The Buddha shared that as an individual practices Metta and cultivates the energy of Loving-kindness within, there will be 11 benefits that are experienced:
- You will sleep easy.
- You will wake easily.
- You will have pleasant dreams.
- People will love you.
- Devas or celestial beings and animals will love you.
- Devas or celestial beings will protect you.
- External dangers will not harm you.
- Your face will be radiant.
- Your mind will be serene.
- You will die unconfused.
- You will be reborn in happy realms.
Today, we begin to extend the field ofour practice of Metta, Loving-kindness out beyond our own selves to another being. Still, we continue to start our practice by cultivating loving-kindness and compassion for our own self, as this is always the foundation from which we begin to offer it to others. Then, we continue by offering Metta to someone who has been a 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.
Often, in the beginning of Metta practice, it is suggested to work with a Benefactor/Mentor who is a living person as this can help to deepen our level of concentration. Working with this category supports our expanding experience of loving-kindness in two ways. One is that we begin to extend our practice out to another. The other is that this being support us in deepening our own experience loving-kindness as that is what they bring to our lives. We have only the most positive and loving feelings for this person.
“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 or 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.
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 you notice your mind has wandered, bring your attention back to the phrases and the image of your benefactor. As I touched on yesterday, another option if you are having a lot of distraction or difficult feelings coming up is to switch your practice back to yourself for a few moments; then when you feel more centered, return your attention to the Benefactor/Mentor. This is a way to become more loving with ourselves. We listen, we become more attentive and we respond to ourselves when we are having difficulty. And, we respond to ourselves with loving-kindness and compassion rather than harshness or criticism. This is an opportunity for a paradigm shift.
I encourage you to explore this practice of switching back and forth as you need to during your practice – do it as often as you feel to. You can also explore turning your attention to yourself, your heart center or imagining your circle of loving beings throughout your day when you have trouble staying present in the moment or when you are have difficult feelings arise. Those difficult moments during your day are the perfect opportunity to bring your practice of Loving-kindness into your daily life.
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 your day be filled with happiness, love and equanimity.
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