Saturday, July 31, 2010

Four dimensions of love

Like water, love comes in many shapes and sizes. Just as a crystal-clear mountain lake, a still forest pool, a trickling creek, and a roaring river are all composed of water, so tender emotions like kindness, compassion, joy, gratitude, forgiveness, devotion, generosity, and peace or equanimity arise in the heart and ultimately consist of love. Remember: These aren’t abstractions —they’re natural human qualities that you can learn how to cultivate and communicate to others.
Among all these tender emotions, the Buddhists emphasize the following four as the cornerstones of a happy and fulfilling life:
  • Lovingkindness: Arises spontaneously in response to the kindness of others and consists of warm, loving, caring feelings that can be deliberately increased and extended.
  • Compassion: Takes love a step further. In addition to caring about others, you also feel their suffering and naturally feel motivated to help relieve it. (The word compassion means “to suffer with.”)
  • Sympathetic joy: Is the flip side of compassion. It consists of happy feelings that arise in response to the happiness and good fortune of others.
  • Equanimity: Can be cultivated through the basic meditation practices taught in this book; also known as steadiness of heart. No matter what happens, you expand to include it without allowing it to upset or disturb you.

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