I don’t want to get into the habit of making disclaimers or opening remarks. It’s kind of like having to explain a joke after you tell it… Or the exact opposite, because this is happening on the front end. Whatever. Read my previous post (basics of meditation) if you want any background or are curious as to why I’m writing about this (Loving-kindness). If I don’t explain this well, give Sharon Salzberg a search. She will detail easy ways to incorporate this kind of meditation into your life. I’m trying to explain how I’ve done it while traveling.
Loving-kindness, as it sounds, is a method of meditation where you wish feelings of love and kindness toward another. Your thoughts and intentions, in a focused balanced, are altruistic. It is my favorite form of meditation. I have been abroad for the last month and I have used loving kindness every day. I do not include the rain (American Dollar) I brought down on the stripper as loving kindness. Generous, but not loving kindness.
I enjoy meditation of loving-kindness for several reasons. There are two, though, that resonate with me most, especially abroad:
- When wishing loving kindness you are not worried or bothered by the “self.” Rather, you are selfless. Your focus, and your anchor, is fixated on another. Your attention is drawn upon the happiness of another person(s). When most meditative exercises call upon you to return to your breath–if your mind wanders or you lose touch–loving kindness brings you back to the thought of another. Your mantra, or focus, is a willful desire for someone else to experience love. You want them to delight in the pleasures of happiness. You realize that everybody, every person you come across, truly wants to be happy. You wish for them to find that bliss, and you actively try to send it to them… Now, I know plenty of you roll your eyes at that telepathic/cosmic shit. I get that. Completely. But realize that simply assuming thoughts of kindness and consideration you are becoming more present that you ever have been. You are mindful in the wishful thought of another and you are compassionately cognizant. You are anchored in generosity and compassion. I’m not asking you to believe in the connectivity of the universe, or of each other, or of our minds; you don’t have to believe in connected thoughts. But believe in your ability to bring happiness to the world. Believe in the feeling you get knowing you made someone happy. Believe in your purpose and your part. As you are mindful in the life of another, the clarity that follows will lead you to a loving state. Why not absorb your mind, as you meditate, on the love of those you meet? What better way to travel, than to travel in loving kindness? (If you think of an answer to that question, keep it to yourself. Don’t ruin a good thing.)
- Loving kindness is an active, mobile meditation as much as it is prone. It can be done in your quiet, special place (how I refer to anywhere I watch porn), or it can be achieved wherever you go. I take it with me as I travel.
It’s hard to explain how loving kindness has affected my experiences as I’ve travelled. I’ll try.
- International Travel: I was overwhelmed as I travelled into Japan by myself. I’m never really one to fear things, excluding congregations of hipsters, which is terrifying, but international travel had me uneasy. Maybe not scared, but definitely uneasy.
- Loving Kindness has taught me to take solace in adventures like these. I love travel and am lucky to travel because of new people and new places. Why worry excessively about logistics? Why dwell on a language barrier? I chose not to. I took it as an opportunity to bring good to others. I wished goodness for them. Before leaving, back in the US of A, I came across a loving kindness challenge: leave every person you meet with a gift. This challenge isn’t grounded in materialism–hopefully you concluded that. Make the gift a smile or a gesture. Make it something you mean. As I walked through the Japanese airport, like a big dumb (handsome) tourist, I smiled and said hello to everyone I saw. I said “hello” in English, too, because I’m not a smart man. But I was genuine and I wanted to bring kindness to a new place. I tried making every person smile or laugh. Most laughed. That was my gift. As I wandered the terminal, trying to decipher Japanese directional signs while greeting fellow travelers, an English speaking airport attendant tracked me down. He had been approached by the stewardess from my most recent flight, whom I smiled at the entire time (wanted to give her a different type of loving kindness), and had informed him I would need help. This friendly, considerate attendant guided me through the airport until I secured my luggage in the baggage claim.
- Korean Baseball Team: I am here with a friend who is playing for a Korean Baseball team. Within the organization, amongst coaches and players, there are just a few who speak English. That doesn’t matter. The team is a collection of some of the most considerate and friendly people I’ve met; I haven’t spoken more than ten words to most. I’ve made a point of friendly acknowledgement, always, and I try to impart some gesture of respect or friendship. They, in return, call me “friend” and smile, as I do. They also don’t balk as I revisit team meal buffet lines before most have secured chop sticks.
Living in loving-kindness should be a goal–permanently. But when you travel, or live abroad, it is the best way to connect with the experience… Well, calling it the best is a little firm. But it’s my favorite and it has made time even better.
When you focus on others, and you try to find ways to bring them happiness, you forget to give your attention to personal difficulty. What once stressed you, or something you were hyper sensitive to before, no longer seems important… Excluding obvious venereal diseases.
As always, these are just my thoughts; nothing more. I’m no expert and my only research comes from how I live and what I feel. This is how I’ve spent my time, though, and it has been revelatory. What was once mundane has become adventure and what once gave me stress no longer constitutes my thoughts. Basically, life is fun and shit is cool. Yuki hasn’t returned my calls and the French concierge runs when she sees me, but I still wish them well. I wish them loving kindness, and, even though reciprocity shouldn’t be part of your intention, I’m anticipating reciprocation on-or-around my face.