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Excerpted from Handbook for the Heart by Richard Carlson and Benjamin Shield (editors). Copyright © 1998 by Richard Carlson and Benjamin Shield. Excerpted by permission of Time Warner and Time Warner Bookmark.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.  HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com.

"If self-judgment, criticism, and self-hatred were liberating, we would all have been freed long ago."

Richard Carlson and Benjamin Shield (editors)
Handbook for the Heart
, Part 2

If self-judgment, criticism, and self-hatred were liberating, we would all have been freed long ago. I donít have anything against those mind states personally -- except that they simply don't work. Donít get me wrong; I donít have a philosophical stance that we have to love ourselves, but the fact is, love works and hatred doesn't. Self-hatred may not arise from anything in particular -- it may just be a sense of personal humiliation about the fact that we grow older, get sick or disabled, feel that we failed, get angry, or get jealous. We can easily hate, judge, and condemn, but unfortunately, it doesn't end the problems -- in some strange way, it intensifies them.

The Buddha said, "Develop a mind so filled with love, it resembles space." We use the words mind and heart synonymously; the meaning is to develop a heart so filled with love that it resembles space, which can't be marred, can't be ruined -- just as if someone were standing in a room throwing paint around in the air. There's nowhere in space for the paint to land. We can develop a mind or heart so filled with love that it's like space --boundless, open, vast, free. Any amount of paint, any irritant, any inner or outer trouble, won't land.

Recently I was in Israel teaching a forgiveness meditation. During the session, someone said he had survived a terrorist attack -- he still had some bullets in his body and was in constant pain. He said he didn't think it was possible to forgive, but he did know it was essential to learn to stop hating.

It's clear that if we don't stop hating, nobody will. It has to start with us because not only are we ourselves suffering horribly from the limitation and burning of all that anger, but the world is never going to change unless one person somewhere starts to stop hating.

We develop a loving heart by some form of meditation practice, a process distinct from reading about something or admiring it in a distant way. By meditating for even five minutes a day on a pragmatic level, so that it's not theoretical or even devotional, we can see for ourselves, "What happens when I say this phrase or do this reflection on everybody wanting to be happy? What happens when I sit down for five minutes and wish myself love and safety and peace? What happens when I think of this person I care about so much and am grateful to, or when I think of somebody I really don't like and reflect on the fact that he or she also wants to be happy?" It's an experiment.

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