Facing and Celebrating Life’s Challenges and Joys
by Jacquelyn Strickland, LPC
Despite that life is at times difficult, we know it can also be incredibly rich and wonderful. There are two things I’ve learned that may help with embracing both the difficult and the wonderful parts of life. They are “maitri” (pronounced “my tree”) and “tonglen meditation.” Both concepts come from the Buddhist faith and I learned them several years ago from a video called Good Medicine featuring Pema Chödrön, a spiritual teacher extraordinaire and a Buddhist nun.
The first concept is “maitri” which translates to unconditional acceptance, compassion and friendship with oneself.
The idea is to create a deeply intimate relationship with our own experiences, whether that is pain OR joy.
Maitri would ask us to begin to allow the fullest range of emotions associated with our experiences into our consciousness.
For example, Chödrön sees the human condition as similar to the many weather patterns that may exist all within one day. In our minds, our experiences can create, or remember, moods similar to turbulent oceans, tornadoes, windy skies, or rain. To the contrary, our minds can also create moods which soothe us like spring time flowers, sunny summer days, or placid lakes into which we can see deeply. Maitri encourages us to embrace all of these experiences.
Using tonglen meditation, (pronounced tong-len,) we can begin the practice of maitri. This encourages us to not run from pain, but to experience compassion for all suffering in the world or in ourselves.
There are several levels to tonglen meditation. For purposes of this issue of HSP Highlights & Insights, I’ve created, combined and adapted maitri and tonglen into the following meditation which I am calling A Buddhist Maitri Meditation. Its purpose is to help you begin what can be extraordinary relationship with all your experiences, and to learn to value both the joyous as well as challenging experiences which life presents to you.