Susan Hills Nelson lives in Columbia, SC, and works as an attorney for Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough. She has also been attending Ganden Kadampa Buddhist Center for about four years. She is currently meditating every day as part of the Training in Concentration day course – Part 2. This week, she talks about her meditation object, affectionate love.
June 30, 2014
So I am squarely within the middle trimester of my pregnancy, and also squarely within the middle of my year-long daily meditation practice. So far I would give myself a B- rating on both tasks. I definitely have room for improvement.
Thank goodness for Training in Concentration. This was a day course we had at the center before Gen Nyema left for England. I had totally fallen off the Heart Jewel wagon for a while there, and it is really nice to be doing this practice again. For a more detailed explanation of Heart Jewel practice, see Adventures of a Meditator Episode #4. (note how I shamelessly promoted my own blog there, I know, I know…).
As part 2 of the Training in Concentration day course, many of the attendees have agreed to meditate on a single virtuous object every day for 7 weeks. Then, if we succeed without missing more than 2 days during that 7-week period, we can opt to go on a four-day long silent meditation retreat at Givhans Ferry State Park. It looks very pretty. I have never done a silent retreat, but I hear it is memorable. Plus, I have renewed determination to make it all 7 weeks this year since I failed in my attempt last year.
My meditation object for the next seven weeks is affectionate love. According to Joyful Path of Good Fortune, generating affectionate love depends upon three conditions: First, recognizing all living being as our mother. Second, remembering the kindness of all living beings. Third, wishing to repay that kindness. If you can generate these three conditions in your mind, then affectionate love arises spontaneously. Or so I read in Joyful Path of Good Fortune…
So far, I have only managed to muster up what I think is affectionate love twice. Both times I started crying during my meditation. As far as I can tell so far, affectionate love hurts (this could also be my pregnancy hormones). Here is a summary of the story that made me cry. It is also from Joyful Path of Good Fortune:
Apparently, a robber came upon a horse and (like all mean robbers do) stabbed the horse in the abdomen. The horse happened to be pregnant, and the foal in the horse’s belly emerged from the open wound. The horse began to lick its foal clean even as the horse lay dying on the ground. Her last act, even in the agony of her own death, was to give her foal affection. This touched the robber’s heart and made him feel great remorse so much that he stopped being a robber devoted his life to practicing dharma.
It hit me, reading this story, that I am scared to death of affectionate love. I am very comfortable having all my love in my heart and not particularly interested in having my abdomen split open so my love can pour out on others while I lay dying on the ground. I am not sure I am ready to do this for one person, much less all living beings. So maybe that is why I am crying. This meditation makes me painfully aware of my own self-cherishing tendencies and unwillingness to give unconditional love.
I think this fear of vulnerability is what keeps many people alone and miserable. But apparently giving affectionate love will bring happiness and peace, or so I read in the benefits of affectionate love on page 411 of Joyful Path. So I will keep working on it. Hopefully after seven weeks I won’t be crying about my abdomen anymore and I will start feeling a warm hearted-tenderness towards all living beings, which is what Gen Nyema informs me is the actual object of affectionate love.
Here is the update on how this practice is affecting me off the cushion. I stopped eating meat…again. I started thinking about how all living beings are my mother and suddenly meat seemed less appetizing. I no longer get chills when I see an insect or spider in my house. I just catch it and put it outside. And I often say a mantra to the poor little creature I have caught so that it is not so afraid of me. Oh, and I am angry much less often. All good stuff. I cannot complain. Meditating on affectionate love definitely has its benefits, even if it does make me cry.