May your enemy be happy

Photo by Lorraine Penrice

There was a time a few years back when the media was full of tales about how Mindfulness could change people’s lives.  “That’s so Kings Heath!” I remember scoffing to one of my friends as we sipped our skinny decaf americanos in a vegan-friendly café in, you guessed it, Kings Heath.  The irony didn’t escape us but neither of us can afford Kings Heath so we do enjoy dissing it – never too loudly, though, seeing as half the West Midlands arts community seem to live there. 

Imagine my surprise when, at our next rendez-vous, the same friend piped up about a Mindfulness class she’d attended at work during lunchtime.  Worse, she claimed it had been well worth missing her chicken baguette.  ‘It was quite relaxing’, she ploughed on, without a hint of shame. ‘We climbed up this massive mountain, and actually smelt the air!’  Hmm, I thought, mentally scrubbing out our next two caffeine dates.  But we have been friends a long time and she does always insist on buying me cake, so perhaps there was another option.  I could attend a Mindfulness class myself. I mean, why not? You probably shouldn’t slag off something you haven’t tried, although it’s never stopped me before.  Eventually, following a brush with anxiety, I thought perhaps I’d better give it a go.

My expectations were confounded the minute I walked into the session (in Kings Heath, obvs). The group comprised an array of different sorts, none of them stereotypically Kings Heath, and we all shared the same nervous smile, offering each other only momentary eye-contact and praying we didn’t recognise anyone. The meditation session that followed was indeed relaxing. I too breathed mountain air. 

However, the most interesting part for me was when we were asked to think about a person we didn’t like. As I struggled to think of a potential candidate, my neighbour rolled her eyes, whispering that she was spoilt for choice. 

Having conjured our nemesis, the next bit sounded easy: we had to wish them well….genuinely.  ‘May you be happy, may you be well.’  I managed that bit okay, and I almost meant it. ‘May you love and be loved’ came the next wish. I managed that too, but it was that part which stuck with me long after the session.

Somehow the act of wishing your enemy well and, crucially, hoping they ‘will love and be loved’, felt like it made a real difference.  It helped open up a new distance in your connection with that person, a much-needed objectivity, a rising-above the pettiness of bad feeling.  For me at least, it triggered a kind of welcome release. 

So, in the spirit of generosity, I send Mindful greetings to you all:  ‘May you be happy, May you be well, May you love and be loved’.  Because that is actually all we need. LIz John

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