Thursday, July 23, 2009

Four Limitless Qualities



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.

20 comments:

Hilary said...

I have no doubt that you're absolutely correct on all counts.. the retraining and the resistence. A fine post, Nancy. :)

willow said...

Great principles to live by. Excellent post!

Meg Runs said...

Hmmm...so many things you wrote prompt thought and digestion! Thanks again...

Brian Miller said...

wonderful principles to live by. read a great book but thich nhat hahn on being peace. think there are some things we can learn when we listen to each other. agree with starting small, you won't change the world overnight, but as the ripples expand...

lakeviewer said...

Excellent thoughts and concepts. Most of us have lived our lives according to some precepts inculcated in us in our early years. It is good to seek enlightment in new ways.

Butternut Squash said...

Hi Nancy,

Wonderful post. These principles apply to us individually and culturally. We really need a some compassionate change right now. Peace.

Gemel said...

Beautiful and so true, bless your beautiful heart..

Elizabeth Bradley said...

We are creatures of habit to be sure. I try to shed the notions, lessons, and flawed doctrines forced down my throat as I was growing up. I try to come from a neutral place of love and acceptance. But, for me anyway, this is a struggle that I will never be perfect at.

lolit said...

what a nice post, just today i feel depressed but when i read your blog, it got through my senses, that's right i realized that life is not unfair after all, thanks so much.

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

You always go right to the heart of every issue. Nice post!

Marguerite said...

Wonderful and insightful post, Nancy. I agree with you that it has to start with our own thinking. It is such a simple concept that "through our thoughts that our reality is constantly forming". But many people either don't believe this concept or are unwilling to change. But, it will happen eventually, one thought at a time.

Rose said...

Excellent Post!

Hugs, Rose

scarlethue said...

Beautifully written, you've given me something to think about tonight.

Kathy's Klothesline said...

I will try to employ this as I work with my public tomorrow. Peace sounds good....if only they would all obey my speed limit.....

linda said...

great post nancy and after reading it, I actually sat in meditation for awhile, something I have been very remiss in mainly because time slips by when I am doing more important things, like blogging! I enjoyed reading this and am glad you posted it....it certainly bears more press!!

blessings...

Sylvia said...

Great Post. Everyday I fight to get rid of a few things that I know are terrible for me. Everyday I try to say "no", but the environment where I work seems to push me to destruction instead of growth (I'm looking for another job). But I keep fighting and I know one day I'll succeed. My fight is a sort of finding refuge in my own mind, in my own world. Meditation and concentration helps a lot.

Ruth said...

I choose to be happy every day. It really is a choice. Some days I feel happy, other days I don't. But it's always my goal.

susan said...

You are a good teacher.

Rachael said...

What a great post!

Sometimes, I can imagine your blogs as the moving voiceover in a movie that sums up the moral of the story and brings the audience to tears. I guess what I'm trying to say is that you're a powerful writer and always very emotion-evoking. :)

Holly said...

Thank you for reminding me of something I had set aside in the busy-ness I have created of my life.