So last night I did a short ‘loving kindness’ meditation. I’ve found this American radio show called On Being and am a bit hooked on all the stuff about human spirit and curiosity. Well, that’s my take on it, the producers might put it differently. They have some really great talks and I came across this meditation. And as a non-meditator (is that a word?) I thought I’d give it a go.
In these last few weeks I’ve been alone a lot – a LOT – here in Berlin. It’s good. I’ve both reached out to a world I don’t know at all and, at the same time, I’ve retreated. (Do you remember ‘retreats’ in school? Or were they particular to the Irish Catholic secondary school system? I’m sure there were some well-meaning people hosting those retreats, but I don’t remember ever feeling more in touch with any kind of spirituality as a result of them.) Anyway. Here I am in Berlin – contentedly retreating and reaching out.
There are so many ways to be unhappy. I’ve felt the hollow gut, the bleak and empty universe extending out forever, right there in my solar plexus. I’ve wondered why my throat tightens so often and why I feel things … so much. And no matter how much you tell yourself that feeling the sadness means you feel the happiness all the more, it doesn’t help when your bones have dried to husks and your soul is being blown away.
There is a truth there too though. I feel happiness easily. A shaft of light under my feet as I walk or the sudden sound of birds chittering when I can’t even see them or people holding hands behind a fogged up window. I’m lucky. The emptiness doesn’t often appear.
Last night the meditation was not only about finding contentment, ease and strength for yourself; it was about wishing those things to others with a smile on your face. Blessing them with your good intentions.
Today, as I walked the snowy streets, a man spoke to me. He reminded me of my great-uncle Denny, who wore a trilby and died one Sunday when I was about ten. The man had a walker and spoke to me as I walked past, and I didn’t understand a word. I do speak German, a bit anyway, but I literally didn’t understand one word. So I stopped and apologised and he asked me what language I speak. Irish, I said, and English. And he looked off over the rooftops, this Denny-man, and then his face split open with a grin and his lungs opened wide and his voice swelled up and he said God bless you! And then he laughed and bellowed Have a wonderful day! And suddenly we were both laughing, grinning our heads off at each other in the snow.
Happy. Blessing each other with our good intentions. Isn’t that what it’s all about?