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How to Make Friends with all of Your Sweet Self: Maitri.

Buddhism is all about waking up. 

Maitri is the art of developing an unconditional friendliness toward every part of our sweet selves—the tired, the mending, the broken, the wonderful, the always-changing. It’s not about baths and epsom salts, though that sounds darned good right about now.

It’s about making friends with the parts of ourselves we despise or bully or hide away.

It’s not about getting “better”—the fundamentally good version of yourself is right here, right now.

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I offer you these words to get you there—here.

Let’s focus on the important things: making friends with ourself, so that we can be of benefit to others, and our beleaguered planet.

maitri compassion selfcare

In this Photoshop Culture, there is a tonic, or antidote, to wanting to be other than we are. It’s called maitri (click below for more). It’s called unconditional friendliness toward ourselves. It’s simple. It’s hard. ~ ed.

Unconditional friendliness toward ourself: Maitri.

“You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” ~ Buddha [Corrected, read here for more precise meaning]

Love Yourself. For my friend Leah (and my other lovely friends who are dreamers, and doers, but have not yet quite harnessed both together). And, for you. ~ ed.


No different, really —
a summer firefly’s
visible burning
and this body,
transformed by love.

~ Izumi Shikibu

Learning to be Alone.
pema maitri quote buddhism

This particular teaching on the Four Limitless Ones, on maitri, compassion, joy and equanimity is really a teaching on how to take the situations of your life and train—actually train—in catching yourself closing down, catching yourself getting hard, and training in opening at that very point, or softening.

In some sense reversing a very, very old pattern of our whole species, which is a pattern of armoring ourselves. It’s like the essence of our whole path is in that place of discomfort, and what do we do with it? ~ Pema Chodron

Pema Chodron, on Maitri.

“…There was a story about the Zen master Suzuki Roshi.

This was a situation where his students had been sitting and they were 3 or 4 hours into a very hard sitting period, a sesshin. The person who told the story said every bone in his body was hurting—his back, his ankles, his neck, his head, everything hurt. Not only that, his thoughts were totally obsessed with either,

“I can’t do this, I’m worthless. There’s something wrong with me. I’m not cut out to do this.”

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It was vacillating between those thoughts and

“This whole thing is ridiculous. Why did I ever come here? These people are crazy. This place is like boot camp.”

His mind and body were just aching. Probably everyone else in the room was going through something similar.

Suzuki Roshi came in to give the lecture for the day and he sat down. He started to talk very, very, very slowly and he said,

“The difficulty that you are experiencing now…”

And that man was thinking,

“will go away.”

And he said,

“This difficulty will be with you for the rest of your life.”

So that’s sort of Buddhist humor.

But it is also the essence of maitri. It seems to me in my experience and also in talking to other people that we come to a body of teachings like the Buddhist teachings or any spiritual path, to meditation in some way like little children looking for comfort, looking for understanding, looking for attention, looking somehow to be confirmed. Some kind of comfort will come out of this.

And the truth is actually that the [meditation] practice isn’t about that. The practice is more about somehow this little child, this I, who wants and wants and wants to be confirmed in some way.

Practice is about that part of our being finally being able to open completely to the whole range of our experience, including all that wanting, including all that hurt, including the pain and the joy. Opening to the whole thing so that this little child-like part of us can finally, finally, finally, finally grow up.

Trungpa Rinpoche once said that was the most powerful mantra,

Om Grow Up Svaha.

But this issue of growing up, it’s not all that easy because it requires a lot of courage.

Particularly it takes a lot of courage to relate directly with your experience. By this I mean whatever is occurring in you, you use it. You seize the moment? Moment after moment? You seize those moments and instead of letting life shut you down and make you more afraid, you use those very same moments of time to soften and to open and to become more kind.

More kind to yourself, for starters, as the basis for becoming more kind to others.”

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Kathleen Nohe Mar 23, 2019 8:29am

Thank you Waylon?

Elizabeth Fiel Mar 6, 2019 8:53am

This is the work of a lifetime. To grow up… to soften when you are in pain, fear, doubt. Courage… be brave. It is so worth it. Pivotal for me is the line

“This difficulty will be with you for the rest of your life.”

always thought that when I was worthy or “doing it right” that there would be less pain… it is hard (but freeing) to know that that is just not true. Life is hard… pain is not personal…..

cvuille Nov 30, 2018 9:59am

A lot of wisdom here, as usual! I liked the Suzuki humor best. Just the everyday feelings that arise in our experience are great opportunities. The old Mindfulness of breathing discourse is always applicable: “observe the feeling in the feeling, so there is no therefore”! Sounds simplistic or nonsensical in literal translation, but it means to stay with our feelings just as they are. No need to change them or analyze them! Stay with them. Feel them. That’s mindfulness, and love in action!

anonymous Feb 21, 2015 4:04am

I have a constant “I am not good enough” and “I will never measure up” running through my mind. I am so afraid of failing, of others finding out I am not good enough or seeing I don’t measure up…I just want to hide. NO amount of telling myself I am good enough ever makes one ounce of difference. No amount of holding in the arms of loving kindness makes this go away. In my heart; in my being I believe I will never be good enough, I will never measure up to what is needed in this moment.

    cvuille Nov 30, 2018 9:43am

    It is okay to not be good enough! That’s normal. I’m not good enough, either! But you are in something of an uncomfortable feedback loop and you are missing great opportunities, as well. These kinds of feelings are not as harmful as being run over by a truck, so they are good opportunities to practice mindfulness. “I am not good enough” is a feeling you have. So I would suggest you stay with the feeling. No need to evade. No need to distract yourself from it. No need to suppress it or change it. No need to embrace it! Just stay with your feeling and watch it. It’s part of what you are, and as you relax and watch the feeling, you may suddenly see that, or not. Now, you may find this is too difficult, to do. The last thing we want to do is to watch something disagreeable. So here’s an alternative: Sit cross-legged in a comfortable place, back erect. Outdoors in nature is best if weather permits. Just relax and reflect “May I be happy” over and over. Just wish yourself happiness. You can carry that mantra around with you, as well. I suggest it will give you some welcome relief in ten or twenty minutes, and it may make it easier to stay with your unpleasant feelings when they arise. Once you are feeling better, you can wish happiness on others, family or good friends, and then extend that sentiment everywhere.

    Elizabeth Fiel Mar 6, 2019 8:55am

    the horrible, ironic secret is that we all try to hide is that we don’t feel good enough and are terrified of everyone figuring it out..

anonymous Dec 1, 2013 10:56pm

love it for ever

anonymous Oct 12, 2013 1:19am

I’m in love with you(r kindness).

anonymous Jul 15, 2013 12:38pm

love it.

anonymous Feb 26, 2013 2:24pm

[…] For if you do not love yourself first how can someone love the true you. […]

anonymous Jan 25, 2013 12:22pm

[…] how do you learn to be funny and to believe in God? First, you have to believe in yourself, and then you have to let that belief shine out into the world. If that sounds simple, then I’m […]

anonymous Dec 29, 2012 4:13pm

[…] can make friends with ourselves. Otherwise, we truly have nothing—all our life, our so-called popularity, our friendships are […]

anonymous Dec 8, 2012 12:50pm

[…] is not helpful. Leaders are servants, and human, and fallible. Finding our wisdom and peace and maitri within is what great leaders help us to […]

anonymous Nov 7, 2012 9:01pm

[…] is about loving-kindness, about maitri, for […]

anonymous Oct 29, 2012 6:55pm

[…] will be updated. Beyond that, practice equanimity (meditation instruction here). Do your best to be kind to yourself and your loved ones and we’ll get through this, as President Obama says at the bottom, […]

anonymous Sep 28, 2012 5:32pm

[…] rather sit down in a bar with and join for a beer. Personality, humor, relaxation, affability and maitri, comfort with oneself…this is vital to […]

anonymous Sep 27, 2012 5:13pm

[…] There’s nothing about money that brings happiness: we have to make friends with ourselves, rich or poor, in order to be cheerful. […]

anonymous Sep 9, 2012 1:55pm

[…] I make a point of it. Be kind. Kindness is free and has endless benefits. Be compassionate. Compassion takes courage and self-love. But […]

anonymous Sep 8, 2012 7:19pm

[…] it important to care for ourselves? Yes. Is it possible to stay balanced? Not […]

anonymous Sep 4, 2012 6:25pm

[…] told me to look in the mirror, and say, “I love you.” I would roll my eyes, but you know what? Loving yourself is the most important thing you can do. In this love, softness returns in places where you were once hardened and protected. In this soft […]

anonymous Aug 7, 2012 11:03am

[…] 9. Exercise. Don’t eat too much, or do whatever it is you do when you’re sad. As Pema says, change your habitual pattern. Take care of yourself. Maitri. […]

anonymous Jul 27, 2012 6:15pm

[…] Maitri Maitri Maitri Maitri Maitri Maitri Maitri Maitri Maitri Maitri Maitri Maitri Maitri Maitri Ma… […]

anonymous Jul 24, 2012 3:38pm

[…] be caring, capable and do it all. When I finally realized that I couldn’t, it was liberating! I was much kinder to myself and, therefore, able to give […]

anonymous Jul 13, 2012 6:56pm

[…] Love myself enough to learn. […]

anonymous Jun 23, 2012 3:05pm

[…] Love myself enough to learn. […]

anonymous May 25, 2012 3:18pm

[…] But here’s the thing: everyone spends so much time looking for “the one” that they forget the one thing that needs to happen before he or she can find “the one.” If you want to find the right person, it starts by being the right person. It starts by learning to love ourselves. […]

anonymous May 24, 2012 7:54pm

[…] 19. “The enemy of a love is never outside, it’s not a man or a woman, it’s what we lac… […]

anonymous May 15, 2012 7:09pm

[…] of this past year and a half. In the process of doing so, I’d finally arrived at the conclusion I am a good guy who’s in need of connection with others. I realize that might sound weird but as some of you may have already experienced, sometimes life […]

anonymous May 11, 2012 2:19pm

Dntel: Anywhere Anyone

How can you love me if you don’t love yourself?
I love you.

How can I love you if I don’t love myself?
I love you.

We’re not going anywhere. Sun is bright and standing still, it’s alright.

I love you, anyway. I love you.

anonymous May 7, 2012 8:46pm

[…] For more on maitri, click here. […]

anonymous Apr 19, 2012 2:43pm

Thanks for posting this; I love Pema!! – Alexa M.

anonymous Apr 18, 2012 8:04am

Just posted to "Popular Lately" on the Elephant Spirituality Homepage.

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anonymous Apr 17, 2012 7:04pm

[…] into something solid, something real. We’ve got to forgive ourselves that. I must remember to forgive myself. Because there is a lot of grey to work with. No one can live in the light all the […]

anonymous Apr 17, 2012 11:32am

lovelovelove it. awe. tingling. thank you waylon

anonymous Apr 17, 2012 7:47am

"Om, grow up, svaha." Love it, Waylon. Many thanks.

Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Spirituality Homepage.

Valerie Carruthers
Please go and "Like" Elephant Spirituality on Facebook

Kate Bartolotta Apr 17, 2012 4:11am

Good timing, Way. Needed to read this this morning, thanks!

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Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of Elephant Journal & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat.” Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword’s Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by “Greatist”, Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: “the mindful life” beyond the choir & to all those who didn’t know they gave a care. | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, touches on modern relationships from a Buddhist point of view. His dream of 9 years, the Elephant “Ecosystem” will find a way to pay 1,000s of writers a month, helping reverse the tide of low-quality, unpaid writing & reading for free online.