February 14, 2012
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What better topic to write about on Valentine's Day, and the 14th day of Meditation Month, than love and giving ? How can we approach this day without the fears and concerns of 'not giving enough' to the one we love, or 'not giving the right thing'? Ezra Bayda provides wonderful insight into this dilemma in today's Daily Dharma:
"As we become more inwardly free from our conditioning and our fears, the love and connection that are possible in relationships tend to flow through us more naturally. As our defenses are lowered, our heart opens, and there is a natural desire to give from the generosity of the heart. We discover that genuine happiness in relationships is not a product of having our expectations met or getting what we want but rather it is the consequence of freely giving in order to bring happiness to another."
Unless I am mistaken, the West does not market Valentine's Day in such a way; infact, we've grown up being told that happiness is a product of having our expectations met. Can we change this?
In my sit this morning, I couldn't help but think about our society's infatuation for marketing love as a sexual and materialistic enterprise, especially on a day such as this. For this reason, focusing on my breath was really really tough. Negative thoughts kept floating to the surface regarding the cheap and empty ways in which we give back to the people we really care about. I didn't want to be one of those boyfriends frantically running through the streets with a bouquet of flowers!
But of course we are smart enough to understand that love goes beyond this simple representation. The Greeks had four words for love: Agape (unconditional love) Eros (passionate), Philia (friendship), Storge (parental affection). Similarly, the Buddha spoke of different types of love: Metta (loving-kindness), Karuna (compassion/pity), Mudita (gladness for others' success), Upekkha (onlooking equanimity).
So why don't we celebrate today encompassing all aspects of love? Let's form our Cupid into a flying Manjusri, shooting arrows of wisdom and discernment along with arrows of metta. How can we give back to those we care for today without jumping into a stream of thoughtless gifts?
I leave you with a passage from the Metta Sutta, pulled from our meditation e-book, which is free for Supporting and Sustaining Members of the Tricycle Community. The sutta leads off an article by Gil Fronsdal, who speaks about the nature of metta, and how the practice will manifest in one's relationships.
May all beings be happy.
May they live in safety and joy.
All living beings,
Whether weak or strong,
Tall, stout, average, or short,
Seen or unseen, near or distant,
Born or to be born,
May they all be happy.
—From the Metta Sutta, Sutta Nipata I.8
If you haven't already meditated today, this topic might be a good one to reflect upon! If you can't access the e-book, sign up to be a member of our Tricycle community here.
Further reflections on how we give and how we receive are given here as a video clip from a past Tricycle Retreat led by Thai forest monk Thanissaro Bhikkhu.