From Miranda’s talk at the Living Grace Global Sangha in February 2022 – click here to subscribe for Audio Membership and receive future downloadable teachings each month.
Each time we gather together in Sangha, at the end we dedicate the benefit we have received to others – perhaps to specific people we might know who are going through difficulties – but we also just offer it to the highest good of all beings everywhere. And, if you’ve done my meditation program then you know that one of the key aspects of entering any practice is also to dedicate your practice to the highest good of all beings, to help you remember it’s actually not about you.
So each time we close our Sangha meetings, we close by singing my articulation of the metta of loving-kindness which I have been singing, praying for decades of my life. It’s really the tip of the iceberg of one of the most important and powerful spiritual practices there is, that was given to us by the Buddhist tradition, but that really is a universal spiritual practice of metta bhavana.
Today, I want to focus on the aspect of loving kindness. I think it’s pretty obvious to you, as it is to me, that for something beautiful to be born in and amidst the intensity of our times it needs and wants to be grounded in a consciousness that is both unified and full of loving-kindness.
This is obvious, I’m sure. You don’t need me to tell you that love is meaningful and that kindness matters, is valuable, and important. We need loving kindness like we need oxygen to be there in the next breath. Actually, if we pay attention, we will see that the movement of nature, of trees, of all the plant kingdom is this natural embodiment of a deep spacious kindness – a deep heart that is manifesting through the plant kingdom, that is sucking in, absorbing human carbon dioxide and is giving out beautiful clean life-sustaining oxygen that is nourishing. We need that quality to grow, to open up, to try new things, to be able to let go of what is familiar to us, to take risks, and know somehow, that it will be all right, that it’ll be all right.
If we don’t bring the loving kindness to where we fall short, to where we stumble, to those places where we pick up the same old strategy and defense, those places where we’re not very awake yet, inevitably we’re in danger of the super-ego kicking in and that knife of judgment turning our spiritual practice into an aggressing upon the self, which then derails the whole thing.
I want to open up what this really means and to open up what the word metta really means. It’s a word that comes from the Pali language and it has two root meanings.
The first root of metta means to be gentle. Metta has been likened to gentle, soft rain that falls upon the earth. The rain doesn’t select on which beings it will fall and upon which it won’t. The rain, when it comes, just falls on everything and everyone, hydrating ants, land, people, cows, fields, houses. Similarly, the goal of the metta practice is not just to be able to extend loving kindness to those you find easy to love, to those who please you, who you find fun and fulfilling but to let this essential quality be extended to absolutely everyone including yourself.
So, the second root of the word metta means ‘ friend’. I find this really beautiful. The Buddha defined a true friend as someone who was constant in times of happiness and in times of adversity, someone who won’t forsake you when you’re in trouble nor who will rejoice in your difficulties. He said that a true friend is a companion who will walk with you, who will listen to you, who will share with you, who will care for you when you’re unable to care for yourself, who will be a refuge to you when you are afraid.
And so, the ultimate goal of metta practice is to become such a friend to all of life.
In the actual formal metta practice, it’s more than just having a sweet intention. It really asks us to journey into the heart itself. So, if you have been listening to some of the guided meditations that I’ve recorded over the years, you’ll notice that the ones that focus on the heart such as the Vast Heart, or the Cultivating Compassion, they invite you to bring your attention to the heart. The easiest way to do that is to focus on the breath because inevitably the breath happens through the diaphragm and the chest. As we focus on breath itself, on the phenomena of breathing that is the most natural thing to us humans, we can meditate firstly on the fact that every breath is love, quite literally, as I’ve shared, that the oxygen that we are taking in is loving kindness itself which is offered generously without any invoice and that it is inevitably part of the generosity of true nature that we are within, and part of and being lived and breathed by and are breathing. Simply by focusing on this is the easiest way that I know to get into the first part of the practice, which is just cultivating that quality of metta itself or letting it be cultivated in you by giving it your focus of attention.
We cultivate that quality and we then direct it in five specific ways which I will open up in today’s teaching….
Click here to listen to more from this talk on ‘Exponential Loving Kindness ‘ –
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With love to you and peace to our world,
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