Some of us spend our lives cultivating our resentments and addictions and desires. We spend so much time on these cravings that we end up becoming them. We remain in a viscous cycle of want, need, and resentment when things don't go exactly our way. How to break this cycle? Well, one way that has been done for centuries with the Buddhist tradition is the "Four Limitless Qualities." The practice is to aspire to loving-kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity. They are as follows:
May all sentient beings enjoy happiness and the root of happiness.
May we be free from suffering and the root of suffering.
May we not be separated from the great happiness devoid of suffering.
May we dwell in the great equanimity free from passion, aggression, and prejudice.
The bodhichitta practices are ways to sow the seeds of well-being, not only for ourselves, but for others. I am not trying to negate anyone's religion. I think this is a way of thinking, less a religious practice. But like all things, it takes practice in learning to want for others as you do yourself. It often starts with training our mind to jump the tracks, so to speak, and learn a new language of thought. The mind/brain loves to stay in it's ruts. It likes same. Which of course, keeps us in the same patterns that also make us miserable. Here then, is one way to consider throwing off the shackles that bind, and begin to heal our hearts and start serving our souls.
In these practices, we start with ourselves and those we love the most. We express the wish that we enjoy happiness and the root of happiness. Next we include someone we love. Using the thought that they enjoy happiness and the root of happiness. Then we extend it to a widening circle of friends and relationships. Begin where the aspirations feel genuine, where we already feel love, compassion, joy and equanimity. Then we move on to the neutral people in our life, and eventually to people we don't like. Remember this is a practice! It is intended as a workout to expand the heart beyond it's current capabilities. Then move on to the next one on suffering, and so on.
Expect resistance. We are learning to open our hearts and move closer to our fears. Aspiration practices have the power to loosen up useless habits and melt our fixations and defenses. We are learning to be steadfast. By acknowledging love, compassion, joy and equanimity that we feel now, and nurturing them through this practice, they will strengthen on their own.
Happiness is being free of anger, resentment, guilt, greed, envy, the list goes on. It is through our thoughts that our reality is constantly forming. Learning to train our thinking is fundamental to creating the kind of world we want.