“The only enemy I could think of was myself.” – prison yoga class member

Self loathing in prison or out

We have met the enemy and he is us

In the last post, a meditation was suggested to help work on removing bad feelings toward our enemies with the ultimate goal of loving our enemies.  We are not doing this because we intend to become doormats for the world to walk all over.  We are doing this to release bad feelings that we carry around that make us sick.  The Buddha said, “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”  So the next part of the process is to start letting go of this anger toward yourself and toward others.

These exercises are called “practices” because you have to practice them and as you do you will develop patterns of thought and feeling that make the practice feel more “right.”  Don’t worry if they seem strange or feel awkward at first.  Repeat this first one for a while until the ideas feel comfortable.  Then move on to the next one.  The Dalai Lama’s book has quite a number of wonderful meditations to develop the capability of expanding your circle of love and compassion.  Consider for a minute whether you are a recipient of your own love and compassion?  Are you judgmental and hard on yourself?  The point of the next exercise is to expand your circle of love and compassion.  The feelings of equanimity, love and compassion that you develop from this will improve your attitude and serenity.

Exercise:  Find a quiet place to sit.  Get in your chosen meditation posture.  Focus on your breath.  Count your breath and allow the mind to settle for several minutes.  Now work through the following steps:

  1. Think of a friend, an enemy, and a neutral person.  Now think about yourself.
  2. Examine your feelings toward your friend.  Where do you feel this in your body?  Allow these feelings to permeate your mood.  Now examine your feelings toward the enemy.  Where do you feel this in your body?  The physical feelings are much different.  Allow these feelings to permeate your mood but don’t stay here too long.  Then move on to consider the neutral person.  Examine the lack of feelings for this person.  Now think about your feelings for yourself.  Where do you feel this in your body?
  3. Now consider the love of friendship.  If you have started to feel the equality and interchangeability of people from the repeating the last meditation then can you extend your love of friendship to the neutral person.  Pretend that your love of friendship is coming off your body in waves like heat waves emanate from a radiator.  You are radiating love and compassion usually reserved for a close friend to someone you don’t know.  Can you feel it?  Can you feel this neutral person as worthy?
  4. Now radiate love and compassion to yourself.  Can you feel it?  Does this feel right to you?  Can you feel resistance?  Look for the resistance.  You are just as worthy of love and compassion as a friend.
  5. Now radiate love and compassion to the enemy.  Can you feel it?  Does this feel right to you?  Can you feel resistance?  Look for the resistance.  Your enemy is just as worthy of love and compassion as a friend.
  6. Stay with this for a while for the feeling love and compassion for all people, including yourself and enemies to sink in.

Repeat this exercise during quiet meditation times until you feel like a radiator sending out beams of pure love and compassion.  As you start to feel the feeling more easily, resolve to bring this new skill into your life during the rest of the day.  The technique here is to think about a “trigger” to remind you what to do.  The “trigger” I suggest is the thought “I am annoyed.” or “That person is annoying.”  Remember in an earlier chapter the suggestion was made that emotions could quickly pass through your body if you would name them, feel them, and let them go?  Well resolve to do that the next time you are annoyed.  Here is the exercise written out.

Exercise:  Whenever you become aware of annoyance or strong negative feeling, focus on your breath.  Count your breath and allow the mind to settle for a little bit.  Now work through the follow through these steps:

  1. Mentally acknowledge the annoyance.  Say in your mind, “I am annoyed.”  Feel it in your body.  Let it go.
  2. Now radiate love and compassion to the enemy.  Can you feel it?  Does this feel right to you?  Can you feel resistance?  Look for the resistance.  Your enemy is just as worthy of love and compassion as a friend.
  3. Now radiate love and compassion to yourself.  Can you feel it?  Does this feel right to you?  Can you feel resistance?  Look for the resistance.  You are just as worthy of love and compassion as a friend.
  4. Now radiate love and compassion to the entire room of people.  Can you feel it? 
  5. Now radiate love and compassion to the entire world of people.  Can you feel it? 
  6. Stay with this for a while for the feeling love and compassion for all people, including yourself and the person you are annoyed with to sink in.

If you can just do this a little bit, you will bring more peace and equanimity into your day.  You will spend less time ruminating over negative thoughts.  You will be able to use more of your energy in productive manner without as much time spent in gossiping over your annoyances and negative feelings about people and what they have said and done.  Even a modest improvement in mood and productivity yields spectacular results.  You can improve your mood, relationships, blood pressure, and every personal interaction of your day.  This is powerful stuff.  When people start to react more positively to you many good things can happen.  More contacts, more referrals, more job leads, more informational interviews and more job interviews.  Your family and friends will notice the transformation.  They may not say anything about it but they will tell you about the transformation in the way they behave toward you.  People will give you things.  Your service at restaurants, dry cleaners and stores will improve.  Try it and let me know.


About sordog1

Shiva Steve Ordog is a Yoga Instructor certified by Yoga Alliance - RYT 200, a Thought Field Therapy Practitioner (TFT-Algo) and a Zen practitioner. He is the author of a book on meditation, mindfulness, and yoga called "Hey, Yoga Man!: Yoga Practices for Everyday Life from a Prison Yoga Practice"
This entry was posted in Buddhism, compassion, meditation, prison, Uncategorized, yoga. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to “The only enemy I could think of was myself.” – prison yoga class member

  1. Keith E. says:

    I like this Compassion exercise very much. One thing I might point out, though, is that it in spite of very specific instructions in the exercise, it is a tall order to ask someone to feel compassion when visualizing one’s worst enemy. And if it weren’t for having learned this from AA, I wouldn’t be able to offer any advice on this subject, because when I first encountered this advice, I thought the guy is crazy!

    Matt 5:43-48
    “You have heard that is was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors 🙂 doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

    So while I never would have actually tried this, I had to do it, because my sponsor in AA told me to do it. He did this because every time the subject of my ex-wife came up, I immediately grew angry, and railed “She ruined my life!” So then, I thought it really sucked when he told me, “I want you to pray for your ex-wife every day for two weeks. I want you to pray for her to know all the happiness and prosperity in life you want for yourself.”

    “This is just great,” I thought to myself. “My sponsor thinks he’s Jesus. Why me, Lord?” 🙂 Nevertheless, I did as I was told. I motored on over to my favorite church, where I went for really important prayers. While enroute, I desperately sought the necessary resolve. But when I pulled up in front of the church, as I was greeted by the archangel Michael, I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t get myself to get off the bike and go pray for someone I still hated so much.

    “F**k it,” I said to myself, and turned round, not giving up on the mission, but instead determined to do it my way (not a good thing!)

    What did I do? When I got home, I sent a poison pen email to my ex-wife, and told her to never contact me again, no matter what, and that I could never forgive her for the hell she put me through, and closed with the cruelest snark I could think of.

    So after that highly satisfying detour, I got right back on the horse… umm, I got right back on the bike and rode to the church, parked, popped off, strode in briskly, and then I prayed for her as instructed. And as I continued to pray for her for a full fortnight, my resentment faded, just as promised. And so just 2 weeks after having told the former missus that I could never forgive her, what should happen but that by praying for that shameless harlot, I had forgiven her entirely — and not for her benefit, but for mine–because resentments are the #1 killer of alcoholics!

    So then when a second sponsor told me to pray for an enemy, using almost exactly the same language as my first sponsor, I realized this advice must be in the Big Book of AA. Sure enough, it’s in there, at the very back of the book, which is why I hadn’t read it yet.

    From “Alcoholics Anonymous,” pg, 551, “Freedom from Bondage”:

    I’ve had many spiritual experiences since I’ve been in the program, many that I didn’t recognize right away, for I’m slow to learn and they take many guises. But one was so outstanding that I like to pass it on whenever I can in the hope that it will help someone else as it has me. As I said earlier, self-pity and resentment were my constant companions, and my inventory began to look like a 33-year diary, for I seemed to have a resentment against everybody I had ever known. All but one “responded to the treatment” suggested in the steps immediately, but this one posed a problem.
    This resentment was against my mother, and it was twenty-five years old. I had fed it, fanned it, and nurtured it as one might a delicate child, and it had become as much a part of me as my breathing. It had provided me with excuses for my lack of education, my marital failures, personal failures, inadequacy, and of course, my alcoholism. And though I really thought I had been willing to part with it, now I knew I was reluctant to let it go.
    One morning, however, I realized I had to get rid of it, for my reprieve was running out, and if I didn’t get rid of it I was going to get drunk–and I didn’t want to get drunk anymore. In my prayers that morning I asked God to point out to me some way to be free of this resentment. During the day, a friend of mine brought me some magazines to take to a hospital group I was interested in. I looked through them. A banner across one featured an article by a prominent clergyman in which I caught the word resentment.
    He said, in effect: “If you have a resentment you want to be free of, if you will pray for the person or the thing that you resent, you will be free. Ask for their health, their prosperity, their happiness, and you will be free. Even when you don’t really want it for them and your prayers are only words and you don’t mean it, go ahead and do it anyway. Do it every day for two weeks, and you will find you have come to mean it and to want it for them, and you will realize that where you used to feel bitterness and resentment and hatred, you now feel compassionate understanding and love.”
    It worked for me then, and it has worked for me many times since, and it will work for me every time I am willing to work it. Sometimes I have to ask first for the willingness, but it too always comes. And because it works for me, it will work for all of us. As another great man says, “The only real freedom a human being can ever know is doing what you ought to do because you want to do it.”
    This great experience that released me from the bondage of hatred and replaced it with love is really just another affirmation of the truth I know: […]
    ———- end excerpt ———–

    So I guess it wasn’t so crazy after all for Jesus to tell me to pray for my enemies, because he wouldn’t ask me to do anything he wouldn’t do himself. Which is why the first thing Jesus does when he’s on the cross is to pray for those who crucified him!

    Luke 23:34
    Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

    And thus, the Compassion of the Christ trumps the Passion of the Christ, as far as I’m concerned!


  2. sordog1 says:

    Thank you for this personal journey of understanding. It shows so much insight into the personal value derived from this transcendant wisdom, “Love your enemies.” This is exactly the point of these meditations, to develop this as a habit and thus live a karma-less existance – neither creating karma nor experiencing ripening of karma. Jesus certainly was experiencing life from this point of view and sharing it with us and helping us to understand. These practices serve as support for waking up that understanding and making it a habit.

  3. mike komives says:

    “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”… a favorite passage. Your presence and help to people who made a mistake, without making a judgment, is valuable. Congratulations for your volunteering… you will be compensated in ways you cannot even imagine.

    Your actions are the demonstration of a true leader.

    Best wishes for your continued participation and success.


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