Tag Archives: Maitri

A Month for Freyr: Thoughts on Frith and Lovingkindness

Reaching the messy end of friendships, of relationships, of other sorts of bonds that seemed inclined to last but have frayed apart recently, or currently are fraying, I’ve been trying to find ways of coping with things and with people that does the least harm while maintaining my own self to a reasonable degree — not putting myself into a situation where I will be devoured and have nothing left for Freyr, for the wights, for studying, for meditation, for my other friends and loved ones, or anything at all.

Buddhism approaches how one should protect oneself, or if one should protect oneself at all, differently depending on the school. But the interior attitude does not change, whether one takes steps, or what sort of steps, to remove oneself from harm or the potential for harm.

Monks, even if bandits were to carve you up savagely, limb by limb, with a two-handled saw, he among you who let his heart get angered even at that would not be doing my bidding. Even then you should train yourselves: “Our minds will be unaffected and we will say no evil words. We will remain sympathetic, with a mind of good will, and with no inner hate. We will keep pervading these people with an awareness imbued with good will and, beginning with them, we will keep pervading the all-encompassing world with an awareness imbued with good will — abundant, expansive, immeasurable, free from hostility, free from ill will.” That’s how you should train yourselves.

“Train” is an important word. Doing this is anything but easy, even in circumstances that are relatively pleasant much of the time. It’s both common and easy to have stray nasty thoughts about people who annoy you, when someone cuts you off driving, or cuts in line in front of you, won’t move when the light turns green, steps on your toes, bumps into you hard enough to make you stumble or drop something, etc. It’s basic Internet 101 on get enraged at the opinions of others, as well. And politics.

It’s unlikely someone will start sawing your limbs off, but you may find yourself subjected to a monologue about politics you find abhorrent (I know someone who is a great fan of Rush Limbaugh; I’m gay and passionately support women’s rights), from someone you can’t afford to seem rude toward, so you seethe inwardly and fantasize about sawing their limbs off.

It’s an accomplishment, and not a small one, to manage to be polite to people on the exterior almost all of the time. It’s very hard to create interior kindness, patience, and forbearance that doesn’t shatter as soon as someone sits near you and chews with their mouth open.

Peace, ultimately, comes from within ourselves. Especially the sort of peace that grows.

It’s said that what we hate most in others are things we hate about ourselves, and it’s a fact that most western people, when they try to do metta meditation, and have to start with genuinely wishing themselves happiness and freedom from suffering, have trouble doing it. We harbor a lot of self-loathing.

The advice is to start with someone easy, like your best friend, or your mentor, your lover, someone that your heart can embrace without any selfishness and wish for their happiness and their freedom from suffering. And then eventually work your way around to yourself. Some people find wishing themselves happiness even harder than wishing the “difficult person” happiness — someone you don’t like very much, but not necessarily someone you hate or someone who’s abused you, because dealing with those people is fairly advanced and you’d ideally want to not be alone in your practice when working with something so hard.

I realized that these things and people who are fraying away from me need, more than anything, a great deal of love and kindness — both toward them and toward myself — to loosen the attachments and let them go, and heal what’s left behind.

The image that I had was of uprooted trees, or partly uprooted trees. And i knew it would not harm them to finish uprooting them, to work from the bottom and fill in the soil with lovingkindness and gently push the trees out of the ground, instead of pulling from the top and ripping them out. With an intact root system, they can grow somewhere else. And I’m not left full of pieces of other people, inside my soulscape, with land that does not return to itself the way soil and plant matter does here without any human intervention. There are microbes and worms and plenty of other things that do that, largely invisibly. But I’m not full of helpful things tilling and aerating me until I’m full of rich black earth, ready to be filled with a garden.

I have to do it myself.

Why me?

I’m babysitting my best friend’s body while most of the rest of him is involved in an extremely taxing, very long ordeal. This is convenient, as I’ve been mostly-homeless since the beginning of the year.

A few days before it began on the equinox, Freyr visited him while he was meditating. Neither of us are very surprised when people show up, but he is one of Loki’s sons and is more accustomed to having extended family drop in. Freyr told him to tell me, in essence, to pay attention because I was so lost in my misery that his attempts at getting my attention weren’t working.

Well, yes. That got my attention. I couldn’t imagine what he wanted. I’ve always thought of myself as nothing, a nobody, someone who is at best an assistant and otherwise overlooked. I am the people dressed in solid black during plays that you’re meant to ignore as they rearrange things in the background. I am good at that job. Why else would I be sitting here next to Brand’s sleeping body, particularly in lieu of anyone else you’d assume would take the job, such as a lover?

Also, I’m a Buddhist. This isn’t my religion. I’ve just been tugged into it sideways because Brand’s everything tends to be enveloping, and I’m a very sensitive empath and sensitive to otherworldly things, and Loki is chatty, and… really, I just thought of all of it as interacting with my best friend’s family.

His father talks to me from time to time. Today it was to tell me in part to stop being terrified of Freyr — of intimacy (insert 10,000 words about the ways my heart has been twisted and broken in the last seven months) and of being one of those people who, with no prior experience with a god, suddenly announce that said god is interested in them — and to reassure me at length that he had never left Brand since all of it started, and that Brand would be all right.

He told me that despite the nearly-overpowering radiation of LIKE, Freyr was the gentlest person he knew, no doubt knew all about my PTSD and trauma about relationships and sex and how afraid I am of even entertaining the idea of being near anyone, and all of the rest of it, and would never do anything, or, and this may have been the most important part, would never make sad eyes at you or lay guilt trips on you because of it.

He suggested that rather than spend my trip home from the dentist reading or reciting mantras (my default subway activities), I talk to Freyr. Suggested rather strongly.

So I did, for a little while. I had a headache from the dentist. I asked why me?, and after why not you? clarified, no, a real answer. I need a real answer.

He said that I was gentle and kind, regardless of how many times and ways that I am hurt. He said that I was beautiful. He said that I was very strong despite being very wounded.

(And then I was distracted by getting to the train station and getting on the train.)

When we resumed, I was looking for something to listen to so that I could tune out some of the subway noise and ended up deciding to listen to a talk on maitri instead, with the intention to talking after I’d gotten home, eaten, looked after Brand, etc.

When it started playing, he gave me a look.

Maitri or Metta is a loving-kindness practice/meditation. It’s quite simple but very challenging. You work on earnestly wishing yourself, someone you feel grateful toward, a close friend, a neutral person, and someone you dislike happiness and the cause of happiness, and freedom from suffering and the cause of suffering, and then you wish the same to all sentient beings (this includes things like fruit flies and the yappy dog down the street, gods, otherworldly all sorts of things, the dead, and so on). Work on is the important phrase. Over a long period of time, it opens your heart, enables you to experience great compassion, and helps you reach a place of equanimity, which you’re simultaneously working on with your regular meditation practice.

So — largely homeless, life a mess, deeply hurt, and I’m spending forty-five minutes doing maitri instead of any of the other million ways I could’ve found to use the time.

Apparently that proves his entire point of why me.

Today’s rune was Wunjo.