When we forget who we actually are, we tend to become isolated & imprisoned in claustrophobic self-concern. All our relationships - with ourselves, others, nature, every aspect of life - are distorted, resulting in a vague, lingering dissatisfaction with life all the way to the absolute depths of human suffering ('dark night of the soul'). When we live in direct contradiction to who we fundamentally are, we're 'fish out of water,' flopping around on the ground. Without awareness of & living in harmony with our true nature, we're fish trying desperately to feel at home, happy & fulfilled on dry land.
Our true nature, according to wisdom traditions, is spacious, grounded loving awareness. To achieve some clarity about who we are and thus resume healthy, normal relationships, we need to open our heart-mind. Metta and seed of metta practices are key:
“The Buddha identified loving-kindness – metta – as one of the essential qualities of heart that carries us to awakening. He encouraged his disciples to develop it and extend its healing blessing to all beings universally. He taught in the Metta Sutta: ‘Even as a mother protects her life, her child, her only child, so with a boundless heart should one cherish all living beings.’ This might seem impossible, but the Buddha is showing us the direction, and revealing the boundless treasure hidden in our own heart. We cultivate this large-hearted attitude, little by little, patiently and persistently. We can notice when we are touched by someone and naturally wish them well; be interested in that feeling of kindness and expand it to include ourselves and others – those we like, the one’s we’re neutral about, and even beings we dislike. This takes practice, but when we remember how important loving-kindness is for healing ourselves and the world, we’ll find the energy arrives. Actually, all living beings are our brothers and sisters in birth and death. We all suffer and wish to leave it behind. Reflecting on this, we don’t do to others what we don’t want them to do to us. An important premise for this practice is the principle: to others as to oneself.
Our teacher Ajahn Sumedho taught us that the seed of metta is the attitude of non-contention, non-fighting, the willingness to allow things to be as they are and welcome them into our hearts. Sometimes if we try and convince ourselves we love everyone, it just feels false, or we end up in denial about all the reactions of resentment and aversion that regularly assail the heart. On the other hand, when we practice this friendly intention with all our thoughts, sensations, and moods – pleasant and unpleasant, beautiful and ugly – we find ourselves in an openhearted abiding that is not disturbed by anything. Whatever is bothering us, we welcome that too, just as it is, with an attitude of not-fighting, not harboring ill will. I’m very grateful to have been taught a gateway into this practice that is accessible.”
Kittisaro & Thanissara. "Listening to the Heart. A Contemplative Journey to Engaged Buddhism." North Atlantic Books, 2014. * an exceptionally valuable book *