Our personal histories

After reading a few biographies and visiting with family and friends that we haven’t seen for a while, I find the practice that Gates offers at the end of Chapter 5 compelling.

Three ways to practice compassion and loving kindness:

  1. Compassion:  Sit quietly and review your life in ten-year increments, starting from when you were a child.  Let a difficult or unskillful moment come to you.  Feel how it felt to be in your body at that time.  To see the world through your eyes as you were then.  Then forgive yourself for being imperfect – for making mistakes – and for being a learner in this lifetime.  Offer yourself forgiveness at least three times, then move on to the next decade of your life and repeat the process.  Practice this as often as you need to, to become free.
  2. Loving-kindness:  The phrases are “May you be safe,” “May you be healthy,” “May you be happy,” and “May you be at ease in your community.”  The practice is to spend time offering yourself these phrases, then a benefactor, then a neutral person, then a difficult one.  When you are done, sit quietly for a while and feel into the energetic resonance of loving-kindness humming through your body and mind.
  3. Use an abbreviated version of these practices and phrases throughout your day whenever you feel yourself contracting into negativity or expanding into the urge to pour love into the world.  (pp. 238-239)

Reading Tony Dokoupil’s memories in “The Last Pirate:  A Father, His Son, and The Golden Age of Marijuana” and, shortly after, David Maraniss’, “When Pride Still Mattered:  A Life of Vince Lombardi,” I was taken back to some of my memories of my father.  While the immigrant steelworker was neither a drug lord nor a football coach, some of the themes reflected on fathering revealed in both of these books were painfully familiar. 

We visited with my husband’s cousin last week.  We had not seen her, her husband, her and children in over twenty years, but it’s amazing how family memories and stories close those gaps.  Their one son was visiting the area with them – now a successful entrepreneur, he was about eleven years old when I first met him.  Did any of us know then, where we would be now? 

And, yesterday, I had a chance to chat up some lovely girls – twelve, five, and three – while their mother caught up with her former medical school professor.  Lots of conversations floating around that lunch table!  Don’t ask a five year old what they think “old” is.  I haven’t tried Gates’ “Compassion” exercise yet, but I think my five year old self would have answered the same way.

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