On Mindful Monday, my readers and I practice the art of pausing, TRYING to be still, or considering, ever so briefly, the big picture. We’re hoping this soul time will provide enough peace of mind to get us through the week!
Fellow blogger John McManamy is a prolific writer who openly refers to his spirituality, but in a quiet way. The other day, I happened to innocently ask how his journey began, and suddenly he opened up. Here is what he wrote me, published here in full with his permission:
Many thanks for asking me, Therese.
Twenty-one years ago, I was living in Melbourne, Australia. I had recently moved there from New Zealand. It’s pretty hard to recall the order of events, because, basically, I was out of my mind. Or, if I were in my mind, my mind was not a very pleasant place to be in.
I had moved to Melbourne to take up a position as a feature business writer on a daily paper there. I loved the job and the people, but six months later I flipped into mixed mania and quit in a huff, thus cutting myself off from everyone I knew. It was everyone else’s fault, of course. Couldn’t they see that?
My combination of rage and despair and grandiosity stoked a selfish spiritual quest. Basically, I wanted the powers of a mystic – such as to be able to float out of my body – without accepting my responsibilities as a human, such as being able to stay centered in my body.
All I needed was a revelation, but the revelation never came.
By this time, I had read a number of books on Tibet and Buddhism. There was a Tibetan Buddhist center in the area. I decided to check it out.
A lama, through a translator, started talking about “bodhicitta,” loving kindness. Maybe this was the prerequisite to learning to float out of my body, I thought. I’d better pay attention.
The lama asked us to do a little meditation.
Picture someone you really care about, he said. Easy. An immediate past girlfriend came to mind.
Feel the love, he continued, or words to that effect. Not hard either. Well, the two of us had issues, but for an exercise like this I didn’t have much of a problem turning on the unconditional love. Well, a bit of a problem, and there was a bit of conditional to the unconditional, but with a bit of effort I got it going.
Now picture someone neutral, he said, and once more feel the love. Actually, this was fairly easy, as I treated this part of the exercise as a hypothetical. Here you go – hypothetical unconditional love.
I opened my eyes in anticipation of the end of the meditation, but, no, the lama had one more visualization up his sleeve.
Picture someone who is giving you a hard time, he said. Ha! No problem. The no good bastard! Wait till I get my hands on him! Should I run him off the road? No, I’d have to get my license first. A baseball bat to the head, then. No, this was Australia. It would have to be a cricket bat …
Honest to God, there was no way I could anticipate the next part of the meditation. The bastard had it coming. Simple as that. No doubt the lama could read my mind. He’d have to agree with me. Just get this a-hole out of my life – okay, and maybe 10 others, make that 20 others – and I could be the king of loving kindness.
I’d make the lama proud. Here it comes …
Picture all three people in your mind, he said, and feel the same loving kindness for all three.
WHAT?! ARE YOU FRIGGIN’ CRAZY?! NO WAY!!
And that’s when the revelation came.
Suddenly, I realized I had way more hate in me than love. Serious hate. We were talking a drop of love to an ocean of hate. Even I had to know there was something drastically wrong with that. Even I knew that the gig was up. I couldn’t go on living this way. I had work to do.
I didn’t exactly find what I was looking for, yet I found everything I was looking for. That’s the way it is with the spiritual quest. The quest wasn’t about me acquiring mystical superpowers. It was about me being able to live within myself, at ease, instead of in a constant state of war with my mind.
In case you’re wondering, after 21 years I flunk that little meditation every time. I can live with that. Life, after all, is a work-in-progress, but I think I’ve got my priorities right, things such as working on not harboring hate, rushing to judgment, or demonizing people I don’t get along with.
Life is also about working on extending the range of my compassion, making an effort to walk in the shoes of others, doing things for others without expecting anything in return.
Basic Christian teachings I grew up with, but I needed an assist from a Buddhist lama to drive it home. I suppose a Christian would teach that I will find my reward in Heaven. Trust me, I found mine here on earth.
To read more Beyond Blue, go to http://blog.beliefnet.com/beyondblue, and to get to Group Beyond Blue, a support group at Beliefnet Community, click here.