Thinking about "maitri" today, one of the four elements of love in the Buddhist tradition. Loving-kindness is the direct translation.
Real understanding is needed to truly love deeply. How do we understand each other? Thich Nhat Hanh in his book, "True Love" says that understanding is based on a "deep looking directed toward the person you love." Can I understand deeply enough what another person's suffering, joy, and aspirations are so that I can truly love? "Without understanding, love is an impossible thing," says Hanh. And he doesn't just use this term for those we're "in love" with!
So when I look at the person behind the checkout counter at the grocery store, the person in the car that just cut in front of me or the children who rang my doorbell trick-or-treating last night... can I look deeply into them and "see" who they are, what their story is, what their pains are, what their joy is? I wonder what might be different in my day if I did that. What might be different in their day? Might I get a different sense of what's going on in the world?
And then if I hold that stance for those I do love in a more traditional sense, what more is available in the relationship? It reminds me (okay maybe a bit sappy) of the expression of love in the movie "Avatar" when the Na'vi say to each other "I see you." I know what it feels like to be "seen." And I know what it feels like when it appears that I'm invisible. In this sense, I'm using so much more than my eyes to see... I'm listening to every clue from every source possible! And the potential richness of the relationship expands exponentially!
Don't we all hunger to be seen? I know I do. And, I think it starts with me looking deeply into those around me, even if only for a moment to get a sense of who's there. I'm going to give it a try--care to join me?