Wednesday, September 2, 2020
Thirteenth Day of Elul 5780
The most famous commandment in the Hebrew Bible (apart from the Big Ten) is the commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). This Golden Rule is expressed in almost all religions, but we do not often consider how difficult it really is. It takes a lot of compassion to care about other people with the same intensity that you care about yourself.
So, in order to love others as you love yourself, first be willing to forgive yourself when you feel you have fallen short. Remember that it is hard. Give yourself a pat on the back for being a good friend, caring about people in need, and working to make the world a better place.
And also know this: You have to love yourself before you are able to love others. Note that the verse says, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” You can’t do it if you don’t love yourself first.
Practice for this day:
Here is a well-known exercise you can do to expand your compassion and caring for others. It’s called the “Loving-Kindness Meditation.” (Google it to find other versions).
Sit in a comfortable position. Breathe and relax. Think of a person who loves you very much. Keeping your eyes closed, imagine that person sitting in front of you sending you their love. Feel the warmth of that person’s love washing over you. Feel the happiness it brings you.
Now imagine other people who love you surrounding you. Feel them sending their love to you, too. Bathe yourself in the comfort, safety and wellbeing that their love brings.
Now remember that the person in front of you, and all the others who surround you, need and enjoy feeling your love as much as you need and enjoy feeling their love. Send your love back to them, one person at a time. Repeat this phrase over and over: “May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be free of pain.” You can say the words out loud or in your mind.
After you’ve done this practice thinking about people you love, expand it to imagine other people you know, but with whom you do not have a loving relationship. Repeat for them the same three wishes for their happiness, health and comfort. Notice how it feels to do this.
Finally, expand the practice again by imagining the whole world and all living creatures. Repeat the same three wishes for the whole world. Notice how this feels and how your body and mind respond to it. Write down your impressions of the experience.