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Relinquishing attack; extending love

[Please note: ACIM passages quoted in this article reference the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP) Edition.]

Robert and I have been doing Workbook class recordings together and, like him, I have been struck by the recent series of lessons about anger and attack. I’m deeply attracted to the idea that the only way to experience real happiness and peace is to give up all attack. Therefore, I’ve spent many days over the years practicing Lesson 23, “I can escape from the world I see by giving up attack thoughts,” as well as these favorite lines from the Text: “Safety is the complete relinquishment of attack. No compromise is possible in this” (T-6.III.3:7-8). I won’t pretend that I’ve given up attack — in fact, these practices make me realize just how many attack thoughts I really have — but these lines have always had a positive effect on me.

Meanwhile, I’ve also been reading an excellent book by a Buddhist monk named Matthieu Ricard, entitled Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life’s Most Important Skill. The title says it all; the book is all about how to cultivate happiness through spiritual practice (mainly from a Buddhist perspective). Since in Ricard’s view an essential means of finding true happiness is loving and helping others, one of the practices he recommends is the Buddhist practice of lovingkindness meditation. In this form of meditation, you sit quietly and offer compassion to all beings by dwelling on and extending thoughts like “May all beings be free of suffering.”

It occurred to me that this practice is really the flip side of the “relinquishing attack” practices I had been doing. Relinquishing attack naturally goes together with extending love. So, I decided to combine these two ideas into a single practice.

Now, I’m beginning practice periods by repeating the Course lines about giving up attack, applying them to specific people and situations. Then, I’ll move into a Course version of lovingkindness meditation. There are lots of Course practices that fit this description; the one I’m using right now is from Lesson 108, “To give and to receive are one in truth.” In this lesson’s practice, you extend spiritual gifts to others, using lines such as “To everyone I offer quietness,” “To everyone I offer peace of mind,” and “To everyone I offer gentleness.” You can also offer these gifts to a specific person, with the understanding that this person represents everyone. Through extending these gifts, you experience them returning to bless you, and thus learn that “to give and to receive are one in truth.”

I’ve only been doing this combo practice for a few days now, but so far the results have been promising. As I’m doing these practice periods and trying to apply these ideas throughout the day, I’m at least experiencing tastes of what it’s like to relinquish attack, and my compassion for others does seem to be growing. It feels good. What would it feel like to be completely free of attack, and to be filled with compassionate love for all beings? I have a ways to go to experience that, but I’m very happy to at least be going in the right direction.