Elephants Facing East

Photo by Harvey Sapir on Pexels.com

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.

Coincidence?

Yes, it probably was.

But still…

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

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.

You can find the places I link up here.

75 comments

  1. My Grandma taught me to throw spilled salt over my left shoulder too (“in the Divil’s eye” was the explanation from her Irish heritage).

    I love the thoughts about lovingkindness. I was unaware of the concept appearing in Western scriptures and pleased to find out about it. πŸ™‚

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    • My mom also had Irish heritage. Maybe that is why she was so superstitious! I was surprised and pleased to find references to lovingkindness in the Bible too!

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  2. Laurie, I didn’t realize that it was the newer versions of the Bible that translated “checed” as mercy rather than lovingkindness. I am so thankful God’s lovingkindnesses are new every morning. I’m grateful that His love is always available and that we don’t have to do anything to earn it. Thanks for these beautiful words!

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    • A link-up is a website where you can post a link to one of your blog posts. Most link-ups are weekly. My mom swore she saw a UFO once. I was in the car with her and she was trying to point it out to me but I never saw it. It was a silver triangle with silver balls trailing it (as she described it)! πŸ™‚

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  3. My Bible dictionary defined lovingkindness as “unfailing love”. This morning I am most grateful for God’s love which has never failed to love me, even on my worst days. Simply amazing!

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  4. “It’s not what God does, it’s who He is.” Yes! Lovingkindness is a beautiful trait of who God is, and one that he wants us to emulate (but it can be so hard when we and others can be so ornery, ha).

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  5. I’ve never heard about the Elephants/East superstition! Now I’ll pay closer attention πŸ™‚ I do a lovingkindness meditation every morning–it helped calm me during the election, I can tell you that! I didn’t know it had any history in the Bible, though. I’ve only ever associated it with Buddhism. Always love to discover ‘overlap’…I’m such a firm believer in many paths, one God…

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    • I wish I would have had the lovingkindness meditation idea during the election. Actually, it still seems like the election is ongoing. I usually read the New International Version of the Bible. I was happy to find the overlap in the KJV. I am in agreement with you…many paths to God. Each as unique as the individual.

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  6. Laurie, good morning! As I savored your post, Psalm 63:3 settled into my heart and mind – ‘Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips will praise You.’

    I love this word, this verse, the chorus we sometimes sing. If I had to pick a WORD for the year, which I usually don’t, it would be this one.

    Thanks for this wonderful start to my day, friend …

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  7. Thank you for listing the steps for lovingkindness meditation. I have never done that and it’s the first time I’ve seen this explained. I like the fact that it’s structured and easy to follow.

    Oh, and my Bible uses the term ”lovingkindness” too! 😊

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  8. thank you for the practice… meditation of lovingkindness… I will be mindful of it now. I read that Jesus was also a student of eastern practice… no need to fear all paths to learning and growth I say. God wants us to love in life, is my belief. A lot of people spend a lot of time trying to control others instead of loving.

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  9. Love this post, Laurie! I often write about mindfulness, and practice meditation. Lovingkindness is one of my favorite practices. While it is best to learn to practice lovingkindness towards yourself first, when you transition to practicing it towards others, it can be revolutionary in removing self focus and judgmental attitudes. I LOVE your connection of the word with God. There is such richness in that word in relation to God. Thank you for this post!

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    • I would like to become more disciplined in my meditation practice. I start, then forget for a few days, but when I remember to meditate, I always feel better. I have started practicing the lovingkindness meditation toward my family members. Thank you for your kind comments, Donna.

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  10. I love this so much! Lovingkindness… I’ll look for that word now in the Bible.
    Isnt it superstitious to have an elephant with the truck down – they have to all be up, right?
    The clapping for the white horses – that makes me smile – I’m going to start doing that every time I go feed our 2 white horses πŸ™‚

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    • You have to look in the King James version if you want to find lovingkindness. I never heard of the trunk thing. My mom just believed they had to be facing East for luck. You are going to be so lucky! πŸ™‚

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  11. Funny, for a while I was practicing some Tibetan Yoga, which is quite similar to the Buddhist meditation you’re describing.

    Lovingkindess absolutely begins with us — and from there it spills over onto others. I’m still searching for my word for next year, and while it won’t be kind, it’s definitely something I’ve been thinking about. Although I consider myself a kind person, it’s so easy to not be kind to the ones we love the most, too, and I know this is something I need to work on!

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    • I never thought of that Judy, but you are so right – we are sometimes not kind to the ones we love the most. Hmmm…something to work on. I have started doing the lovingkindness meditation when I can’t sleep at night. It’s calming and beneficial to me and, I hope, others.

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  12. My mother wasn’t superstitious per se but she had a saying or proverb for everything. Early bird catches the worm, etc.

    What a lovely idea. Lovingkindness. And yes, it is easy to practice on someone you admire but someone you do not. That’s hard and even more important. My hubby is one that bears a grudge. I always practice forgiveness and look at why they did what they did and focus on the good things that have done.

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  13. I’ve heard about the salt throwing but did not know it had to be spilled, just bought it was when you cooked with salt, you threw a little over your shoulder. I don’t cook with salt and have never done that anyway..lol. I have never heard of the elephant thing. I don’t believe I have any elephants in my home or I would be checking which way they are facing! Thanks for linking up with us! Also, please contact me if you are interested in taking over or helping out with the Friday link up!

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    • My mom always turned her elephants East for luck and she was the luckiest person I ever knew! Thanks for hosting. I would help out with the link-up but I don’t know if I can. I only have the free WordPress blog. I am not sure if they would support InLinkz.

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  14. I never heard about clapping for the white horses nor the elephants facing east to have good luck … where have I been? I was brought up on spilling salt and the need to toss it over your right shoulder, don’t open an umbrella indoors, nor walk under a ladder, the garden variety superstitions. My grandmother took a bottle of Holy water and sprinkled it around the house at the first sign of thunder rolling – a neighbor was struck by lightning in his field when she was a young girl growing up on a farm and the fear of bad thunderstorms never left her. Hopefully the elephants facing east were indeed the good luck charm that resulted in your grandson. We all need more loving kindness in our lives … it’s a tough world out there in any year, let alone in 2020.

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    • My mom had a bunch of superstitions too but she was also the luckiest person I have ever known. That is an interesting story about your grandmother. Her neighbor getting struck by lightning must have made quite an impression on her! Yes, more lovingkindness in the world is a good thing – no matter how it gets here.

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      • My grandmother lived in a farming community – the farmers were good friends and helped bring one another’s crops in when they were ready to be harvested. They pitched together to help one another build barns (think Amish barn-raising events here). He was a good friend of the family and her own father had just come in out of the fields not long before. She was very nervous about thunderstorms. I’ve heard it said before that many are surprised the pandemic did not help this nation band together like the aftermath of 9/11. Sadly, the political divisiveness this year would not have permitted that to occur like after 9/11.

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      • The community where I grew up was a farming community too. I remember that cooperation among members of that community also. There are many Amish living in our area. Most Amish do not vote, but amazingly, the ones who did were almost all for Trump!

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      • My grandmother would tell stories about growing up and in particular on Christmas Eve when one Through the years, my grandmother would recount how every Christmas Eve, a local farmer in the community would dress up like Santa and go from farm to farm, distributing toys to all the kids. Their parents had already visited β€œSanta” (a/k/a George Moro) in advance, with the wrapped presents for him to produce at his visit to their home. I always thought that was a wonderful tradition. I did not know that about the voting tendencies of the Amish and I am reeling over that info!

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      • The AM radio station I listen to for news/weather has Accuweather which you may know is based in State College, PA. Our meteorologist said they were expecting a foot there (he lives nearby). So that’s likely your forecast too – that is amazing. A second mild Winter seemed too good to be true. We had one inch of snow but it came with a little freezing rain and there are accidents galore.

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      • Oh, I thought that was just OUR Accuweather that was based in State College. We got about 6 – 7 inches, which is more than we got all last winter (4.8 inches). State College is in Central PA (north and west of us). They usually get more snow than we do.

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      • Our morning meteorologist is chattier than the others and he also is the announcer for the Nittany Lions football games, so when he comes in for away games for our two Michigan teams he used to visit the studios. The other meteorologists don’t let on that are not in Michigan, but today he was talking about how much snow he had in Bellafonte and how glad he was he works from home. He also does the New York weather.

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  15. I really like the concept of God endlessly flinging lovingkindness our way “Yes, the warm, loving feeling that we must practice, work on, and rehearse, God steadfastly and endlessly flings in our direction.” Translations are so interesting in that God still uses them, regardless the literary nuances. I had packed a Bible for a trip because it weighed less. On the plane I was able to share words of comfort that God watches over the sojourner (easily translated into traveler). When I looked the verse up in my NIV I found that God protects the aliens…similar, but harder to identify with. Thanks for the good words.

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    • Ha! That’s how I picture him – flinging love towards us. So kind of you to share words from Scripture as comfort to a fellow traveler. You were carrying the right version.

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  16. I have limited knowledge of Buddhism, but Lovingkindness is something I can get behind. Don’t we all need more of that every moment of the day?! Thank you for linking up.

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  17. Can I blame my questionable luck on the haphazard placement of my elephants? I have a whole elephant room!! And the elephants are probably facing every way but east!! Need to remedy that immediately.

    I am not (or was not until now) familiar with the word ‘lovingkindness’. What a great word. I looked up instances of lovingkindness in the Bible and there are a number. This one spoke to me:
    Psalm 40:11

    You, O Lord, will not withhold Your compassion from me;
    Your lovingkindness and Your truth will continually preserve me.

    Source: https://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/Lovingkindness

    Thank you for teaching me some ew things!!

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    • Wow! A whole room full of elephants? Potentially a lot of luck there! πŸ™‚ that verse from Psalms is one of my favorites. I learn new things from you all the time. Happy I could return the favor! πŸ™‚

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