There’s nothing like a little loving kindness meditation to bring all your really nasty thoughts into sharp relief. I recently did a meditation that moves from offering loving kindness first to yourself—may I be happy, may I be well, may I find peace—then to someone you love, someone you feel neutral toward, and finally someone you don’t particularly like. Then I went out into the world and watched all these instant and cruel judgments about others flash through my mind.
For example, I was leaving church (seriously), and someone with what I considered to be an offensive bumper sticker cut me off on the way out of the parking lot. The thought that went through my head was at least as hateful as the bumper sticker.
I’ve known for a while that I am, to borrow a colleague’s phrase, a judging machine, but I don’t usually feel the spite attached to these thousand small opinions I form about others. Unfortunately, it is most certainly there.
The idea that world peace starts in our own hearts suddenly became very concrete. If I can condemn someone based on a bumper sticker—or the shoes they’re wearing or what I think I hear them whisper to their daughter in the pew in front of me—what are the odds that whole nations of people like me with the added difficulty of trying to bridge cultural differences are not going to kill each other to get resources?
There is a bright side, though: I saw those thoughts and knew they were thoughts, not truth. I can’t eradicate them, but I can continue to watch them and let them go. They won’t disappear, overnight, but with time, they may quiet down a bit.
If anything’s worth practicing, surely this is it. May you be happy. May you be well. May you find peace.