My mother was a superstitious person. She clapped for luck when she saw white horses, threw a pinch of spilled salt over her shoulder to prevent catastrophe, and had a collection of carved elephants forever facing East.
Several years ago, while visiting my son and daughter-in-law, who shared my mother’s love of pachyderms, I noticed their carved elephants were facing North. I surreptitiously turned them all to face East. One year later, my grandson was born.
Yes, it probably was.
I have been thinking lately about the concept of lovingkindness.
When I think of lovingkindness, my thoughts usually turn East, like the elephants. I associate the practice with Buddhist meditation. I recently learned, however, I may be facing in the wrong direction when I consider this practice.
Three Thoughts on Lovingkindness
- Lovingkindness meditation is traditionally thought of as a practice taught by the Buddha as a way of developing a habit of selfless, altruistic love. What’s not to love about that? I’m all for altruistic love.
- To practice lovingkindness meditation, you visualize a person you wish to feel compassion and love for (maybe picture them smiling at you). Next, you think about the positive qualities of that person, then about some good deeds they have done. You might also repeat a mantra such as “lovingkindness” when considering the person.
You begin by developing lovingkindness first for yourself. You next expand your practice to include those whom you admire, then people you love. Finally, your practice evolves to include people you feel neutral toward, and, most difficult of all, those with whom you have conflict.
- Here is what blew me away – the concept of lovingkindness is found in older versions of the Bible as well as in Buddhist teachings. I may have to shift my attention slightly to the West.
The Hebrew word for lovingkindness is “checed“. Newer editions of the Bible (which I usually read) often translate “checed” as faithfulness, mercy, compassion, or love. The King James Version, however, uses the word lovingkindness.
While lovingkindness in the Bible might be used to describe one person’s feelings toward another, it is most often used to describe God’s feelings toward us.
Yes, the warm, loving feeling that we must practice, work on, and rehearse, God steadfastly and endlessly flings in our direction. It is literally all around us.
It’s not what God does, it’s who He is.
God hurls his consistent lovingkindness toward us, no matter which direction we face. Even if we are facing East, like the elephants.
Catch it if you can.
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