Finishing up the book, “Love Your Enemies” (Salzberg and Thurman) they provide some “at home” meditation practices. Since I’ve taken several meditation courses and practice daily, the loving kindness/compassion meditations were no stranger to me. The idea that you wish well everyone, including those that you don’t like, is actually very effective in cultivating compassion and getting over a lot of unresolved anger and bitterness- the poison to your soul.
But one of the meditations the authors recommended in this book, while similar to the “I pray that ___ receives all he/she wants in life, including the experience of inner peace, joy, and unconditional love” thing I’ve been doing, had a drastic difference in that it required me to see my “enemy” as my “partner”, my teammate, and someone “winning the battle with me”.
It’s hard to change our image of someone we’ve determined to be an enemy into genuinely believing they are an ally. And maybe this isn’t something that can be applied universally…I don’t know… but you never know until you try! So I tried.
The idea was to open your mind just enough to consider that your enemy sees you just as horribly as you see them, and then see yourself just as they see you. I know my ex-husband saw me as a controlling, selfish, bitch. He said I was manipulative, judgmental, and crazy. Of course I didn’t want to see myself as that kind of person! Me? Nooooo… All of those horrible things? But seriously… why not just try it? So I did.
Ok.. So here I am, standing in front of him (this is in my imagination) and I’m a manipulative, judgmental, crazy, controlling selfish bitch. Ugh… I don’t want to be anywhere near this person. I can’t talk to her, I can’t share my feelings. I don’t feel safe, and I want to be defensive with everything she says and does. I want to give her the cold shoulder or maybe just pretend she doesn’t exist! I can feel my bitterness and anger toward her grow. She talks of love and forgiveness, but she’s so bitchy and crazy! I hate her!
Ok…now step out of that. How did it feel? How does this person feel whenever they think of you or see you?
It felt horrible! I am not that person!
Great! Now think how the other person feels when you put ALL of your judgments and opinions about them on them. Even if you don’t say it out loud, even if you think you can fake your way to a “pleasant” encounter with them, your feelings about that person pour out of you through your attitude and behavior even if you don’t think they do.
Can you now try and paint a positive picture of them in your mind? Can you? Just for pretend. Just for fun. Try. Try to see them as being extremely happy, full of joy, and having all the things they want in life, a new lover, a new child, a new home, maybe even having tons of money and going on really awesome vacations with their new family… (oh…I can feel my heart sinking already…)
As Salzberg and Thurman put it, “if you’re really daring, imagine your enemy winning the battle with you, imagine your enemy being happy to see you!”
Yes…the natural instinct/reaction for me was a defiant “NO!”
But keep in mind, this is all just pretend. You are safe. You can pretend…
Ok…So I did…
The end result… magic.
Salzberg and Thurman state, “in visualizing yourself from the enemy’s perspective, you start to see that what makes you vulnerable to your enemies is your SENSE of being fundamentally different from them…When you truly grasp that it is the projection of your own hurt and anger and fear that turns someone into your enemy, it releases the energy you previously invested in defending yourself and your ego.”
It took a bit of creativity and imagination to paint my ex as my co-partner in winning the battle. I had to think of ways in which we were winning together. Where in this life were we partners, happy, successful, and united?
I came to realize that even if the marriage didn’t work out, and even if he never loved me, he and I are the Mommy and Daddy of our baby, literally, FOREVER. We, together, created this magnificent, amazing, miracle. Not only did we create this miracle together, but we are also on the path together to raise him to the best of our abilities. We can make it a pleasant path or a miserable path, and we, together, get to make that decision (the battle!) The commonality may not be the “method” or “beliefs” about what is the best way to raise our baby, but the hope and intentions for making the best life for him are the same. The hope and intentions for making the best life for ourselves as well, is the same. We also partnered up in the marriage, and we now have the same path in life moving forward: both of us have to navigate our future lives, fill our lives with joy, peace, and love. How we go about that might be different, but we are technically on the same boat. So why do I need to get in his way as he navigates his path? And why should I allow him to get in my way?
It’s tempting to hold things against him, the betrayal, the abuse, and hostility. I could hold that story and keep it with me as I move forward on this journey. But why would I do that? What purpose does it serve? How does that benefit me? What joy does it give me? How does it serve my baby and his future? It doesn’t. So let it go already. Let the story go and re-write it into a heroic wonderful ending.
The more I see him as this “partner”, the more I grow to truly love (i.e., accept and respect) him, and genuinely hope, from the bottom of my heart, that he finds all the happiness he can get on his journey. Instead of spending my precious energy feeling bummed that the relationship didn’t turn out the way I had expected, I can spend that energy resolving my personal feelings of anger, fear, and jealousy. How amazing and empowering it is to be able to transform that negative feeling into one of support, compassion, and cooperation.
Yeah, I didn’t get what I want. That’s life. How long do you want to spend bitching and moaning about that? Transforming all that sadness into something so much more powerful and wonderful is where we BOTH come out a winner. As Salzberg and Thurman put it, “now that enemy you so disliked becomes your ally: your teacher, your helper, even – dare I say it – your friend.
He may never know about any of this, but the good news is, it doesn’t matter. The next time you have an encounter, you can be positive knowing that the energy radiating out of you toward him is that of loving kindness, cooperation, support, compassion, and good will.
And the next time you have a slight feeling of negativity creep up, continue to practice this meditation. Because the fact of the matter is, we’re all just walking each other home.