/ / Week 643: Tracking Projections and Lovingkindness
Weekly Practice in Conscious Living

Week 643: Tracking Projections and Lovingkindness

One of the things that our brains seem to do, usually without our conscious awareness, is to project our fears, shame, discomfort, beliefs, and maps of reality onto others. Think of the last time you assigned a motive to someone’s actions only to discover that you were completely off base about what you thought was going on with them. It’s a natural human tendency to do this and we aren’t really taught to pay attention to it. The unfortunate thing is how often we act on our projections before checking them out.

As we watch the current political process unfold in the United States, we are having a front row seat to the dynamics of projection on every side. Assumptions fly all around us, as a collective, and we don’t tend to ask ourselves if perhaps we’re projecting some of our own mixed feelings or unresolved issues onto other people. The problem with projection is that it tends to generate a vivid sense of the “other”, and we generally think of the “other” as not as good as we are, maybe even not as human, not as deserving of respect.

One of the ways I have used to help myself track my projections, or at least to assume they are happening, has been to practice Lovingkindness, or Metta. It’s a Buddhist practice, but using it doesn’t require you to adhere to Buddhist beliefs. A key element in Lovingkindness is the understanding that all beings want to be happy and that all beings want to be free from pain and suffering.

When practicing Lovingkindness, you first begin with yourself, then move on to loved ones, then friends and acquaintances, then to people you will never know, and then to people who have harmed you. That’s usually the most challenging—to wish people who have harmed you happiness and freedom from suffering. It’s a powerful practice to support a sense of our interrelatedness and interbeing, even though it can be truly difficult to open our hearts to those with whom we vehemently disagree and those who have hurt us.

I’ve written here before about Lovingkindness, and there are a number of different versions of the statements one can use in this practice. Here is one that’s simple and basic, but I encourage you to look on-line and find versions that particularly resonate with you. I’ve taken it from my books, Sacred Practices for Conscious LIving:

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Lovingkindness Practice:

Begin with stillness – in the still point in the gap between the out-breath and the next in- breath.

Focus on your heart space and find the sacred space within the heart a cave, chamber, whatever comes to mind – Settle in there

Think about yourself for a moment, and explore your experience as you offer yourself lovingkindness with the following words, which you can repeat to yourself mentally or out loud:

May I be free from the causes of suffering.
May I live with compassion for myself.
May I experience happiness and well-being.

Now, think of all the people you love, everyone who is close to you. – Repeat the following words mentally or out loud:

May all those I love be free from the causes of suffering.
May I live with compassion for all those I love and may they live with compassion for themselves.
May all those I love experience happiness and well-being.

Now, think of all the people you know—acquaintances, colleagues, store clerks—or those people you have ever seen, anywhere and everywhere in the world. Repeat the following words, mentally or out loud, noticing what it’s like to make the conscious choice to open your heart to the fact that everyone you know wishes to be free from suffering and be happy:

May everyone I know or have ever seen be free from the causes of suffering.
May I live with compassion for everyone I know or have ever seen and may they live with compassion for themselves.
May everyone I know or have ever seen experience happiness and well-being.

Now, imagine everyone in the world you do not know and have never seen, and mentally or verbally repeat the following statements. Notice how your heart space must expand to include the billions of people you have never seen or met:

May everyone I do not know or have never seen be free from the causes of suffering.
May I live with compassion for everyone I do not know or have never seen and may they live with compassion for themselves.
May everyone I do not know or have never seen experience happiness and well-being.

Bring to mind, now, anyone who has ever hurt you in any way, remembering, as well, all those people you may have hurt. Then, continuing to expand your heart space and allowing any mixed feelings that may arise, say the following, mentally or out loud:

May anyone who has ever hurt me be free from the causes of suffering.
May I live with compassion for anyone who has ever hurt me and may they live with compassion for themselves.
May anyone who has ever hurt me experience happiness and well- being.

Next, imagine all the living beings of the earth—animals, insects, birds, fish, plants, rocks, viruses, bacteria—every single life form on the earth, visible and invisible:

May all beings be free from the causes of suffering.
May I live with compassion for all beings.
May all beings experience happiness and well- being.

Now, take a moment to imagine that not only do you send lovingkindness to all beings, but that you also are the recipient of lovingkindness thoughts being sent to you by the many people who engage in lovingkindness meditations around the world:

May I receive lovingkindness from others.
May I be free from the causes of suffering.
May I live with compassion for myself.
May I experience happiness and well-being.
May I receive lovingkindness from others.

Notice what it feels like to spend some time in your open heart experiencing the effects of both sending and receiving lovingkindness. Go back to the stillness, the ever-present stillness and review your experience. Imagine how practicing lovingkindness, if you don’t already, might affect the quality of your daily life, and your relationship with yourself and others.

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As with all these experiments, be sure to bring along curiosity as your constant companion, rather than judgment, as there’s nothing to be gained if you criticize yourself for the spontaneous responses that arise within you. The opportunity at this time in our history is to deepen our sense of interconnection and allow ourselves to become more conscious of how we move through our world, of the moment-to- moment choices available to us at every point along the way.

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