I feel like I'm slowly pulling myself back towards practice -- sitting, writing. Last night during sanzen Hogen reminded me of doing Metta practice for myself when I was talking to him about my Mom. He said to avoid the spiraling grief, as a way anchor myself to positive practice, I needed to focus on doing Metta for myself, most importantly myself.
I had done Metta in desperation the last time my mind stumbled across horrible realization during zazen. I'd been amazed at how well I could stay with myself that time. It had been the first time I was able to do Metta for myself and it made me feel like I could stay on my cushion, not break down crying, screaming or running.
Hogen talked about there being the well of universal grief, all of us share parts in it. Whenever we experience the many sorrows of our human lives we are part of that grief. I can very easily turn towards all of that grief, focus my energy on generating compassion to all the people suffering. Turning away from my own suffering, refusing to face it. In doing so I do not offer the same love and compassion to myself that I easily can offer to others.
He brought me back to the instruction of loving-kindness for myself. That I must learn how to do this practice, whatever it takes. Start by focusing my energy on someone I genuinely love, really touch that love and then switch that energy to my face. Laughing he said even if I had to imagine the most adorable puppy ever, then put a photograph of my face on the puppy's head. Or the sweetest kitten, "With Sherri's nose ring!" he said.
Even I had to laugh at Hogen coming up with the image of a fuzzy kitten with my nose ring. He urged me to think of this, to find some way to make myself recipient of the love and compassion I so easy turn outwards. That he said is how I need to practice with the grief, to keep working with the awful intensity of it that just seems to keep building up.