Metta meditation, or lovingkindness, is one of the 4 compassion practices known as the Brahma Viharas or Divine Abodes. Sometimes referred to as the two wings of the practice, mindfulness meditation cultivates our ability to clearly see what is, while metta meditation cultivates our capacity to be with what is — and to open our hearts.
Metta is about opening our hearts, without judgement, and wishing well to all beings. This is what the Buddha taught, and what Martin Luther King, Jr. taught. As Dr. King said,
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
So when we practice metta meditation, we don’t offer metta to some people and not to others. We open our hearts to all.
This can be hard; but it can be so good and so powerful.
I’ve sincerely offered metta many times to people with whom I’ve been in conflict over the years, and the more I offered metta, the more often I saw light dawn, opportunities appear and improvements occur.
A few weeks ago when we were doing metta meditation in class and our teacher asked us to focus on someone with whom we were in conflict, I…. couldn’t think of anyone. Seriously! I literally couldn’t think of a single person in my life with whom I have tension or conflict. What a precious blessing!!!
When Charlottesville happened, my mind wondered, what’s an appropriate response to this hatred and rage and violence? But my heart already knew.
I offer metta meditation for Charlottesville, and hope you will join me — as hard as it may be. Because we will be offering lovingkindness to those who were hurt and those who did the hurting; those with inclusivity in their hearts and those with fear and hatred in their hearts.
This doesn’t mean that we won’t draw boundaries nor stand up for what we believe in, and especially for black Americans, Native Americans, and for all people who have been made to feel “other.” In fact, there is a powerful tradition of Buddhist activism over the centuries unto the present day. But it does mean acting and speaking with wisdom and compassion. It does mean recognizing that no one wants to suffer and that when people behave horribly they are quite often suffering. (This is not an excuse, but it is often true.) And it does mean opening our hearts, to allow love to grow and the darkness to recede.
May all people in Charlottesville and across our land be held in the heart of lovingkindness.
May all people be free from inner and outer harm.
May all people be healed in mind, body and spirit.
May all people live with equanimity, compassion and peace.