Friday 26 April 2013

METTA: Loving Kindness - How to Feel It, How to Spread It

I peer at an x-ray of my spine.  I'm looking at my neck bones, trying to figure out why my right arm is constantly numb or tingling... why my hand itches and sometimes I feel electric shocks in my shoulder. I know my lower back is shot.  Disintegrating discs mean that I have to be very careful lifting anything heavier than about 20 pounds.

It wasn't always like this.  For years, I lifted Nicholas.... right up until he was 18 and nearly six feet tall. "Hey Nick", I'd say, "You are my personal trainer!  No osteoporosis for me - I'm as strong as a WWE wrestler.  I kick butt!"  And we would both giggle at my ridiculous effort to imitate his wrestling superstars.

Regrets?  I have a few.  One of them is lifting Nicholas so long without bothering to use a lifting device.  We eventually had a ceiling track installed, but it was always so much quicker just to lift Nick myself instead of bothering with the sling.  Now, I am paying the price for thinking that I was immune from the wear and tear of repetitive strain.

So, this week, on doctor's orders, I had a massage.  Karina, the massage therapist has the build of a long -distance swimmer and the manner of a zen healer.  She runs a clinic near my home called "Metta Message".  I asked Karina about the meaning of Metta and she explained that it is a Buddhist practice of meditation.  "Umm humm," I was relaxed, listening at this point.  "Anyone can practice Metta.  It involves the contemplation of loving kindness - the sort that you feel for your new baby."  My eyes opened and I began to listen very intently.  "You begin by directing all that loving kindness to yourself, as if you are the baby.  You meditate to fill yourself up with loving kindness.  That way, you are ready to begin giving it to others."  "Ohhh", I thought.

Here is how the Wikipedia explains the Metta practice:
The cultivation of loving-kindness (mettā bhāvanā) is a popular form of meditation in Buddhism. In the Theravadin Buddhist tradition, this practice begins with the meditator cultivating loving-kindness towards themselves,[7] then one's loved ones, friends, teachers, strangers, enemies, and finally towards all sentient beings. In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, this practice is associated with tonglen (cf.), whereby one breathes out ("sends") happiness and breathes in ("receives") suffering.[8] Tibetan Buddhists also practice contemplation of the Brahmavihāras, also called the four immeasurables, which is sometimes called 'compassion meditation'[9]
So, last night, I didn't sleep well.  I woke at 3:45am and worried.... about Nicholas, about my mother who took a fall yesterday, about my daughter whose last exam at university is today.  And I thought of Metta.  I began to breath deeply and slowly.  I thought of myself as my own precious baby.  My thoughts kept straying to tasks, events, past transgressions.  But I will try again.  This Metta is a very good thing for caregivers.  Perhaps Buddha himself was a caregiver. 


BLOOM - Parenting Kids With Disabilities said...

Beautiful and important message. So hard to do it for ourselves, isn't it?

Thank you for the reminder!

Cecelia Salamone LPC said...

As I respond to your blog at 1:30 a.m., caregivers all need that "METTA". I tell myself I am 'going to' then I am too tired or I forget at the end of the day. I manage to get as much done as I can. I deal with a multitude of chronic illnesses so I have to care of myself in order to take care of my mother. I am an Advocate for my mom. As caregivers, we must, not should take care of ourselves. Since we are designated caregivers, we need to maintain our health and massages our a great way to do it.