On the Power of Maitri

I was sitting in the back of the open-air bus filled with locals, moving through the streets of Puerto Vallarta—the smell of tamales, fumes and dirt perfuming the air. I was meditating on the place and absorbing the energy, when suddenly, I felt electric. I felt so alive and connected to the surroundings that I had an urge to cry. I'm not kidding you. I had a natural need to cry out of love for the place I was visiting and the strangers sitting in that bus with me. Very hippyish, I know. But I had a sudden realization that I was not just sharing a bus with these people; I was sharing life. We were all alive together, breathing together, traveling together. Together. 

I held back the tears and started to pray, wishing them happiness, health and prosperity. I was experiencing such an intense connection to them, I had goosebumps all over my body. And then, immediately after sending a wave of affection towards them, a few of the passengers in front briskly turned around as if hearing me call their names. They looked straight at me. "What the f*%#@," I told myself, jumping on my seat and placing my hands on my mouth in pure shock. Then they all turned their backs again, seemingly confused, and I was left puzzled, like a young Potter when first discovering he had powers.

To this day, I've never had an experience quite like the one on that bus in Mexico, but I practice the delivery of good wishes to complete strangers almost every day in hopes of helping them somehow. Curiously, after some research, I found that the Theravāda school of Buddhism calls such experience maitrī—a compassion meditation, a close mental union on the same mental wavelength. The people on that bus felt something and knew it came from me at the exact moment I was purposely sending them my love. That to me, is no coincidence. 

I had never heard of maitrī before in my life, but knowing it's real has taken my spirit to a realm so precious, I've dedicated myself to cultivating it every day. Maitrī is not just about loving others, it's also about loving yourself. Unconditionally. It's what we're here to do. I know it's what I'm here to do, it's why I'm a writer. And I think Maitrī's silently dictating the decisions I'm currently making in my life. Because I want to tap into that magic, that space of belonging, of being human. And isn't that what all writing is about? Isn't that what reading a book or watching a movie is all about? Why we fall in love, have children, go to church, etc.?

Aren't we all seekers of that same connection to life—seekers of that same human experience?

Think about it. Maitrī might be the answer.