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Mindful : August 2017
there is validity in experimenting with new habits, wisdom that results from encouraging ourselves to learn and expand. This works for groups we may harbor resent- ment toward, as well as individuals. We need patience, though; opening our shuttered hearts has its own timetable. Often, we may spend a while just going through the motions. Yet with a clear intention and a willing heart, sooner or later we experience the joy and freedom that arises when we recognize our common humanity with others and see that real love excludes no one. There’s no need to begin with judgment or harsh discipline. I’ve had students tell me they feel inadequate upon realizing that love for others doesn’t spring forth from their hearts like water in a babbling brook. Finding this boundless love isn’t the result of a goal-oriented search, but a practice. We experiment with what it feels like to treat ourselves with kindness whether we “suc- ceed” or “fail.” We open our eyes to the suffering and joy of those we see in line for security in the airport as much as we do to our family members. None of this is easy. Learning the practice of loving-kindness meditation for the first time challenged my emotional fabric in ways I didn’t expect. As I practiced sending phrases of loving- kindness to myself, then to benefactors and to acquaintances, to difficult people, and—finally— all beings, I began noticing just how much I was conditioned to entangle myself in judgments, assumptions, fears, and stories. This act of noticing itself is part of real love. We see that we can set the intention to stretch past these habits we’ve gotten used to—both internally and as the result of familial, circumstantial, and overarch- ing societal factors. We are not doing some- thing phony or trying to force ourselves to be hypocritical or pretentious. Rather, we stretch because, as human beings with capacity for real love, we can. We learn to move and breathe in a new way, until we realize one day how much stronger we are. ● Adapted from the book Real Love by Sharon Salzberg. Copyright © 2017 by Sharon Salzberg. Reprinted with permission f rom Flatiron Books. All rights reserved. August 2017 mindful 79