This morning I saw white crocuses coming up in my neighbor’s yard. For me, crocuses are the harbinger of spring, regardless of whether the groundhog saw his shadow or not. When I see their tiny delicate flowers hanging on even more delicate stems, I have faith that the warm weather is on its way, even as I step through mounds of dirty snow.
This fall, just at the last moment before the frost, I quickly planted a bunch of tulip bulbs all around our front yard. I am very excited to see where they come up, which colors are where, and to enjoy seeing the flowers, hopefully sometime late March or April. Although I planted the bulbs at the right time, and did everything to create the conditions for beautiful flowers to grow and bloom, I really don’t know whether they will come up or not, or what they will look like. I’m sure that they won’t come up in the exact way that I want or expect them to, and perhaps some won’t even flower. The soil and weather conditions, over which I have little or no control, may not be right for the tulips that I planted. The sun may not shine enough, the bugs may not be aerating the soil. But I did everything that I could to invite the flowers to bloom, and now I can let go of my part, and wait and see what the outcome will be. I could obsess and worry about whether I did enough, I could dig them up and check on their growth, and I could watch them every day to see if anything is growing. But at this point, nothing I do can really change whether they will grow and flower as I would like.
In February, I spent a week on silent retreat, in which I was also planting seeds of a different sort. The seeds I was planting were internal seeds – seeds of intention. I was practicing metta, which is the Pali word for loving-kindness, and the practice is to continually offer my good wishes to myself and other beings. When practicing metta, I return over and over again to my wish for myself and the world to be happy and well by repeating my intentions to myself such as: May I be well, may I be happy; May my loved ones be well, may they be happy; or May all beings be well, may all beings be happy.
The practice of planting metta seeds is analogous to planting tulip seeds. I can wish well for myself, my loved ones, or all beings, even though I know that I don’t have the ability to make them be well or happy. But I do know that my intentions create the conditions for myself and others to be happy by shifting the way I relate to myself and others. When I turn toward the world with intentions for myself and all beings to be happy, I am planting the seeds of metta, and I am more likely to grow happiness, well-being, and connection than if I didn’t plant the intentions at all. Just as I can’t know what flowers will emerge in my yard this spring, I don’t know exactly what will generate as a result of my metta practice. What I am sure of is that by practicing metta I am more likely to see flowers of connection bloom than if I never planted any seeds at all. And that’s all I can do.
So this spring, I am planting seeds of loving-kindness, and I offer this practice for you to join me. If we all plant these seeds of metta, then the world will be more likely to flower with compassion, kindness and connection than if we allow our more negative habit energies to set our intentions. The practice of metta is an internal one, and it can be done during yoga class, while walking, sitting, brushing our teeth, or doing the dishes. To practice, we bring to mind someone or a group of beings and we wish them well by repeating phrases such as “May he/she be well, may he/she be happy.” We can send metta to those we love dearly, to those we have difficulty with, or those we don’t even know at all. With this practice, we can create a community and a world filled with connection and ease, even in challenging circumstances. And as the poet Galway Kinnell so beautifully says:
The bud stands for all things,
even for those things that don’t flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on the brow of the flower,
and retell it in words and in touch,
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing.
May we be well, may we be happy, may we cherish ourselves just as we are in this moment.