About our mothers

From: Then and Now 17  
Full Transcript

Ken: Now the next thing that happens in the chapter, as you may recall, is that you extend this to all sentient beings. And the way it is extended to all sentient beings is by considering that every being in the course of time without beginning and samsara has been our mother innumerable times. And so we should naturally feel this for all beings. How does this work for you? I see a bunch of people here are shaking their heads.

Again this is a mythic expression. It's based on a world view. But we can interpret or work with it in a somewhat different way. And I think what people have described about their discomfort with receiving kindness allows us to explore this quite easily.

Are there parts of you that can receive kindness relatively easily, and in which that natural love can be elicited quite easily? Okay? Are there parts of you that it is more difficult? Raquel?

Raquel: Yeah. I was actually going to ask about that. When you just asked us, you know, "Think of a camp counselor," or whatever. And I thought of a high school teacher who was so kind. And I did have this feeling of love, you know, from them. And it wasn't this awkward, you know, embarrassed thing. And then in another example it's totally different. So I guess I was just wondering, could it just be a reaction to the feeling of no separation? Or not? What's it a reaction to? I mean it's not a reaction to Chuck or anyone actually there. It seems like it's like a reaction to a feeling.

Ken: Well I think that there are two possibilities here. One is it can be a reaction to a feeling of no separation, which, if we have a very strongly defined sense of self, as being separate from the world, suddenly feeling ourselves without any barrier can be very disturbing, or frightening. And so there can be a withdrawal from that experience. And then I think the other source is what Diana was referring to earlier is that there are certain associations of receiving kindness when something, when it has been given with strings. And we've had to pay a price for being open. So now we distrust the feeling of being open and responsive that way. And that's why I told the story of the warm fuzzies and the cold pricklies. Which is about that exactly.

So, in terms of cultivating this, instead of thinking of all sentient beings as being my mother or mothers at one point or another, one might think of it in terms of, "Can I receive kindness in every area of my psyche, my personality?" And we quickly come to appreciate that there are certain areas of us, for most of us, that are very uncomfortable of receiving kindness. They've been threatened or possibly even traumatized in the past. And they're closed. So, working at this meditation, or this form of meditation, is a way of actually opening up those closed areas in ourselves. And that is, to my mind, the function of fostering loving kindness for all beings without limit, That it's a different way of coming to open to loving kindness in every aspect of our mind.

Do you see how those two things are different ways of saying the same thing? Because what are all sentient beings? All sentient beings is the totality of our experience. So if we can let loving kindness pervade every aspect of experience, then we'll have loving kindness for all beings.

Now this is very doable. I mean in terms of many of the meditations that we do in Buddhism, this one's actually not that hard. I remember one of my students who, when she was working on this, recalls coming out of a yoga class, actually feeling complete loving kindness for all beings. And then another part of her saying, "This is nauseatingly sick and sweet." But it's actually quite easy. If one can sit with the discomfort of receiving kindness, and, in just the way that I was pointing out to you earlier, and recognize that the basis of that is all conditioning. And when you recognize the basis of it as all conditioning it becomes possible to let that in. And the natural response is this love, this radiant warmth that just goes out.