I continue to be still and sit twice a day. An Easter gift. 15 minutes, 30 minutes…whatever. The important thing is I am trying not to read but sit still as I gather “ALL OF ME.” This feels right. This idea of “everything belongs” as Rohr put it. Not rejecting any part of my past. I read a line that went like this, “When was the last time you visited yourself?” When I sit I call it home-visit.
Sitting still is not just really about the self but being with God within me, in the innermost silent part of my awareness. It is not self-preoccupation because when I am silent I know I am with God and not just with myself. Pema might not be saying this in her writings but this is how it is for me, in my own personal experience of sitting down which I call prayer.
The purpose of sitting/meditating/centering/praying is not to go on a peace ride. It is not to feel good, holy or to escape from real life situations. Slowly I am beginning to understand that nothing will really exempt anyone from the “restlessness/big and small sufferings” of life. No meditation can make our lives problem-free but it can help us see things clearly.
According to Pema Chodron in her book, The Places that Scare You, seeing things clearly is one among the four qualities of maître we cultivate as we sit still or practice silent prayer or meditation. The four qualities are:
Experiencing our emotional distress
Attention to the present moment
What is MAITRI?
Pema wrote that Maitri means unconditional friendliness or being totally relaxed with ourselves. It is relating with ourselves without moralizing, without harshness, without deception. All that makes us feel ugly, small and dirty are now seen in a different light. Self-forgiveness begins. Unhealthy choices in the past towards others and the self is seen with a deeper acceptance and understanding. We realized more and more that everyone is doing the best they can with the inner resources that they had and that includes ourselves. It is only when we begin to relax with ourselves that we can let go of harmful patterns in our lives and allow lasting transformation to happen.
Maitri is HONORING our lives, the choices we made and not made. Maitri is freeing ourselves from our own self-criticisms and negative beliefs that make us shameful and feeling unworthy. It is givin ourselves permission to be exactly who we are including all the blunders, mistakes, immoralities, weaknesses, failures and all that we see as wrong episodes of our lives in the past and even at present.
Another word I can use for maître is self-compassion. It is a relationship with one’s self where there is nothing to defend or to protect. This idea of maitri or unconditional acceptance of ourselves embraces all that we are without excuses, without needing to explain, without taking issue with anything or anyone
Maitri is allowing the self to come out from the cave of shame, anger, blame and unforgiveness. It is our awakening to the truth that all along our sanity and well-being depends on our being our own primary support and best friend.
This stance to life does not fix all our angst, restlessness and issues but it provides a sense of safety and acceptance to be just who we really are. There are no harsh expectations, no demands, and no conditions. There is no need to control.
We begin to be more patient and understanding with our own self as we continue to sit still (pray.) It is a new experience of knowing our vulnerabilities, all that we believe is fragile within us, all that makes us doubt in our own and in other’s goodness, all that makes life fearful, groundless and unsafe and yet we can be calm, open and kind towards our own self and others.
Maitri is the spirituality of POPE FRANCIS. It is the essence of his “Who are we to judge?” statement.
Maitri is Mercy. God’s face is MERCY.
All along this is what Pema and all other spiritual teachers are telling us: UNCONDITIONAL LOVE. Jesus told us that we are to love our neighbor as we love others. This love is a merciful, compassionate love and it starts with our selves.
I often forget this.
Hopefully I can begin again.