of corporations over the well-being of its own citizens.

Gratefully, all of this is starting to change. In only one month (since the outbreak of the virus in North America), the number of ordinary Americans and politicians demanding the implementation of both programs has increased.

It now seems more likely than ever that paid sick leave and universal health care will become permanent fixtures in the U.S. system, long after the crisis ends. This is a positive move in the direction of a kinder and gentler society.

Caring for others


penguin feeding chick

There is further evidence of our globe’s growing unity and compassion in response to the crisis

It has been widely reported that numerous retired doctors and nurses in the United States, Canada and Europe have been coming out of retirement to courageously put their lives at risk in service of their fellow brethren. Clearly, many medical professionals are taking their Hippocratic Oath seriously. Thank you to those brave souls.

In several U.S. and Canadian cities, such as Vancouver, B.C. and Portland, Oregon, groups of private citizens have even begun organizing to provide health care and shelter to the homeless in response to the pandemic.

Portland’s Jupiter Hotel has gotten in on the act of caring for this highly marginalized group by donating several of its rooms for the homeless to self-quarantine in. Numerous reports have also begun to surface, in both the mainstream and alternative presses, that donations to local food banks and pantries have seen substantial increases since the start of government-mandated shutdowns of businesses.

This is encouraging news that sparks the hope that we may soon shift from a mindset of ‘consumer hoarding’ of essential foodstuffs and supplies to that of giving what we don’t need in this time of mass suffering. As the pandemic continues to unfold, it is inevitable that further inspiring acts of love and kindness will be on display for us all to point to and say, “See, there are signs that we are growing in our loving awareness.”

The Hindus have long believed that the entire Cosmos moves in a perpetual cycle between dark ages (those defined by ego, discord, quarrel and contention) and ages of enlightenment in which spirit, unity, compassion and faith in our divine nature prevail.

It is entirely possible that we are in the initial stages of a planetary shift in consciousness, from such a dark age to one of enlightenment. (The Hindus believe we are still in a dark age that they call the Kali Yuga, although the approximate start and end date of this era are debated by Hindu scholars.) If this is so, the current health crisis is not some cruel twist of fate or a cosmic ‘hiccup,’ but it has karmically appeared to jolt us out of our egotism and heartless complacency.

Despite the huge and tragic loss of life left in its wake, COVID-19 may well become regarded as one of our light posts on the path of a collective awakening. Perhaps, the age of enlightenment that Hindus allude to is just around the corner. All we have to do is awaken enough to recognize the signs.