- Shoot for 30 minutes of Metta a day
- Try not to miss more than one day in a row
- Do the daily life practice too
Transcript: Week 3 Q&A
Q: When I focus on the enemy, obviously there is resistance, and one of the ways I see myself overcoming that resistance is to rationalise that the enemy is also going through hard things in life, because when I meditate I see all these things inside myself that I want to change, so I’m kinda projecting this onto the other person… is that too much rationalisation?A: That is actually really good, it’s a skilful thing to do. When you send Metta to the enemy, you’re learning *unconditional* love and friendliness. And that’s the kind you want, since the goal is to be unconditionally happy, and friendliness is a crucial part of happiness.
So, to struggle to send Metta to the enemy is common, almost everyone struggles with this. And what I hear you saying is that you are engaging your compassion, you’re reflecting “Ah, this person struggles, their motivation isn’t always skilful, just like me, I also struggle, etc”. So this is where we get into aspects of the intellect being engaged, and this is interesting and important. People think of meditation as non-intellectual, which is true, its not as intellectual as your daily life existence. And with meditation we go beyond the intellect eventually, but we can forget about that now for the time being. But skilful meditation brings everything into it – the body, the intellect, emotions, we roll all of it into the practice and transform it.
Q: With respect to Metta there are three of four phrases you usually repeat, and I was doing much more than that, so I’m wondering if I was doing that properly. I would think about how if they meditated they would learn similar things that I am, and so its perfectly normal that they’re not in a good place right now, etc.. so I thought this type of thinking was out of place, but is it?
A: Ah, this is important and I’m glad you brought it up. You do want to keep thinking to a minimum. I would say it’s adaptive to think “this person hasn’t cultivated themselves, they haven’t studied meditation, that’s why they’re behaving in a way that is offensive or hurtful.” But if we keep on going and thinking about their childhood, their culture, and thinking about it, that would be too much.
Q: So I should come back to the Metta phrases pretty quickly.
A: Yes. When you think in this way, you’re massaging Metta and compassion into the intellect. So you’re integrating the Metta into your personality via the intellect, by thinking in this way. Which is good, but you want the primary object to be the feeling of loving kindness. You’re using the Metta phrases: image thoughts and auditory thoughts – to support the feeling.
Q: I’ve tried this a few times in the past, and I find it overwhelmingly emotional. To the point of tears. What’s going on with that?
A: This is not an uncommon report; this happens. You want to do the practice, but give yourself permission to back away from the practice whenever you need to. You can take a walk, or you can do the Metta while doing walking meditation… that can give enough stimulation to the body and even a little distraction to where it’s not as overwhelming. And a more traditional intervention would be to do the Brahma Vihara of equanimity. It’s like Metta but you’re focusing on bringing up a type of smiling impartiality. You can do a prayer like this, going through the same order of people: “May they be at peace in the face of the ups and downs of life”. You try to generate this calm tolerant equanimity and peace, and you wish it to others. Does that speak to your question?
Q: Yes! And I think the feeling overall is a good thing, and I wonder, should I communicate these feelings to the other person?
A: That’s something you need to figure out in each case, and I can’t give an opinion on that, but it should be fine to say something simple, like “I was doing this prayer and strong feelings came up and I just wish you to be happy”.
And just to reiterate, its totally fine to go into these intense emotions, or to back off from them, depending on the situation.
Q: When we had to think of the enemy, I couldn’t think of anyone, but when you told us to love everyone in the country or planet I felt some resistance, I noticed I couldn’t do it unconditionally, which is for sure something I can work on.
A: That’s a good insight.. we are trying to develop friendliness and love, but also, this isn’t an excuse to develop harshness towards yourself. So don’t beat up on yourself when you see these limitations in your mind.
Q: How do we add this practice into our daily life?
A: The course recommendations is 30 minutes a day, just do the best as you can, no big deal. What you can do is 15 minutes of Metta, then 15 minutes of See Hear Feel, or just do the Metta during the formal practice and SHF in daily life, or do Metta both as formal practice and also in daily life. Or you can also do it as a background practice, when interacting with people, just having that friendliness.
For you my recommendation would be to go ahead and do the whole formal practice as Metta since you’re already well established in SHF, and then I would do both Metta and SHF during the day.
Q: There might be a cultural / language barrier. When you speak about friendliness or loving-kindness I’m not entirely sure what you mean, could you describe this a little more?
A: Sure. Think of a friend who you really like and you really love. Imagine you haven’t seen them for ten years, and you see them again and you get this reaction. So pay attention to the feeling: “it’s so good to see you! I’m so happy to see you”. So you’re smiling and you have the feeling of friendliness and kindness and you want good things for them. Thats how I would explain it.
There’s all these variations, such as compassion or gratitude.. but they’re all variations of love and friendliness. It’s ok for the Metta meditation to have more of a flavour of this one or that one.