Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Seven Virtues Of A Spiritual Life - Lovingkindness

There are, I believe, seven core virtues that we see in those who live a truly spiritual life: Patience, Lovingkindness, Forgiveness, Humility, Commitment, Trust, and Wisdom.

Lovingkindness broadly includes three particular attributes: non-attached love; compassion; and kindness.  For the spiritual person, “love” is not simply of the Hollywood-esque romantic kind, although candlelight dinners, hand-held walks in a park with one’s mate, or holding an infant quietly in your arms are still part of life’s treasures.  These are very direct forms and expressions of love which give immediacy to our feelings of connection to individuals outside of our own selves.

Rather, lovingkindness is of a much bigger scope for the spiritual person.  It is a love that extends to all people, all sentient beings, whether they be in one’s field of vision or well beyond.  It is a love that exists regardless of how other people may have chosen to live their lives – whether it be the same as us or different, or whether their wealth, accomplishments or practices reflect our aspirations for ourselves.  It ignores differences of race, gender, ethnicity, and culture.  It is a love that is nurtured and encouraged from the outside; but such is not required because it is love that is rooted deeply inside in the blood wells of one’s own heart.

Lovingkindness does not see others through rose-colored glasses, or sees only what one wishes to see.  Quite the contrary, lovingkindness is brutally honest and unadorned in its objectivity.  Yet it truly allows us to “love our enemies” as Jesus asked of us, because it has no enemies.  When this love sees actions in another that are unhealthy to that person’s inherent goodness or destructive to the well-being of others, the spiritual person intervenes and says “no.”  “Love the person, resist the actions,” as the Dalai Lama instructs us.

Lovingkindness simply transcends what it sees, and the spiritual person focuses on the spirit and commonality that exists within us all and binds us together.  There is no thought about loving another only if that person becomes as we might wish them to be, or acts as we expect of them.  There is no attempt to substitute another’s life for our own, to live vicariously through them.  The gift of spiritual love is a gift of freedom to others to be as they inherently are, to fulfill their life’s path and the opportunities given to them.  We are not here to direct their path; the spiritual person opens doors for others, packs their lunch, and sends them on their way with unrestricted support.  If each path allows for walking together for a time, then we revel in the joy of our time together.  And if not, we revel in what time we did have together, without regret or loss.

Lovingkindness is enhanced by compassion.  The spiritual person sees and feels the sufferings of others, and is not blind to their pain.  We connect with them through their difficult times, be it a quiet thought in our minds or active engagement or intervention in their struggles.  But we remain always conscious that it is their struggle, not ours.  We do not seek to substitute ourselves for them, nor transfer their problem to become one of our own.  We do not seek to aggrandize ourselves by taking on a “noble cause”; we do not lose ourselves into another’s life.  The spiritual person is always grounded in knowing who s/he is.

What we truly feel in the presence of a spiritual person is simply kindness.  We feel welcomed into his/her presence, knowing that they are fully engaged and attentive to us in that moment.  We are completely accepted and tolerated by them.  They are helpful without being overbearing.  Our boundaries are opened by them, not closed.  And always, they expect nothing in return.  “Loving” - “Kindness” is personified in the spiritual person, who pulls our best self into full presence.  And the only thing asked of us is to be, and give, lovingkindess in return.  Pay it forward in kind, to the benefit of all others.