Before you speak, ask yourself, is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve on the silence? -Sathya Sai Baba

Friday, January 1, 2016

Christmas Metta

The lights are up, strung across the streets between the lampposts and illuminating the shop windows. The apartments are lit up too, little hazy glowing portals in every building facade, framed in red and green and blue. Music plays almost everywhere you go, heartwarming and vague tunes that remind you of childhood, songs you know so well that their words fade into nonsense sounds.

Like this one: "God rest ye merry, gentlemen. Let nothing you dismay." And the chorus: "O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy. O tidings of comfort and joy."

Christmas comes and, for a few days, there is a general wishing of comfort and joy to the people around us. We try to offer comfort and joy to each other, and we wish for God to give it to each of us. It is unique. From the period of Christmas through New Year's Day, we wish for peace on earth, where most other times, we think about most other people, if at all, with a certain distaste.

There is a Buddhist meditation, called metta, which many people do. It's a simple exercise in benevolence. We concentrate on other people - first people we know and love, then people to whom we're friendly, then those to whom we feel neutral, and then those people who are difficult. Lastly we concentrate on ourselves. And to all those people we visualize, we recite the following:

May you be happy.
May you be at ease.
May you be free from suffering.
May you be at peace.

We are to concentrate, sending them love and feelings of peace. Whether or not you believe that these feelings we send have any effect in the world, or on the people we send them to (I happen to believe they do, based on no science whatsoever, so, you know, take that as you will), the fact remains that we tend to find evidence for the thoughts we entertain. That means that, when we think benevolent thoughts about the world and the people around us, our minds look for evidence that these thoughts are true, creating a positive feedback cycle - we wish each other well, we look for evidence of happiness in the world, we find it, and we feel happier, which allows us to wish more happiness to others. You can only give what you have. If you have happiness, you can give happiness. Them that's got will have, them that's not will lose.

So, I wish you a happy new year. May you be at ease. May you have a year free from suffering.

May you be at peace.

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