Over the weekend I had the pleasure of reuniting with a group of old friends to visit an ailing mentor. These relationships are sort of a second family. They've spanned nearly three decades. They've experienced many forms of joy and suffering over that time, and worst of all great periods of non-relationship.
So it was that going in to the weekend, there were a couple of situations that I was concerned about having to deal with. One in particular was difficult to name, but I've narrowed that emotion down to selfishness on my part. It's deeper than that really. Much deeper. But in the end, I'm being selfish.
We've had seem unskillful interactions recently. There was an exchange that turned from him showing great disrespect to me, which led to unskillful banter. That led to anger on my part for his lack of mutual respect and understanding. That led to forgiveness on my part, which took some serious practice. Upon raising the white flag with him, and telling him I loved him, he promptly fired another shot in that verbal war. The proverbial last word, if you will, at which point my forgiveness turned to a selfish desire to be understood and accepted by him. At some point I hope to write about Uppekha, which has been a huge practice when working with people like this, but that's not how I worked with my feelings on this occasion. On this occasion, I practiced "Quieting The Inner Critic".
As this meditation can be practiced in any position which is comfortable, I chose a lying down position which was more convenient to my housing at the time. I called to mind a difficult emotion - in this case the selfish need to be understood by my old friend - and I watched how I felt about this selfishness. I clearly had the feeling, along with the selfishness, that I was bad for feeling this way.
Per this practice, I then changed my way of viewing this as "bad" to viewing it as "painful". Once I was able to regard this feeling as painful, I was able to cradle it and show some compassion for it. As I'm accustomed to doing this with pain from my studies of Thich Nhat Hanh, who is known to talk of treating ones pain as a mother treats her newborn child when it cries, I found this fairly easy to imagine. I invited the pain of my pride, which selfishly wanted to be understood, to relax. I acknowledged it was there, said hello to it and that I loved it and appreciated it for what it was there to accomplish. I did some more practice, I won't go in to here, in the way I'm familiar with from Thich Nhat Hanh and eventually watched as this pain eased and dissipated.
Once dissipated, I was left simply loving my friend and feeling a little sad for him. I was left thinking I need to practice some Mudita for him and grow this sense of happiness I was starting to feel for him being comfortable with his beliefs. I realized that I really don't need to be understood or respected by him I order for me to love him and respect his beliefs.
When you practice this, in the end, please pay close attention to the words of. Sharon Salzberg at the end of her instruction around it:
"Reflect again on the fact that you aren’t able to prevent negative feelings from arising. You don’t need to be overcome by them, defined by them, to act on them or feel ashamed if you have them. This is just in the nature of things."