When I began to teach about Metta (Lovingkindness Practice) in 2010, a dear friend and mentor reminded me to include "A Buddhist's Forgiveness Prayer" in the teachings. I was not familiar with it so she provided me with a copy.
Literally, it blew me away with its power, its compassion.
No one knows who wrote it really. Does it matter, especially if it works? If it heals?
This prayer is often my "go-to" prayer because forgiveness comes in varied shapes and forms. Forgiveness for others when they've erred. Forgiveness of yourself when you've made mistakes and hurt others, knowingly or unknowingly. Forgiveness when you need to forgive someone and feel stubbornly resistant and are just not ready.
I love this prayer so much, I've put it in my new book that comes out in November on "Portable Peace." But I'd love you to have a copy of it now.
I just used this prayer again today, in fact, because I had an unfortunate thing happen in terms of my business life. I made a big red-faced, faux pas, that disturbed several people. I didn't mean it to happen. I just didn't think it through. I was rushing and trying to be productive. (I wrote about it here.)
Rather than beat myself up for hours (ok, I did so for an hour or two; regret whooshed in after that), I went to the prayer.
A Buddhist Forgiveness Prayer
I love the last few lines because it emphasizes how important it is that we be self-compassionate. Think of all the ways we harm ourselves, talk badly to ourselves, demean and bash ourselves when we've been less than perfect. Sigh ...
Let's say the prayer together whenever we need it. Forgive yourself if you need forgiving, please? It's the most self-compassionate thing to do.
I've often referred to the practice of "Metta"—loving-kindness practice—as an "inter-spiritual practice," even though it appears to be Buddhist in origin. There are variations of it in other cultures, specifically within the Celtic Christian tradition and Judaism.
I've also often wondered if we can share this practice with others (or by formal teaching) without mentioning where the practice came from. Does it still honor and serve the practice well if it's roots are not recognized?
Mindfulness teacher and educator, Saki Santorelli, has shed new light on this for me. In his book, Health Thy Self: Lessons on Mindfulness in Medicine, he deftly introduces the practice with absolutely no reference to Buddhism. Nor does he name it as "loving-kindness" practice. For him, Metta is simply a human practice—a way to befriend ourselves, sourced in mindfulness practice.
"Dwelling in the awareness of the breath, allowing thoughts and feelings to come and go, experiment with the the possibility of embracing yourself as you would embrace another person dear to you and needing to be held. If you like, try silently repeating a phrase on your own behalf. You might offer yourself one or more of the following:
That's it. That's all he wrote.
At first, I struggled with this. I asked myself, 'Shouldn't he say more, provide details, including the origin of the practice? Shouldn't he call it something specific?'
And then, with mindful attention (and non-judgmental awareness), I saw how I was becoming trapped in my own way of seeing, and, yes, transmitting/teaching the practice, and how I might resist doing it a different way.
Was my way a better way? No. Was my way the most effective way? Of course not.
In that moment, I befriended myself and my own tendency to think that things should be done a certain way, one that was more comfortable to me. We all struggle with the unfamiliar, don't we? Usually we don't like what's uncharacteristic or different at all. This is one of our human frailties.
Thankfully, I recognized this and, in that moment, was able to let go of my resistance. I allowed myself to receive Dr. Santorelli's method as a listener, purely as a participant, and as I did so, I felt relief. Pure relief.
In the next moment, I felt compassion for myself because I was able to see (yet again), how I can so easily get caught up in a "should" and the tension that comes with that. In this case, how something I deem important should be taught.
How I love this practice! How I love that mindfulness does bring respite from the struggle when I allow it to flood my awareness.
How I love that a simple, self-compassionate phrase like, "May I be gentle with myself when I trip over a should," can keep self-judgment at bay and growth at the door.
Today, may we all be gentle with ourselves—no matter what arises, no matter what we discover about ourselves.
To learn more about Metta Meditation and how to do it, visit this page.
Guided Meditations provided. Enjoy!
Hello Lovely Friends,
Happy New Year!
I've just had another essay published by Shambhala Sun magazine [on their SunSpace blog] — an invitation to live into Love in a most profound way.
"Why I Do Metta" is here for your enjoyment and consideration.
You can read it here.
This is a very personal take on how and why I feel compelled to offer Metta- expressions of goodwill and Loving-kindness—to the people I love and even to strangers. The practice is truly transformative.
If you have an interest in learning how to do this form of mindfulness meditation yourself, I've created a page on this website to guide you through. Here are the complete instructions and guided mp3s.
May the new year bring abundant blessings your way!
is a touchpoint. a resting place, a "remembering" of who we really are: beings of unshakeable peace, boundless compassion, and deep joy.