Near Enemies (Meditation Series Part VI) Mon, Aug 24, 2015
As promised, this is a follow-up to the Loving-Kindness Meditation introduction that I posted at the beginning of the week. It's all good and well to say, "Go forth and start lovingly accepting people for who they are," but what are some concrete steps to do that? To start, I'd like to go over a couple stumbling points that many people encounter. The first obstacle is often referred to as "near enemies." A near enemy is an attitude that superficially appears similar to a form of love or kindness, but is in fact antagonistic (opposite). Many beginners are simply told to start developing loving-kindness without direction, and so often fall prey to these near enemies. The second obstacle is something I personally call "overshots" because they are mindsets that overshoot the concepts we're aiming for and take them to an unhealthy extreme. There are four "sublime attitudes" that we'll reach for during Loving Kindness Meditation. Here they are, along with their respective overshots and near enemies:
1. Friendliness (Love, Loving-Kindness) - The desire for others to be happy. Frequently, our reaction to the happiness of others is envy and disdain, as though their happiness comes at the expense of our own. Friendliness involves drawing closer to those in a positive state of mind, so that we may share in their happiness. The overshot of Friendliness is becoming clingy or dependent, relying too heavily on others while neglecting your own happiness. The near enemy is self-interested or conditional love, where you give love with an expectation of self-gain.
2. Compassion - The desire that others be free from suffering. We often turn away from the suffering of strangers, closing our hearts to their pain. Compassion involves the understanding that others are in pain, along with a strong desire to alleviate that pain. The overshot is sentimentality or excessive emotion, which cripples you and prevents you from taking positive action. The near enemy is pity, which places others in an inferior position in your mind.
3. Appreciative Joy - Taking enjoyment in the virtues and successes of others. When we see others that are virtuous or successful, we often feel ashamed or inferior. This arises from an unhealthy place of competition and pride, desiring to be above others. Try to overcome this reaction and instead connect with these people, uplifting yourself. The overshot is vicariousness, where you grasp at the virtues of others out of a sense of lack. The near enemy is hypocrisy, where you encourage virtue in others but ignore it yourself.
4. Equanimity - Seeing all beings as kin, without holding others distant. Avoid cultivating an attitude of judgment and condemnation that limits you and prevents you from helping others overcome their unfavorable habits. The overshot is detachment, where you ignore the flaws and afflictions of others. The near enemy is apathy, where you have no preferences or principles.
That's a lot of stuff to read, so feel free to ask me any questions you have!