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Unrestrained Friendliness

The Buddhist teacher, Sylvia Boorstein is one of my heroes. She often teaches about “loving-kindness” and how important it is to have a mind that is friendly. Indeed, she is most often smiling, and she has a charming laugh that engages people. I was in a retreat with her in January and I came away thinking, I should give everything I have to learn to be happy in the way she seems to be. It’s not a shallow external happiness, but something that seems to radiate from the core of who she is. She can laugh at herself and often tells stories on herself about how she becomes undone. The point always being that when she steps back and looks at herself, it makes her smile. “Oh darling,” she’ll say to herself “Just calm down. This too will change. Everything is going to be OK and won’t you feel silly about how fraught you let your mind become”!

She talks about having a practice of “unrestrained friendliness”. She makes it a daily practice to make eye contact and smile with people she meets casually in the course of a day; the grocery clerk, the barista, her neighbor, the woman who cuts her hair. She does not do this so that these people will feel better – she does it so she will feel better about herself. She likes being a friendly person. She says she doesn’t want to give up the real estate in her head to difficult thoughts. It never hurts to be friendly! Why not be generous with your smile?

She also has a daily practice of wishing that everyone in her family be happy. She has a list of her relatives and says them in the same order every day. May Susan be happy….may Grace be happy…may Bob… may Catherine…. May Seymour. Etc. If she gets into a tangle in her mind, she turns to this practice. She says that wishing people well is “the most fearless way to spend your time”. Amen.

The Lovingkindness (or Metta) Meditation;

“May you be free from inner and outer harm.

May you be peaceful and happy.

May you be healthy and strong.

May you live your life with ease and joy.”

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