Although I am not a Buddhist, I seek wisdom wherever I can find it and Buddhism has many frameworks that I find really helpful. One of them is the “Four Brahmaviharas.” Pronounced bra-ma vih-har-ahs. These are four states of mind that can help us with our lives: lovingkindness, compassion, appreciative joy, and equanimity.
I came upon these after my last four-day trip into the wilderness. Immediately upon getting on the highway on my trip home my mind took on anger. It was the anger I felt about the state of our country, which I want to be less polarized. I knew that anger was not a resource, especially for considering anything I might want to do. Further, it felt awful. So, I went looking for assistance and that’s when I found the Four Brahmaviharas. The source was a speech given by Buddhist nun, Ayya Santussika.
She explained how choosing to engage in anything can be undermined by the state of mind you bring to it and went on to unpack each of the Four Brahmaviharas, showing how they can be cultivated. I found it extremely helpful.
Someone in her audience asked what to do if they were engaged in compassionate work and became overcome with sorrow. Ayya explained that this is an indication that you need lovingkindness, healing. I found that especially helpful and was able to trace my anger to some of my own issues and spend some time with that. That helped enormously and then I went back to the lecture to learn more.
Over the last few weeks, I have practiced these states. I take the time to cultivate them when they are present. I am a long way from saying that I have achieved any kind of progress here, but I really appreciate the framework. Just beginning, starting, has been a giant step forward for me.
What wisdom tradition might you draw on in the week ahead to help you?
“The seat of the soul is there, where the outer and inner worlds meet.”
– Joseph Campbell