Insight Meditation Houston

Metta as an Art – 6/10/2019

In The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness, and Peace, Jack Kornfield compiles pertinent quotations and teachings about the Divine Abode of Metta.

He describes Metta in this way: “Lovingkindness [practice] offers care and well-wishing to [others] without expectation or demand. There is no distance between their wellbeing and our own. True love is trustworthy. Our love for others is an expression of our trust in love itself. No matter what happens, we can still love.”

The Buddha taught, “The greatest protection in all the world is lovingkindness”…. “Knowing life is short, how can we quarrel?”…. “Like a caring mother holding and guarding the life of her only child, so with a boundless heart of lovingkindness, hold yourself and all beings as your beloved children”…. “You can search the whole universe and not find a single being more worthy of love than yourself.”

Jack cautions, “One of the greatest blocks to lovingkindness is our own sense of unworthiness. If we leave ourselves out of the circle of love and compassion, we have misunderstood.”

He acknowledges, “At times we feel we cannot love. Because of our confusion and the pain we carry, because of the suffering around us, our love is buried.” Yet, “we must learn to find love again, in our body and heart, in our community, in all things”…. “In the end, when we look at our life, the questions will be simple: ‘Did I live fully? Did I love well?’”

Buddhist practitioners identify hatred as one of the “far enemies” of love because it hardens the heart. As Martin Luther King, Jr. preached, “Never succumb to the temptation of becoming bitter. As you press for justice, be sure to move with dignity and discipline, using only the instruments of love.”

Another “far enemy” of love is fear, which contracts the heart with worries and anxieties [that] stop the flow of love. The Persian poet Hafiz noted, “Fear is the cheapest room in the house. I’d like to see you in better living conditions.”

Jack adds, “Love is based on our capacity to trust in a reality beyond fear, to trust a timeless truth bigger than all our difficulties. Love is without demands. Sometimes love means standing firm. Sometimes love means letting go. Love blossoms whenever we step beyond our fears and rest in the generosity of the heart.”

“Near enemies” are pale imitations of Metta. Attachment is conditional and stems from feeling separate instead of connected. Grasping and needy, attachment is associated with fearing loss and attempting to control others.

Another near enemy of lovingkindness is expectation—hoping that the person we care for will change and be some other way. Expectations involve pressure and judgment. In contrast, true love is generous, kind, and courageous.

Jack reminds us of the essence of Metta: “Lovingkindness gives us the capacity to care for and bless whatever is before us. It is a freedom and happiness with no cause, fulfilled and sufficient in itself. From [an] open heart, love brings a generous spirit to each moment and each encounter…. There is no hardship and no difficulty that enough love cannot conquer, no distance that enough love cannot span, no barrier that enough love cannot overcome.”

Now we’ll practice a guided Metta meditation adapted from Jack’s book:

Sit comfortably with eyes closed, and let your heart be soft.
Let go of any plans and preoccupations.
Breathe gently.

Beginning with yourself, repeat four traditional phrases directed to your own wellbeing. Without loving yourself, it is hard to love others.

May I be filled with lovingkindness.
May I be healthy in body and mind.
From inner and outer harm may I be safe.
May I be happy and at ease.

As you repeat these phrases, you may picture yourself as you are now. Or you may find it easier to imagine yourself as a young, beloved child. Let loving feelings permeate your body and mind.

Sometimes Metta meditation practice may feel mechanical or awkward. In the process of purifying the heart, it can also bring up feelings contrary to lovingkindness, feelings of irritation or anger. If this happens, be patient and tender towards yourself, receiving whatever arises in a spirit of friendliness and kind attention.

When you have established a sense of lovingkindness for yourself, expand the meditation to include a benefactor, someone who has loved or truly cared for you. Expressing gratitude to our benefactors is a natural form of love. Picture or have a felt sense of this person as you repeat the following phrases:

May you be filled with lovingkindness.
May you be healthy in body and mind.
From inner and outer harm may you be safe.
May you be happy and at ease.

Once you feel a steady sense of lovingkindness for your benefactor, open your heart to include someone you love, picturing or sensing the presence of this beloved one, and repeating,

May you be filled with lovingkindness.
May you be healthy in body and mind.
From inner and outer harm may you be safe.
May you be happy and at ease.

Gradually extend the practice to include a neutral person, whom you do not know well. Remember that all beings are worthy of love. You may have passed this person on the street or waited in a line together. Someone you don’t know well may be seated in our circle tonight. Connecting with a felt sense or a visual image, repeat the phrases and direct them to this neutral person.

May you be filled with lovingkindness.
May you be healthy in body and mind.
From inner and outer harm may you be safe.
May you be happy and at ease.

As your heart expands, consider if you are inclined to include a difficult person, someone with whom you have unfinished business or conflicts. As you picture or have a felt sense of this difficult one, recall that Metta practice is for your own benefit and freedom, so that you release the burden of carrying hatred or resentment. If you feel ready, direct the phrases towards the difficult person:

May you be filled with lovingkindness.
May you be healthy in body and mind.
From inner and outer harm may you be safe.
May you be happy and at ease.

Now let your heart open to include everyone in this circle, all who live in Houston, in Texas, in the USA, in the hemisphere, all people everywhere, all animals, all beings, the whole earth.

May you be filled with lovingkindness.
May you be healthy.
From inner and outer harm may you be safe.
May you be happy and at ease.

6/10/2019

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