This week we were introduced to Loving Kindness practice and had an essential introduction to its origins from the time of Buddha. He sent a group of monks into a forest which was filled with tree spirits and they resented the monks’ presence so they tried to drive them away by appearing in horrible visions. The monks were so frightened they ran away and asked Buddha to send them to another place to meditate. Buddha said he would send them back to the same forest, but he would provide them with the only protection they would need. This teaching was his first on Loving Kindness, as an antidote to fear. The monks returned to the forest and the spirits were so moved by the monks’ practice that instead of trying to harm them, they helped them in any way they could. The simplicity of this practice was to wish happiness and well-being towards the spirits – ‘may you be happy, may you be well’.
We may not find ourselves amongst tree spirits, but we can relate to how the logic works. Our first practice was a short, guided practice which was focussed on ourselves. Far from being selfish, if we can learn to be more loving, understanding and forgiving towards ourselves, this will have a ripple effect on those around us too.