Practicing Loving Kindness

1 Oct

I woke up this morning in pain. I was tired and my body hurt after a night of many sleeping stops and starts from Jack and waking up to help Kim in the middle of the night. My emotions were frayed at the edges as I struggled to put on a good face for my family but had a hard time finding my smile. Spiritually I felt adrift.

Kim and I have a mantra for days like this. We came up with it within hours of her diagnosis: “The future is filled with fear, and the past with regret but this is a beautiful moment.” But what if it doesn’t feel like a beautiful moment? That can happen if I just let the moment “happen” to me. Some of them will be amazing and full of wonder and others will be brutal and painful – so how does staying “in the moment” actually help me? It turns out there is no such thing as the moment. You and I can share an experience and our memories and feelings of that time together can be completely different. Moreover, we can choose a perspective or lens to witness our lives through that is a product of our fear, anger, impatience, compassion, appreciation or love. We get to choose.

Imagine yourself in line at the grocery store. You tried to squeeze in grabbing a few items that you need for dinner that night before you pick up your dry cleaning and you know you are cutting it close before the dry cleaners closes for the night. You arrived in line just after a woman with a full cart and even though you only have a few items she did not offer for you to go ahead of her – in fact she completely ignored you. She doesn’t have her coupons ready, there is a question about one of her items and the red light above the cash register goes off signaling the manager to come over and she takes forever to write her check. What will you choose as your lens for that moment? I know for me I tend to become very focused on how things are not going my way, and I might even have some very unkind thoughts about that woman for not being more thoughtful or attentive. As a mean non sequitur I might even judge her for the junk food in her cart.

I could, of course, tell myself a different story. She could be distracted because her 3 year old kept her up half the night, she might have just gotten some life changing news that has rocked her and she is bravely moving forward – doing the shopping her family depends on and refusing to give in to the fear of what will come next for her. She may be the loveliest person anyone would hope to meet but today she is not at her best, today more than ever she needs the world to cut her a break. Even better, I would not need to imagine her life has fallen apart to be kind – I could just decide to embrace that extra moment of peace in my life and let it be, without judgment, without suffering.

Moments are textured and multidimensional. Living in the moment is an active, not a passive practice. If I am going to live in the moment then why not live in the best moment I can conjure? I need to manifest the moment, and as I spun these ideas around in my head this morning I was reminded of a meditation that Kim taught me years ago. The Metta Bhavana is intended to practice loving kindness and I am drawn to it because it helps me set an intention for my lens. If you’re not familiar with the Metta Bhavana I found this description by Jack Kornfield to be a nice primer. Essentially it is a meditation of practicing loving kindness towards yourself, a close friend, an acquaintance, someone who makes your life difficult, all four of them equally, and eventually the universe. I finished that meditation this morning and was immediately overcome with a renewed sense of purpose and energy. I reemerged from the back room with these three thoughts as my sacred intention for the day:

  1. Today, I will go to the gym and play as hard as I can, not only for myself, but for those who cannot run, jump and lift – to honor that blessing in my life.
  2. Today, I will work hard and make a difference in my job, not only for me and my colleagues, but for those who have not found their calling – to honor that blessing in my life.
  3. Today, I will love my family with all my heart, not only for me and my home, but for those that are alone or find themselves estranged from the ones they love – to honor that blessing in my life.

It is not enough for me to let the moments of my life happen to me and then scramble to give them a loving or compassionate meaning. A sacred intention for my day sets my lens for all that happens next. For me, particularly when I wake up in pain, it has made all the difference. There are many things about my life I wish were different  and they cause me pain and anger and they make me sad to the depths of my soul – but I am also incredible blessed and in this moment I choose to buoy my spirit and serve others by honoring those blessings. It is one very practical way I banish fear for Kim, and for myself.

~ John

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11 Responses to “Practicing Loving Kindness”

  1. Nancy Johnson October 1, 2012 at 9:29 pm #

    John, Bless your heart. Thanks for sharing. I would be so willing to do anything I can to help your family. I’m retired and have a lot of time on my hands. I’ve met you through the pool at the Center for Exercise and the Origami paper folding……I could run errands, do grocery shopping, anything. One suggestion I have is to use Benchmark Dry Cleaning at your door. They pick up and deliver twice a week! They’ll come and install a strong hook someplace on the outside of your house, out of the rain, etc. Actually, we have a touch pad on our garage door and when raining, they put delivery inside of garage. Their # is 927-2484. I’ve priced them with other facilities and they are right in line. The delivery/pick up is a bonus. Hope that helps a little. Feel free to call on me for anything else. I’m the one that gave you the crane necklace catalog.

  2. Diana Peer October 1, 2012 at 9:38 pm #

    Thank you for sharing this journey and your story. It always causes personal reflection and inspires me.

  3. Holly Enichen October 1, 2012 at 10:07 pm #

    Your words are so strong and I will try to use your insight in my life . Kim has found a match in you, and I like to think of Jack as a lucky boy to have such incredible parents. Thank you for sharing your hard won knowledge with those of us who need inspiration.

  4. Claudia October 2, 2012 at 6:52 am #

    John,
    I just love that you are sharing so much of your life. Your post this morning has helped me. The idea of fine tuning the lens of how we see our moments is perfect, because it is a lens. Even physically, humans see things differently from other species just because of how are eyes are designed. Thank you for sharing. Really. I will use your thoughts to fine tune my moments. Much love to you, Kim and Jack

  5. marie p. witzel October 2, 2012 at 7:52 am #

    Thank you John for the strength you give to all of us as we humbly offer our love to your dear family. granny

  6. Jayne Jackson October 2, 2012 at 11:29 am #

    This is beautiful John. Thank you for this gentle reminder to live fully and joyfully in the present moment. I’m not sure if you know, but I am in a challenging and unpredictable time in my life. Living in an attitude of gratitude while remaining positive has been quite a struggle for me the last several months. The scars of the past creep in on a daily basis and while I try to work through them, the grief, fear and anxiety will sometimes overwhelm my senses. To ease my anxiety, I fill my day with positive quotes and readings including “Kim’s Journey” blog. Again, these are gentle reminders that life is incredible and amazing…it’s entirely perspective.
    Often times you and Kim are in my thoughts and I know that if you guys can remain joy filled, than certainly I can! Blessings to you, Kim, your family, and all those who care for your family.

  7. Lisa October 2, 2012 at 12:27 pm #

    I think about intent everyday and love what you have given me to think about in my own struggles. I carry all of you in my heart everyday and am filled with gratitude for each of you. Blessings.

  8. Sage Bramhall October 2, 2012 at 7:22 pm #

    As tears came to my eyes, many people, moments, and thoughts flashed through my eyes as I read this piece. I have been working very hard on living in the moment. Those words alone have become my current Montra. Being familiar with Jack Kornfields work, I was speechless as you made me rethink … in the moment to in the moment we choose to create.

    I have been working with my 13 year old God-Son, who spends the better part of his day saying “but what if”…. I pull on my hair and say honey, all we have is this moment. Right now, how are we doing things, how do you feel, what can we do to reduce your anxiety or to love each other as a family RIGHT NOW. How can we enjoy the NOW.

    My head is still spinning. My husband was diagnosed with an agressive degenerative form of MS, call Primary Progessive. He is forty one years old. He has so many health problems and we have been driving ourselves into the ground for years to battle them with no answers as to why. The diagnosis came as both astounding and a relief. We had answers as to why, but now we know there is nothing we can do to treat him. There are no medical treatment of symptoms for his MS. Diet, exercise and pure determination will have to be our daily work, in the moment. He has the same type as Montel Williams. You can stay strong but it will take everything in him everyday just to get out of bed. Believe me we have already started thanking God for every moment as it is, as we know it will be and for what we have all had as a family.

    I have changed my thinking already in the last 20 minutes to “in the moment as I choose to create it.” The Law of Attraction of my own positive energy to every situation. I would hope my heart is as open and strong and patient as to know that we are all living in this crazy rat race together. I will exercise my heart to do whatever it takes for me to make every moment a moment worth remembering and that my family will begin to embrace the practice with me. As I allow God into my heart to remind me, to become the person HE would expect of me always, I WILL create “In the moment, one worth living.”

    This piece was sent to me by someone who has become a true mentor on eithics and Leadership and someone I highly respect when I told him I walk the walk annually for ALS in memory of Ardis Larson-Cole. John, thank you beyond words. I still have chills as I re-live the moment the doctor told us Robert has Primary Progressive MS. I must stay in the magical moment of another lesson learned to be in this moment and it to be the moment I choose it to be ~

    Ardis, was a dear friend, boss, mentor, personal advisor and signed her last email off to me ~ Mama Ardis. How precious to have had someone touch my life that way and then to know it ended without me even saying a proper goodbye. I knew for the first few years there would be a show at the ALS Walk to honor her name, but as the years passed only a few dedicated followers still walked or raised funds in her name. I chose to live my life for Ardis, for families and for my own family ~ IN THE MOMENT I CHOOSE EACH MOMENT TO BE for me and all those around me.

    Blessings ~

  9. Rhonda Gressett Thompson October 3, 2012 at 8:50 am #

    THANK YOU so much for this blog John!
    I discovered the Metta Bhavana when I was in my twenties. I was much better for it. I was a Ob/gyn pharma rep and would train others that when Doctors would be rude it wasn’t because they were just a-holes it could be because they just had to tell someone they miscarried, or had cervical cancer or they would not have children. I taught them to come from a place that is not about them personally. Hard to do with people fresh out of college and little life experience.
    Somehow I’ve moved away from this knowledge and find myself in reactionary mode to EVERYTHING now that I am in my forties. The sauce that burned, the marker on the wall, the person who cut me off in traffic. Thank you for bringing me back to what is important and seeing the REAL picture. Not the illusion created by inconsequential events.
    Thank you and Kimberly for your humanness and sharing your journey. Your experience affects MY family in a way that will ripple through generations if I remember to stay mindful. God Bless you three.

  10. Todd Gray | Bold Interventions October 3, 2012 at 5:36 pm #

    Truly inspirational John. May your journey through life with your wife Kim be filled with many beautiful moments. As you pointed out, it is so important to understand that we don’t know what another person is going through and not assume that they behave a certain way for reasons which we have no possible way of knowing or understanding. What a wonderful lesson you have provided us with. I’m so grateful that my friend @MySageAdvice shared this post with me via Twitter today, I’m going to share it myself. Love your light =)

  11. cheyenne cardamone-knewstub January 6, 2013 at 9:44 pm #

    Hello,
    I am a friend of Kim’s from elementary school. I have stayed in touch with Barb over the years when she was a guest at Maxies where I worked. She shared with me Kim’s diagnosis a while back.
    This is my first time reading your blog. Truly stunning, heartbreaking yet heartfilling at the same time, full of beauty and humanity. Thank you for sharing so much of your journey. I look forward to reading past posts and understanding more deeply what the experience has been of Kim’s family and community as you all live it.
    I send you and Kim, and your families much love and peace in the New Year.
    ~Cheyenne Cardamone-Knewstub
    Cheyenneck@hotmail.com

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