“How and why we love changes the qualities of our love. Love with loving-kindness transforms love into the nectar of wisdom.
Love with attachment transforms the love into poison, into a state of afflicting emotions.
Therefore, we must recognize the characteristics of the love that is loving-kindness and learn how to generate it in ourselves.”
Today, we begin to extend the field of our practice of Metta, Loving-kindness out beyond our own selves to another being. We will continue to start our practice by cultivating loving-kindness and compassion for our ourselves as this is always the foundation from which we begin our Metta practice. Then, we will continue by offering Metta to someone who has been a great supporter or help to us in our life.
Traditionally, this category is referred to as the Benefactor or Mentor. A Benefactor/Mentor is someone who has been generous and kind to us. They have taught us, supported us and inspired us in some way. When we think of them, we feel loved and supported; we have great gratitude for the fact that this being is a part of our lives. Just thinking of this person generates a smile. Some of the options to choose from include: a beloved teacher, a mentor, a grandparent, a pet, a child or even something you love in nature. They may be one of the people we called on to generate Metta individually or as part of our Circle of Loving Beings.
Often, in the beginning of practice, it is suggested to extend Metta to Benefactor/Mentor who is a living person as this can be easier and help to deepen our level of concentration without other feelings arise. I suggest following the guidance of your heart on this choice.
As we work with this category, we expand our experience of loving-kindness in two ways. One is that we begin to extend our practice out to another. The other is that in offering Metta to this being, it supports us in deepening our own experience loving-kindness as that is what this relationship has brought to our lives. A Benefactor/Mentor is someone whom we have only the most positive and loving feelings toward.
Kindness points to the core of what it means to be alive, which is to be connected. – Sharon Salzberg
I have shared the above quote here as it is in working with our relationship with a Benefactor/Mentor that we begin to extend our loving-kindness outward and open up to expanding our sense of connection to all beings. This is an essential part of the Metta practice. We do it gradually by creating a foundation of loving-kindness within ourselves and then working with the various categories, all of which we will explore during May Is For Metta.
Do your foundational practices: Begin by getting comfortable and settling in to your breath. Spend a few moments centering on your heart, recalling a moment you felt immersed in unconditional love or seeing yourself in the center of your circle of loving beings. By now, you have begun to develop a sense of how to connect with the energy of loving-kindness. Allow your self to feel enveloped in this loving feeling. Begin to send Metta to yourself by repeating the phrases you have been working with. Remember, creating a strong foundation is an important part of the practice; be careful not to neglect this as you begin to offer Metta to others. When you feel ready, begin to offer the Metta phrases you have been working with to yourself:
- May I be safe.
- May I be happy.
- May I be peaceful.
- May I be free from suffering.
Bring an image of the Benefactor/Mentor clearly into your mind and let yourself feel what it feels like to be in the presence of that being. Really allow yourself to enjoy the feeling of being with that person, as if they were really sitting there with you in this very moment. This is someone who warms your heart just by thinking about them. Say to yourself, “Just as I wish to be happy and free from suffering, may you be happy and free from suffering.” Begin repeating the phrases for your Benefactor or Mentor:
- May you be safe.
- May you be happy.
- May you be peaceful.
- May you be free from suffering.
If at any point you notice that your mind has wandered, simply bring your attention back to the phrases and the image of your benefactor. And, if you find that you are having a lot of distraction or difficult feelings coming up, I invite you to explore switching your practice back to yourself for a few moments. This can be done by offering yourself a round of phrases, turning your attention to your heart center, or imagining your circle of loving beings. Then when you feel more centered, simply return your attention to the Benefactor/Mentor you have chosen to work with today.
Often, whether in meditation or in life, we can judge ourselves harshly. I encourage you to be gentle and loving with yourself as you explore Metta practice. As often as you feel to, explore the practice of switching back to offering Metta to yourself as this is a way to begin to become more loving toward yourself. This is perhaps the most powerful gift that Metta practice can bring! We listen, we become more attentive and we respond to ourselves when we are having difficulty with loving-kindness and compassion. As we do so, we plant the seeds for a paradigm shift in how we relate with ourselves, with others and with life itself.
Continue to practice for your Benefactor/Mentor for as long as you can or have committed to for your practice time. Then, return your awareness to the image of sitting in your Circle of Loving Beings or being present in your heart center. Allow that feeling to really sink into your whole being, into every atom and cell. Let it surround and envelope you. As you move out into your day, imagine yourself embodying loving-kindness and compassion with each step and each breath.
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 did it feel to begin to practice Metta for another being?
- Did it seem easier or harder than practicing for your self?
- How is your practice going?
- Are there any obstacles you are becoming aware of?
- Are you remembering to return your practice to yourself when you are having difficult emotions arise or have difficulty concentrating?
- Are you able to bring your practice into your daily life in some way?
May you be happy today!
Tashi Deleh! (I honor the greatness within you!)