The meditation practice of metta, or loving-kindness, has had a profound effect on me over the years. I would like to touch on some of these as an offer of encouragement to discover the healing depth and profound re-orientation metta offers those who are drawn to mindfulness.
Metta helps me accept myself as I am: imperfect, seriously flawed, and occasionally in need of a lot of help when I’m depressed. Since we are basically stuck with ourselves, even miniscule drops of greater self-acceptance and goodwill help settle my inner discontent.
Of the many benefits of metta listed in the suttas, this has been the most revolutionary for my own practice: it helps me settle into a sitting meditation with a clearer mind than the one I brought to the session. This point is often glossed over in the way mindfulness meditation is being taught these days.
being on good terms with yourself
If we are not on good terms with ourselves it’s hard to settle down on the breath.
All manner of disturbing thoughts come, often below the surface of conscious awareness. We may go into all sorts of fantasies as a work-around, but they never help.
we need kindness
There simply is no way around this: we need kindness toward ourselves even to get past the starting line, to say nothing of how valuable it is in the often emotionally challenging work ahead.
Kindness toward self is heavy stuff. Metta starts here; with practice we develop warmth and feeling for friends, family members, those we meet for the first time, and especially those with whom we may not be on good terms.
I know a lot of burned out spiritual activists who perhaps neglected metta as the first step on their path. In these troubling times, we need the gentle rain of metta to nourish the soil of our actions.
metta for ourselves
If we wish to creatively work toward healing the world’s many wounds, politically, environmentally, and socially, we need to start with metta for ourselves.
Without the foundation of metta, starting with ourselves, our actions can be weakened by instinctive aggression. I do see the point of many who are critics of metta as being merely passive; metta doesn’t stay passive for long, and if it does it needs a re-boot.
The developing metta practice gives us the inner strength and conviction to actively speak and act in whatever way is appropriate to the situation.
Metta takes us to places far from the security the ego wants.
Joana Macy wrote:
‘The capacity of the human heart-mind to look into the face of suffering and pain has everything to do with its awakening it its full dimensions, joy, and power.’
Metta is a crucible in which these full dimensions of the human heart are forged.
metta gives us strength
The world is in a terrible mess. Metta gives us the strength to bear witness and to act.
I will leave you with the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., (please substitute “metta” for “love”).
‘In the final analysis, love is not this sentimental something that we talk about. It’s not merely an emotional something… Love is the understanding, creative, redemptive goodwill for all people.”
Paraphrasing the Buddha and Dr King, metta is redemptive goodwill in the beginning, the middle and the end.
Metta challenges us is way many of us have never been challenged before.
Metta needs need you, and you need metta.
This week, please, take a little time out of your busy lives and sit down and meditate for 25 minutes using this week’s chosen metta guided meditation from the Insight Timer app: “25 Minute Lovingkindness Meditation” by Bodhipaksa.
Let me know how it goes – just leave a comment below.
“In gladness and in safety, may you be at ease.”
Katina and I are here to support your meditation practice in any way we can, just contact us through the Contact Page on this site. Or if you live in Honolulu, or ever visit, feel free to drop by our free, weekly meditation evenings.