“Hatred cannot coexist with loving-kindness,and
dissipates if supplanted with thoughts based on loving-kindness”.
It is a natural aspect of life that we are troubled by difficult emotional states and often, we may find it difficult to deal with them. However, even when the mind is troubled, it is within the capacity of each of us to arouse positive feelings. The Buddha taught the practice of Metta meditation to develop the mental habit of loving-kindness and compassion for one’s self and others.
Loving-kindness is a practice which can bring about positive attitudinal changes. It assists in developing a quality of loving acceptance. This is a way of healing the mind and freeing it from pain and confusion. Metta practice offers the immediate benefit of changing our habitual negative patterns present in the mind as well bringing about a positive outlook on life.
Sometimes the response to Metta is immediate; we begin to feel more loving-kindness and happiness right away. Other times, we do the practice, and do it some more, and do not feel very different. Still, even without feeling it, it is important to know that we are creating a positive change in our minds and our lives. It is like planting a seed. It takes time for the seed to develop and to begin to burst forth. Think of Metta practice as planting seeds for the cultivation of loving-kindness and compassion in your life, your relationships and in the world.
One of the ways we can work with Metta is in response to things that happen in the world such as natural disasters, acts of violence or other tragedies that are happening in every moment. Or, maybe there is someone we know personally who is suffering from a disease such as cancer or perhaps the loss of a loved one. Regardless of the size or scope of the situation, what is happening is that we are becoming aware of suffering. It is possible we may be unable to do something outwardly to help. It is also possible we are having a strong or difficult reaction to this suffering.
Offering Metta in response to tragedy or to the awareness of another’s suffering is one of the great gifts of the practice. We may or may not be able to do something outwardly, but inwardly we can generate loving-kindness and compassion for those in need. So let’s take some time today in our practice to offer Metta to others around the world who are suffering. Perhaps something you saw in the news today pulled at your heart-strings; this is a perfect opportunity to practice Metta.
Today, let’s work with the full practice and all of the categories. If for any reason this feels too much or is an obstacle to your practice, then just choose a few categories to work with. Just take a few moments to breathe into your heart center and feel what is right for you today.
Do your foundational practices. Find a quiet place and a comfortable position. Imagine yourself in your circle of loving beings or enveloped in the feeling of loving-kindness in a time when you felt held in that way. Then, begin your practice by offering the Metta phrases for yourself.
- May I be happy.
- May I be peaceful.
- May I be free from suffering.
- May I have ease of well-being.
When you feel ready, move on to practicing for all of the categories or the ones you have chosen for today: Benefactor, Beloved, Neutral Being, Difficult Person, and All Beings. Acknowledge that “just as I wish to be happy and free from suffering, so does this being wish to be happy and free from suffering.” Then, move onto working with the phrases that feel best to you.
- May you be happy.
- May you be peaecful.
- May you be free from suffering.
- May you have ease of well-being.
If you become distracted at any point or difficult feelings arise, use the Switchback, returning your practice to yourself until a sense of calm returns. Then, return your practice to where you left off. When you are ready to complete your practice, return yourself to your circle of loving beings or envision yourself enveloped in the energy of loving-kindness and compassion that you have been cultivating. Really allow that feeling to sink into you, let every atom and cell of your being be filled with loving-kindness and compassion. Let this energy support you as you journey through the day.
Anytime you become aware of someone, somewhere in the world, or some group of people who are suffering, take a few moments to practice on the spot. This is a gift to others and the world and to yourself as you are choosing to open your heart in a moment when it may feel like closing. In offering loving-kindness and compassion, you are opening to receive it more deeply as well. And, remember, each time that you practice Metta you are planting seeds of loving-kindness and compassion that can grow and flow where they are needed in the world.
At the beginning of our time, I offered that we would dedicate the merit of this practice to the people of Nepal and the the people of Baltimore as well as any other communities we feel to share our Metta with. I invite you to take some time to do that day and additionally, for the benefit of all beings as in the words of Shantideva:
May the earth be wholesome everywhere
The world blessed with prosperity
May the poor and destitute find wealth
And the stooping animals be freed
May every being ailing with illness
Find relief at once from suffering
May all the sickness that afflict the living
Be instantly and permanently healed
May those who go in dread, have no more fear,
May captives be unchained and set free,
And may the weak now become strong,
May living beings help each other in kindness.
May travelers upon the road,
Find happiness no matter where they go,
And may they gain, without hardship,
The goals on which their hearts are set.
From the songs of birds and the sighing of trees,
From the shafts of light and from the sky itself,
May living beings, each and every one,
Perceive the constant sound of Dharma
Daily Journal Reflection:
Take some time to reflect and journal about any experiences, feelings or awareness that arose during your practice or throughout the day today. How are you feeling about your Metta practice? Are you noticing a difference in how you feel or what you are experiencing? If yes, what is that like? If no, are you okay knowing you are planting seeds? Do you think you may continue to practice Metta or daily meditation after the 31 days? If so, what will that look like? If not, what is stopping you? Did you explore practicing on the spot?
May you be happy. May you be peaceful. May you be free of suffering. May you have ease of well-being.