Practicing the wisdom of Metta
This is Metta. Metta loves unconditionally. She spreads joy to everyone she encounters and shows delight and enthusiasm for the little things in life. Back inside after collecting the post 60 seconds ago? How exciting! Another chance to show more love and affection. Gone for three hours? It’s a homecoming celebration!
Metta forgives easily and doesn’t carry a grudge. When I tell her I can’t play because I’m working she’s undeterred, and – full of hope – brings another toy in case the first one wasn’t what I wanted. When I tell her again that I’m still working, she quickly gets over her dejection and goes away happily to find something else to occupy herself – no guilt tripping, and no resentment.
Her needs and wants are expressed clearly – without passive-aggression or manipulation. Metta is always focused on the present moment and on connecting with those around her, wholeheartedly. Metta is happy to be herself, just like that. What a great teacher to have in daily life!
Metta is a word from the Buddha’s now-extinct language, Pali. In Sanskrit it’s Maitri. Both are often translated variously as loving-kindness, friendship, or benevolence. Metta is a central practice in Buddhism, designed to cultivate compassion and goodwill towards all sentient beings. The Buddha found it so important that he taught his followers an explicit method to develop it (click here to listen to a guided Metta Meditation). Crucially, the practice begins by offering loving-kindness to yourself first, before extending it to others in an ever-expanding radius.
“The foundation of Metta practice is to know how to be our own friend. According to the Buddha: “You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” ~ Sharon Salzberg
How different that is to what we see around Valentine’s Day! The type of love most people focus on in everyday life is personal, exclusive, loaded with expectations, and even obsessional. A better word for this kind of love would be lust, or attachment, or even codependency, but we don’t see those traps because today’s culture is focused on the quid-pro-quo of relationship – love me and I’ll love you back. Even parents project this ersatz kind of love onto their children. Behave well and I’ll love you. Get good grades and I’ll show you appreciation. Sooner or later, whether romantic or intergenerational, this misunderstanding of love is a source of separation and suffering.
When we express loving-kindness to all sentient beings – yes, even The Donald! – we all suffer less. It seems counterintuitive to offer love and amity to someone we perceive as evil, yet if we hold the wish of good health, happiness and peace for each and every one of us, we create that feeling within ourselves, then feed it back out, and spread more of it around. If The Donald had ever felt truly loved and had nothing to defend against, he would behave differently. It’s no different with a small child. We can focus on changing the actions and behaviours we can’t tolerate and still hold a space for loving-kindness towards our fellow beings.
This Friday, February 17th is Random Acts of Kindness Day – yes, it’s a thing. Newer and rather less popular than Valentine’s Day, I think the message is wonderful. To honour it, find three (or unlimited!) ways to show kindness to those around you in unexpected ways. Doing this discreetly and even anonymously is best, lest the ego clamour for more credit and visibility. You could make a spontaneous charitable donation, pay forward a cup of coffee or a meal (by making a payment in anticipation of another person’s purchase when you pay for your own meal), tidy up the sidewalk where you find rubbish, or strike up a conversation with a stranger and leave them feeling good about life (dog walking is a great pretense for this!). Find a way to express yourself in a random act of kindness and feel your heart puff up a bit.
For those who enjoy the current energy reports, we are currently in the rarified period between two eclipses – the lunar eclipse of February 11th, and the upcoming solar eclipse on February 26th. This can be an especially spiritual time when inspiration seems to flow, yet emotions and feelings can be hard to pinpoint or understand. Your inner guidance might be quite strong, and your practice of meditation or spiritual rituals can bring you new insights and connections to your higher self. So don’t just do something, sit there! 😉
This year is a turning point for our collective consciousness, similar to 2012 in importance but for different reasons. We need as many people as possible to stay grounded in love and unity consciousness. Stay focused on who you are and what you can offer those around you. Critical thinking – and plain old common sense! – are more important than ever at a time when we are overloaded with conflicting messages. Return to yourself and your breath as often as possible every day.
The solar eclipse in Pisces on the 26th is finishing up this particular eclipse cycle of about 19 years, so we can look back one last time to late 2007/early 2008, and even late 1997/early 1998 to find a resonance with what is ending or emerging for us in our own life. Allow yourself to see new and perhaps long-buried aspects of yourself bringing change in similar areas of life as you found in the years mentioned above. Don’t beat yourself up if you feel like you’re not where you had wanted to be at this point in your life – it’s disempowering and discouraging, plus, paradoxically, it prevents you from furthering your experience of life and you can stay stuck dwelling on what you don’t want – in six months you will find things are very different than you could ever imagine now anyway!
If we are genuinely growing along with life we are constantly transforming, yet there are moments when a deeper transformation – or even a radical course correction – is needed to feel more in alignment with life so the outside better reflects who you are becoming on the inside. Next week I will be sending you an invitation to join me for a free webinar to help you align with your purpose in life – I hope you can join me! If you are looking to find guidance and support on your path to transformation, I know you will love it!
Much love and light as always,