May all be well
May all be safe
May all be happy
The Buddhist (Mahayana) tradition has a beautiful meditation known as ‘Metta’ meditation or Loving Kindness meditation. It is one that I have often guided people in. It is reportedly the Dalai Lama’s favorite meditation.
In this meditation, we put people into three categories – friends, enemies and strangers – and position them on our left, right and in front of us respectively. Our ‘friends’ are those people whom we like, love and have good relationships with. Our ‘enemies’ are those people whom we dislike, do not love or find it hard to love and with whom we have strained relationships. Our friends, family members and partners may occur in either group. Finally, we have ’strangers’ in our lives, people we don’t necessarily have a personal relationship with and for whom we therefore have no particular feelings for. This, by far, is the largest group for they include everyone else besides our friends and enemies.
In this meditation, we imagine these three groups of people seated around us in the respective positions mentioned above. We begin by considering ourselves and our desires, recognizing that one of our strongest desires is to be happy. Having recognized and, in the process, evoked the desire for happiness within ourselves, we are now primed with empathy. It is this empathy that we use to consider the people in the three groups.
As we look to our ‘friends’ on our left, we recognize that, just like us, they too desire to be happy. We therefore bless them with our wish for their happiness. Next, we look in front of us to the group of ’strangers’ and once again, using our empathy, recognize their desire for happiness and bless them also with our wish for their happiness.
Finally, we turn to our ‘enemies’ on our right. For many people, this is the hardest part of the meditation, but if they can do it, is is also the most rewarding and liberating. I often help them along by reminding them that whatever we do, regardless of how we are judged or how we judge ourselves, we have acted because we believe that it will somehow make us happy. Most people can appreciate this. Likewise, I remind them, whatever another person has done, no matter how cruel or unjust it may appear to us, they have done it because they believed that it would bring about their happiness.
Now it is true that many of our actions are in fact, ‘re-actions’ i.e. re-acting old behaviors, thoughts and words which have been programmed into our subconscious. In other words, these are automatic reactions which are not the result of ‘conscious’ reasoning and free choice. It is important to understand this because actions that are hurtful or unjust have their root cause in beliefs that are embedded deep in our subconscious, beliefs in which these actions have been erroneously associated with ‘relief from pain’ and erroneously confused with ‘happiness‘.
In acknowledging this, I am not suggesting that we or our ‘enemies’ are free from responsibility (note ‘responsibility = response ability, the ability to respond) for our/their actions. What I am saying is that we need to understand why we behave in the way we do, failing which, we will never be able to change our behavior or change the way we relate to people whose behavior we condemn.
Having such an understanding enables us to use our empathy (or cultivate empathy) toward our ‘enemies’, once again recognizing that like us, they too desire happiness. And so we bless them also with our wish for their happiness.
The benefits of this meditation are tremendous. I do not wish to go into them here but I will say this. Whenever I practise this meditation, I experience a wonderful peace and joy/happiness and a great sense of control or efficacy over my relationships, particularly those with my ‘enemies’. I no longer feel a victim of their unkindness or injustice. On the contrary, I feel a great sense of empathy, a sense of “It’s okay, I know you are doing your best, just like me”. Even more exciting is that the next time I meet this ‘enemy’, I always find that we are able to relate better, mainly because I no longer hold that strong sense of outrage, hurt or ill-will toward her/him.
If you haven’t tried this meditation, I would encourage you to. If you need help with it, you can always contact me by email. If you have done this meditation, perhaps you’d like to share your experiences?
Lucy Lopez – Hire Me!