Monday, February 18, 2008

Metta – Developing Lovingkindness for a Friend

The Full Metta Practice:
The full Lovingkindness Practice (Metta Bahavana) is a highly structured one which leads us through the process of generating unconditional lovingkindness to all ‘sentient beings’. The understanding is that all beings suffer, and that as we are all deeply connected then it is right that we wish them all to be well, happy and free from the causes of suffering.

The full practice leads us through this in a number of stages:

1. The generation of feelings of lovingkindness (Metta) for ourselves
2. Developing lovingkindness for a friend
3. Developing lovingkindness for a ‘neutral’ person
4. Developing lovingkindness for an ‘enemy’
5. Bringing all four people together and equalizing the feelings of metta
6. Sending that unconditional lovingkindness to all beings in all directions

This is a powerful meditation practice that can take half an hour – or a whole lifetime.

The basic fact is that humanity survives through kindness, love and compassion. That human beings can develop these qualities is their real blessing. – His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Metta for a Friend:
For the moment we will just concentrate on taking the feelings of metta and applying them to a ‘friend’. Traditionally this person is called the ‘ally’ or ‘benefactor’. It is important to understand in this practice that we bring to mind in the early stages real people who we know. Before embarking on the practice we should choose a specific person who we generally feel good about. Some guidelines on the choice will help. Firstly, choose someone who is currently alive who you know well. Be careful for the moment not to choose someone who you have complicated feelings about – it is best not to choose parents or children, or anyone who you are emotionally or physically attracted to (in the literature these relationships are called ‘sticky’). The reason for choosing a ‘non-sticky’ person as we start the practice is so that we can focus on metta, and not get caught up in the complexities of the relationship. Metta can be a lifetime practice, so you will have the opportunity to work the ‘sticky’ people into your practice as you progress.

The practice then is to first generate feelings of metta for yourself, then to bring to mind your friend. You wish that person to be well, as you did for yourself, and you focus on how that wish is unconditional. It is not based on what that person has done, or what that person can do for you. It is based purely on the fact that that person deserves to be well, happy and free from suffering. Again, as you practice metta for a friend notice the tone of your feelings, and work on replicating or equalizing the feeling you had for yourself and the wishes you are offering your friend.

Practice: Metta for My Friend.
This meditation is designed to develop the ability to build the same feelings of metta for another person by starting with a friend.

Start by settling into your meditation position and gaining focus through mindfulness of the breath. Now, begin to develop feelings of lovingkindness for yourself. Tell yourself that you deserve that feeling of happiness in all of your life, regardless of the mistakes you make or situations you find yourself in. Repeat the mantram ‘May I be well, May I be happy’ and try to let go of any negative feelings, realizing that you deserve to feel well and happy – unconditionally. Now bring to mind your friend, and apply the same mantram to your friend – ‘may you be well, may you be happy’. Observe your own feelings as you do so, and meditate on the fact that your friend deserves to be well, happy, free of fear and free of suffering unconditionally – not because they are a good person, or because you want them as a friend, but just because they are human.

Chris

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