Loving Kindness or Metta is one type of meditation that is simply the heartfelt wish for the well being of oneself and others. It is fundamentally about softening the heart and bringing the feelings of compassion, empathy and friendliness that are within our core to the surface of our being or presence.
Isn’t that lovely?
In concept, Loving Kindness is just that – lovely. But in actuality, in practice, when it is personal, Loving Kindness is really quite challenging.
Think of someone who has wronged you. Someone who is challenging for you to communicate and interact with. Think of an instance that was hurtful or painful for you. What tends to come next is blame, judgement, resentment and probably deep rooted thoughts of intense dislike.
Now try to send loving, kind thoughts of forgiveness and compassion to that person.
Therein lies the challenge.
We create these stories that encase the situation or person in one specific way. Then through practiced thinking, we convince ourselves that this is the only way to see the person or situation. We may have practiced seeing or thinking this way for years. Oh vey.
Here is the thing – these thoughts and emotions feel awful. They actually feel toxic and unhealthy complete with physical symptoms such as increased heart rate, upset digestion and tension.
So if toxic emotions towards others feel awful and loving kindness is lovely – what’s the problem again?
Oh right – we’re vigilantly wired to be on hyper alert for the negative because we needed to be on the look out for bears and danger when we lived in the woods collecting berries. It’s a survival technique that has stuck around. More on that here.
I don’t know about you, but I do a pretty good job of masking my judgmental thoughts. I have some pretty negative opinions and there are areas of my life where I feel truly wronged and I can get
pretty really cynical. And I hide these thoughts. They are a deep, dark secret because they make me feel like a bad person.
I had read Tara Brach’s books and listened to her pod casts and thought ‘Nope. Can’t do it. No way can I associate empathy and compassion to this negativity.’ I couldn’t even imagine toeing the line of loving kindness when it came to these well-practiced and well ingrained cynical stories I had created.
Here are some ‘oh wows’ from this past weekend with Tara and 300 others also interested in learning more about Loving Kindness meditation:
- I’m not an anomaly, misfit or even a bad person. There are so many others who also feel bound by cynical emotions towards another. And this causes us to suffer.
- Being bound by negative, cynical thoughts put us in a trance that inhibits our ability to truly feel what is going within ourselves.
- When we are in a trance, when we aren’t willing to really feel, we are not living a full life. This causes suffering.
- Loving Kindness and forgiveness ≠ condoning the situation or person. It isn’t about letting down your boundaries. It is about letting go of the story so it can start to release it’s grip on your thoughts, lifting the toxic trance.
- Those that cause suffering are most likely suffering very much themselves.
The weekend illustrated the power and importance of connection in this journey – in everyone’s journey. Realizing that others are struggling and suffering in similar ways breaks down our tough exteriors, creating a space for compassion and empathy to come out with out fear of danger (or bears). Surrounded with others who were like me took away the perception that I was the only one who had judgmental, toxic thinking patterns.
For me, this was the first step in realizing that I could begin to forgive and let go of the stories that seeded my toxic, judgmental thoughts. It’s certainly going to be a project, but I started. I actually toed the Loving Kindness line. I saw the potential of practicing Loving Kindness or Metta Meditations and how worth the effort will be.
There was one question Tara sprinkled throughout her lecture that felt like an echo in my soul:
“Who could you be if nothing was wrong?”