Perry: Map of an Englishman
It looks like 1604, but look closely and you’ll see it’s 2004: Grayson Perry took the old art of cartography for Map of an Englishman, including lettering and etching style. But for the terrain itself, the map is more current with 21st-century exploration — that is, exploration of the interior. Territories include Romance (caught, as it often is, between Sex and Bitch), Wishes, Agoraphobia, Prozac, and a channel of Delusions cutting through Myth and Dreams.
One of the reasons to meditate is to deepen our sense of bodhicitta — Sanskrit for “open-heartedness.” This breaks down into “bodhi” (open or awake) and citta (heart). Coming to the concept of bodhicitta after learning Italian, what strikes me most about this word is that “città” in Italian means city. (There’s even a famous Italian neorealist film, the title of which translates into English as “Rome: Open City”). Much like a map, language doesn’t exist as an island. There are connecting territories, porous borders, entry points.
So when we practice lovingkindness meditation, one of the central practices to cultivate bodhicitta, can we consider the heart to be a city? Much like a city, we have the central locations, building out into neighborhoods on neighborhoods. We could, in 2018 parlance, even consider our heart in the practice of unconditional love a sanctuary city. When we start to bring in our benefactors, loved ones, neutral people, difficult people, and extending outward into all sentient beings north, south, east, west, above, and below, we are expanding the borders of our sanctuary city, open to all.
Following a basic lovingkindness practice, can you picture the people you encounter in your day as all, by virtue of the fact that you’ve encountered them (be they family, people you sit next to on your commute, even people you’ve never met but perhaps email with or speak to once on the phone), inhabitants of the city of your heart? What does it mean for you to have your heart as a city, sanctuary or otherwise? What does that mean for all the various and sundry people you encounter in your day?