Metta

Metta, like many Pali words, has a range of meanings: loving-kindness, friendliness, goodwill, benevolence, fellowship, amity, concord, inoffensiveness and nonviolence – and lots more. It is commonly translated as loving-kindness and is concerned with the well being of all living beings. It is a universal, unselfish and all-embracing love.
All living things respond positively to love and kindness. Is this true? Consider plants – as being fairly simple living things. On a physical level they can easily be seen as healthier when they get lots of sunshine and are well watered and fed. One even reads of them responding on an emotional level. This is not so easy to prove. If you have ever had a pet; how does it respond to being kicked and yelled at?
Good health results from care and kindness and bad health results from indifference and abuse. I hopefully imagine that you agree with this. So, if pets and plants like love and kindness and care and attention then why should we be different? Truth is we aren’t, but it often seems as if we are a bit short changed in the loving-kindness department. What to do?
To start with:
be clear in your mind of the bad results of anger, hatred, resentment, indignation, and so forth.
be clear in your mind of the good results of kindness, affection, tolerance, friendliness, good will, etc.
This is not to expect that you will have none of the qualities of the first list and all of those in the second list – just that you see the positive value in loving-kindness.

Aims:
There are two areas the developing of metta aims at: external and internal.
External: the aim is to live in the world as harmlessly as possible, both in relation to living and non-living entities. This is to be both ecologically conscious and socially sensitive. It includes things like; being frugal (not using more than one needs, or wasting what one has), being moderate in one’s lifestyle (not living excessively in any way), being modest, guarding one’s speech, respecting the property and general situation of others, offering help where one can, being generous, performing one’s duties well, etc. All of this is very high-minded and saintly and may seem to be beyond your abilities but, we all have some goodness as part of our character and the aims suggested here are a reference point. We always begin from where we are and having a clear aim tends to result in a clear journey.
Internal: the aim is very simple; to have an unselfish mind / heart. The combination of a concentrated mind and a heart free from hatred, etc. constitutes a state of liberation – enlightenment – freedom from suffering.

A Guided Meditation on
Loving Kindness

“Consider this quietly, on your own; or get a friend to read it out slowly to you.”

 

STOP FOR A FEW MOMENTS. Sit quietly, with a straight back and gently close your eyes. Feeling the rhythm of the breath as it enters and leaves the body, allow yourself to let go of past and future, and come into the present moment; being with exactly what is – now.

Bring your attention to the feeling of the body, accepting it just the way it is – with kindness. Allow yourself to accept all the sensations and feelings of the body completely.

Breathe in deeply, with a sense of trust and well-being: breathe out, letting go of tension, allowing any tightness to dissolve.

Then, focus on the normal breathing; just the feeling of breathing in, breathing out.

Imagine yourself surrounded by light – perhaps a golden-coloured light if you like gold. Being with the sensation of the body breathing in, breathing out, draw the light into the body as you breathe – maybe through the nostrils, the heart or the head. Imagine light saturating the body, through every pore.

Think to yourself: ‘May this being be well,’ and turn the calming effect of the meditation towards this being: ‘May this being be calm.’ Suffuse your whole body with this calm and kindly attention.

Then, let your awareness explore the body: moving around the head and face, gradually down the neck, the back and the chest, spreading right down the finger-tips; then down the legs, to each toe; drawing on the good energy of the breath, expanding and embracing the heart.

Focusing more on the out-breath, let go of the memories, the grudges, the grievances; let it all go. Begin again with each breath.

Picture yourself in your mind’s eye as you are now. Make peace with this view of yourself, through forgiveness, compassion, gentleness. ‘May this being be well.’ Suffuse this picture with gentle, warm light from the heart, then let it go.

Next, picture your parents, let them into your mind. Make peace with their image: ‘May you be well,’ bathing them with soft light, with gratitude.

Observe thoughts arising. Memories of yourself as a child, perhaps something painful or something you have never made peace with. Let it be in the mind, in the light.

Then bring up an image of your daily situation, at home or wherever, with the people it involves. People you like or dislike, feel conflict with, love, fear or worry for. ‘May these beings be well.’ Put aside aversion, fear, worry, guilt; at this moment, allow yourself to be kind.

Think of someone you know who is having a difficult time; send these feelings of kindness towards them. Breathe in light, breathe out wishing them well.

Gradually open up more and more, from the people you see every day to nobody special; and even those for whom you have hardly a memory. Recognise them as human beings with ambitions, hopes, problems, anxieties, joy – just like you! Give them some life in your perceptions.

And, even more remote, acknowledge all the people you can conceive of in this world. This may be a faint feeling, but open up the heart to allow them into consciousness, to be felt. See what the mind does, how it reacts indignantly about some people – such as political figures. Let go of that indignation for this moment. Allow a sense of peace to envelop all beings: the liked, the disliked, familiar and unfamiliar.

And then imagine the planet Earth as seen from space. Extend this sense of peace to the planet we live on, embracing it with your heart, surrounding it with light.

Turning your attention to that sense of peace and light allow it to expand outwards, without limit, letting the sense of ‘me’ and ‘the world’ dissolve in the stillness of the present. Then turn your attention back in towards itself; upon the feeling of knowing ‘the screen of the mind’, the place where images arise. Let it be quite empty or full, choiceless, being illuminated by the soft light from the heart, light from the breath; warm, gentle; beginning, letting go, patient kindness.

Gently come back to the rhythm of the breath, and when you are ready, slowly open your eyes.

 

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