Why Choose Love?

This is part of my Start Here series of posts aimed at teaching beginners the basics of the human hardware.

Blues wrote:

Rose tinted metta made me feel like a pushover hippy, men found me nice women thought I was creepy.

Tauredon wrote:

Metta to me always felt too abstract.

FirstTimeCommenter wrote:

 I was refering to the intense metta states Illuminatus described in his blog post […] I was wondering if they go along with impaired judgment etc.

This site has never been about morality. When I recommend metta (Buddhist loving-kindness practice) this is not a moral imperative or religious edict. It is simply that, from a purely practical standpoint, metta is the most directly observable transformative process for one’s personal relationships. In other words, it works. It works so well in fact that you would be forgiven for considering it a type of “magic spell” (and personal tracking via daily journal entries is one way to see those results playing out over time, in black and white).

The major monotheistic religions (Christianity, Judaism, Islam) each have some variant of “Love thy neighbour”. The problem is that these religions are big on commandments (the “why”), but small on practice (the “how”). Buddhism and Hindu-yogic traditions on the other hand have detailed guides on the cultivation of states of loving-kindness and compassion. It is ironic that Christmas brings my family together each year, yet it is Buddhist metta practice which prevents things turning into a firestorm.

Metta simply means that you approach other people from the right place. Metta practice creates an internal alignment allowing you to perceive others’ needs (which operate below their surface behaviours), and reflect back a fulfilment of those needs. People just want to be acknowledged and feel understood. Love, as an emotion, is both the filter that reveals those needs, and the antidote to them.

Choosing to feel love as an emotion during a meditation session will also chill you the fuck out and stop you taking everything so personally.

Metta will not make you roll over when challenged by someone. It does however mean you will consider solutions which benefit you both, as opposed to appeasing your own ego. A calmness and mutual respect is much more likely to manifest following metta practice. For those of you with shouting, dysfunctional families, do you look on in awe when someone external is able to calmly manage arguments, and wonder, “How do they do it? What do they have that I don’t?” Metta practice can function as the missing piece from your childhood. It can replace the reasoned love and calmness you would have absorbed from your parents, had they had it themselves.

Metta also will not cause you to keep bad company. In fact, there is a natural gravitation towards nicer people (or, at least, the nicer aspects of people) following metta meditation. This should become very clear if you put in the time with the practice. Metta makes it easier to see the good in others.

Metta will not make you into a mindless “giver”. I gave the least number of Christmas presents this year but emotionally had one of the richest. Would you rather people want your money, or want you?

Loving-kindness won’t make you weak. In fact, it requires more emotional strength to choose love, since anger and the service of the false self is the path of least resistance. Love requires strength, and metta practice is resistance training for love.

Buddhist and yogic practices were not made up “for no reason”. They are structured in such a way that they can patch up any hole in your character – and virtually no stone has been left unturned in their exploration and codification. Be grateful and have respect for those who have gone before you on this path.

The Method

I usually send people to the following link for instructions on metta practice: http://integrateddaniel.info/magick-and-the-brahma-viharas/ (Section 36). Having revisited it however, I have found it rather wordy, especially for beginners. While I do appreciate the care given in the scriptures towards such practice, I have found great success in a far simplified version:

  1. Envision someone you already like (but don’t choose someone you are sexually attracted to, as this complicates things).
  2. Say “love” in your mind and attempt to generate feelings of warmth and love, especially in the chest area. Try to absorb into those feelings and amplify them as much as you are able to while holding their image. One sign of success is that the image of their face will begin smiling (though do not be discouraged if this does not happen).
  3. Repeat for a few minutes.

Then repeat 1–3 for someone you are neutral or indifferent towards. Then repeat 1–3 for someone you are hostile towards.

I recommend 15 minutes of this per day, though 5 is better than none, and 10 is better than 5. Practising during “found time” is also effective – e.g. if the choice is between watching TV or doing metta for 15 minutes, metta is the better choice.

Metta practice is best done as a prevention rather than a cure. Doing it in the morning before going out into the world will have you find a more peaceful, happier world. That said, metta can also be used as a cure when a situation is about to, or has gone, awry. In that case, say the word “love” in your mind to fire that mental anchor, and attempt to locate the associated feeling in your body. Then, let go, and have faith that you are coming at things from the right place. At least you are doing your part.

The best time to practise metta is when the mind has already experienced some unification, or has become slightly concentrated, or has “touched nonduality”. Therefore metta is best done as a “bolt-on” meditation at the end of your regular 30-minute meditation session (whether that is Do Nothing, mindfulness of breath, TM-style soft mantra, Awareness Watching Awareness, or whatever your standard practice is). Any of those standard meditation types will create some mental unification conducive to metta.

Do not be discouraged by a lack of “fireworks” (jhana, samadhi etc.) during metta. Metta does not need those things to “work”. While metta is certainly capable of producing such states, it is also cumulative and manifests progressively positive effects over time. I therefore encourage you to keep a daily journal tracking both meditation and daily events in order that such results are more easily noticed and evaluated. I have provided a board on the forum for this purpose: http://www.personalpowermeditation.com/forum2/meditation-logs/

I do not believe in a “self” at the core of each person. Rather, I have found that each person is simply the product of his or her relationships to people and things. Can you really refute that? Everything you think is just an impression put into you by someone or something else. Improving relationships is therefore the direct means to improving yourself. The relationship is you and is that other person at that moment in time. Long after the interaction is over, the relationship remains. Choose love as its basis, for purely practical reasons.

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58 Responses

  1. Rick says:

    what do you think of Tonglen? Part of it is the same as Metta with the benefit of integrating uncomortable emotions instead of rejecting or surpresssing them.

    you can read more about Tonglen here. curious what you think of it.

    http://ourweirdlives.com/tonglen-badass-buddhist-practice-anxiety/

    • Illuminatus says:

      Seems to be a hybrid: insight/vipassana on the inhale, metta/compassion on the exhale.

      I haven’t tried it (and likely won’t) so I can’t comment on its effectiveness. My first impression however says there is too much to “do”.

  2. Saturnus says:

    I have recently finished reading Daniel Ingram’s Magick and The Brahma Viharas and one point has been bothering me ever since. In section 36 where he proposes phrases to invoke the Brahma Viharas, the first three (Loving-kindness, Compassion and sympathetic joy) are all wishes for the well-being of oneself and others. Then in the last one (Equanimity) he takes a 180 degree turn and says “[people’s] happiness depends upon their actions and not upon my wishes for them.” How do you account for this paradox?

    He somewhat address this problem right after (36.5.1) by saying invoking equanimity towards oneself is philosophically problematic (at least according to his model) by saying “with the exception of Equanimity, for which this first one is somewhat philosophically problematic”. But I don’t think this really addresses the problem. If anything it is best for one to feel equanimity towards their own karma.

    • Illuminatus says:

      >How do you account for this paradox?

      I don’t know. I remember thinking that a little odd when I read it. Hopefully Arpan will offer his thoughts when he is back from his business trip.

      >He somewhat address this problem right after (36.5.1) by saying invoking equanimity towards oneself is philosophically problematic

      Well, I don’t know about Daniel’s reasons, but I omitted the “wishing towards oneself” step from my method in the above post, and I would remove it from ALL Brahma Vihara practice. The reason for this is that there is no “self” to wish something towards. There are just relationships. Brahma Vihara practice works on relationships. The self is so blatantly nonexistent beyond a certain point in meditation that trying to work with it is akin to schizophrenia.

      I also omitted the “wishing towards all beings” step because I am not vegetarian so it seems hypocritical.

      • James says:

        well even plants are beings

      • Saturnus says:

        I somewhat reconciled this by thinking that someone might be carrying karma and they need to experience it and we are not able to change that (equanimity) but we can wish for them to not add to their suffering (compassion). For example we can wish for someone to stay present during their suffering caused by karma so they can learn from it and release it.

        This brings us to the next paradox. How is karma compatible with no-self? What is the entity that carries the karma, and how is karma carried to the next life?

        • Illuminatus says:

          Karma is just paths of causality playing out. If dominoes are falling in sequence, there is no entity required to continue that sequence — it just continues on its own.

      • Lukas says:

        This is not a paradox, it depends on the concept you’re applying and the goal of the practice. If you stayed true to your statement, you couldn’t direct metta at another being either, because they are equally empty of self. To make an example for what I mean: Does the breath exist? In insight practice you deconstruct it to the smallest sensation and discover that there remains nothing to be called “breath”. In concentration practice you focus on the very breath, you solidify it, you use it as a concept. Likewise you can direct metta to others and to yourself. It even makes sense to direct metta to yourself because many of us lack self-acceptance and we are way to harsh with ourselves. How can you be kind to others if you can’t be kind to yourself?

        Even the Buddha’s instructions contain metta for oneself. This is from MN 99: Subha Sutta; II 206–8 from Bhikkhu Bodhi’s book. „In the Buddha’s Words: An Anthology of Discourses from the Pali Canon.“:

        „Here a monk dwells pervading one quarter with a mind imbued with loving-kindness, likewise the second, likewise the third, likewise the fourth; so above, below, around, and everywhere, and to all as to himself, he dwells pervading the all-encompassing world with a mind imbued with loving-kindness, abundant, exalted, immeasurable, without hostility, and without ill will.“

        • Illuminatus says:

          >If you stayed true to your statement, you couldn’t direct metta at another being either, because they are equally empty of self.

          I personally am using “the other person” as a marker for “the relationship”. “Me” and “the other person” are imaginary endpoints of a line called “the relationship”.

          However your comment will be helpful for people who construct their universe out of objects rather than relationships (99.999% of people) so thanks. 🙂

          I switched to “relationship space” unexpectedly a couple of years ago after a spiritual experience and 8 years of meditation. I am not sure it can be forced.

          • Lukas says:

            Relationship is a concept (you could also say a fabrication) too, as I understand it. And if there is a relationship to others, then there could be one with yourself as well. But maybe I’m misunderstanding what you mean. Most important is that metta is working! 🙂

            • Illuminatus says:

              >Relationship is a concept

              No. To call something by a word is to automatically conceptualize it. That’s a product of the verbal-conceptual mind (left hemisphere).

              But the experience of it is non-conceptual.

              Actual experience takes place in “relationship space”. Conceptualization takes place in “object space”.

              Relationship space is entered in “flow states” where conceptual mind is (temporarily) deactivated.

              We cannot talk much further about it via text because turning experience into text is to conceptualize it. This will quickly become circular (as it already has).

              It is the old “finger pointing at the moon” metaphor. Look at the moon, not the finger. Experience the relationship itself (the moon), not the word “relationship” (the finger). (And don’t say the moon is a concept, or we are back in the stupid semantic circle. 🙂 )

              • Lukas says:

                Me again. 😉 I’m trying to understand you here, not do devalue or even disqualify your statement. That’s why I try to explain what I meant and what I don’t get in your response once more:

                By conceptual or fabricated I meant dependently arisen, i.e. empty of self and empty of inherent existence. I wasn’t aiming for a signifier – signified discussion.

                Now what I don’t understand in your point of view is the term relationship or relationship space. Relationship is a connection between people, objects, ideas. You described it as a line with endpoints. My question then is: A line between what? I’m perfectly fine with the idea (or fact) that you have the five aggregates on both ends, that means not a stable, ongoing entity. The Buddha advised to aim loving-kindness at all directions, below, above, around, at all beings and oneself. Why make it complicated and introduce relationship here?

                Maybe it’s really beyond words. Or we’re just coming from different backgrounds and verbalize our experience differently and are not able to find common descriptions.

                Have a great day!

                • Illuminatus says:

                  >Now what I don’t understand in your point of view is the term relationship or relationship space. Relationship is a connection between people, objects, ideas. You described it as a line with endpoints. My question then is: A line between what?

                  The normal way of thinking about things is that the world is made up of objects, and when these objects interact a relationship is created (describing the interaction). In this model (OBJECT SPACE), the objects are prime and the relationship is inferred from the interaction of two or more objects.

                  I am saying, turn that on its head. Assume instead that there are NO objects. There are just relationships. And the “objects” are inferred from the relationship. (RELATIONSHIP SPACE)

                  OBJECT SPACE

                  A ———- B

                  “A” is an object; “B” is another object. The line is the relationship between them.

                  Example:

                  A = me
                  B = sun
                  Relationship = heat

                  This model requires that A is a separate, perceiving self, capable of perceiving heat from a source object, B.

                  Insight practice would have me first break down the sun into constituent sensations (penetrate the object) then turn that lens back on myself (penetrate myself) to find No Self there at all.

                  RELATIONSHIP SPACE

                  Relationship space takes no objects, and no false selves as the perceivers of those objects.

                  Rather:

                  ————–

                  (Just a line, the relationship; no objects)

                  You could label it:

                  —–HEAT—–

                  (But we are dangerously close to making that a “concept”, so try to avoid that for now.)

                  This is how we actually experience reality. We experience a relationship (heat) then infer an object (the sun, the source of the heat) and a perceiver (me, he who is perceiving the heat) after the fact.

                  This is where all the false selves and false objects come from.

                  I was able to spend a day in a state of only perceiving relationships, following a long meditation around two years ago. Everything was flow; nothing was conceptualized. This is where all the above came from.

                  🙂

                  • Lukas says:

                    Thanks for the explanation. I now see where you’re coming from.

                    • Illuminatus says:

                      Related video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nSobyZjJSvs

                      (His story starts around 2:00)

                      Shinzen Young sees flowing colour patterns during his meditation and notices his mind is compelled to turn them into objects. He experiences terror so long as he resists this urge. The terror was also flowing, so it was blissful (I have experienced this and will come back to it in a moment*).

                      His master instructs him, “I want you to reach a point where you never need to make an object out of self or world again.” Some interesting things happen.

                      Listen on 1.5x speed if you don’t want to be driven insane by his interminable stuttering and hesitation. A great man, but could use a few sessions with Toastmasters. 😀

                      *So, at some point maybe 18 months ago, I figured out that if I entered a state similar to yoga nidra — falling asleep without ever losing consciousness — reality would start to “flow” and the bit of the mind that compulsively turns things into objects would actually be deactivated during this time. This led to quite palpable cycling through the Stages of Insight, ending in Cessation. These were the first times I had cycled through the dukkha nanas (e.g. Fear, Misery etc.) without actually “suffering” from them.

                      This is when I realized that flow states are the key to navigating these territories, and that the “dry noting” method (Ingram et al.) actually creates most of the resistance and thus suffering during the dukkha nanas.

                      I guess the summary message is that assembling the world into objects, though evolutionarily helpful, creates resistance and suffering.

    • Illuminatus says:

      @Saturnus: Are you able to find any source material on Brahma Vihara practice to compare against Ingram’s?

    • cloudwyrm says:

      if you enter jhana with metta as the object the mind natural progresses through loving kindness -> compassion -> sympathetic joy -> equanimity as u go through jhanas 1 2 3 4. bhante vimalaramsi has some good utube videos about metta jhanas. i asume this is because all dharmas are equal in the absolute space of reality, so the experience of total equanimity is the natural state of mind when reality is seen as is.

      • Illuminatus says:

        Interesting, cloudwyrm, thanks. The jhanas are a journey from object space to relationship space (see above reply to Lukas) so this makes sense.

    • Arpan says:

      “I have recently finished reading Daniel Ingram’s Magick and The Brahma Viharas and one point has been bothering me ever since. In section 36 where he proposes phrases to invoke the Brahma Viharas, the first three (Loving-kindness, Compassion and sympathetic joy) are all wishes for the well-being of oneself and others. Then in the last one (Equanimity) he takes a 180 degree turn and says “[people’s] happiness depends upon their actions and not upon my wishes for them.” How do you account for this paradox?”

      First off: This is a wrong way to look at instructions for a spiritual practice. As I mentioned once on the forum, one must look at the feeling essence of an instruction and not get tangled in its semantics. At the level of sementics, there will always be conflicts because mind cannot capture the whole of Reality by its natural way of dissection. Eg. Buddha talks about non-injury, but praises the Vajji Republic for having a disciplined army trained in usage of a variety of weapon systems and able commanders, amongst other things. Apparently there is a conflict in his attitude about these things for an army and weapon systems are meant for killing. But then, isn’t compassion also that which drives(not often) a man to risk his life in battle for defence of his people against barbarians ? Our mind always sets unconscious limits in its understanding of a concept, depending on its own maturity, wideness and strength. To most people compassion is pity, with an instinctive recoil(where did buddha’s classification of Aversion as a hindrance go ?) at thought of violence and gore. (a related question: Would you go to war if Buddha suggests that, leaving all possibility of spiritual practice and Nirvana ? That is a true test of surrender/non-ego)
      Similarly fate vs free will: Every willed act you show me, I can explain it away as you being fated to will it. Every dole of fate you get, I can express as an act of your inner will that set the chain in motion. Napoleon, on of the most driven and competent person known to modern world was a thorough believer in fate, down to the minutest of details(his biography is really interesting). Relax into yourself, that is the message of Fate. Right vision and consequently action, comes to those who are still, relaxed, free of superfluous movements of consciousness, and that is the play of Free Will.

      Secondly, coming to Ingram’s piece: He makes everything too technical for my taste, fuelling questions like these even more. The stress he gives to “not our wishes” is rather unnecessary, causing the conflict. Ofcourse, our wishes have an effect, for wish too is a karma, it is a mental/vital karma. And our karma/action certainly affects others. Even if you are a thorough materialist, you can atleast appreciate the fact that Buddha did make an impact on people, continuing for thousands of years, until even now. It was a good wish in him, that nudged him to not sit satisfied with his personal liberation. Wishes our powerful. However, the other side of the story is true too: How many people in the world, have been able to listen to Buddha’s message or any great liberating teaching ? It takes some karma to be in such circumstance. And out of those who heard, how many seriously took to it, beyond making money or spinning political gains out of such religion ? And how many of the more sincere ones put in any more effort than lighting lamps at monastry, asking for boons or making donations ?
      So ultimately everybody’s well being does come down to their choices, but that choice is seriously bound by conditions of birth, intelligence, inheritance, country, circumstance, and attitude of fellow men(well wishes come here).

      I like the yogic way of applying these brahm viharas: Maitri for the equal, karuna for the low(greater suffering lesser endowments than us), Mudita for equal and greater, and Upeksha for those who are incorrigible(these are the ones for whom we can do nothing, and any interaction with them can be harmful for us).

  3. Rick says:

    on step 2 I imagine that I hug this person. It amplifies the feelings of love in my experience

  4. Illuminatus says:

    Some interesting thoughts on metta, particularly the “love = weakness” meme:
    http://www.personalpowermeditation.com/forum2/meditation-logs/starting-meditation-practice/

    • Saturnus says:

      I find the weakness in love to come from unskillful near and far enemies of each Brahma Vihara which we confuse for love.

      For example there is no shortage of leftists who confuse pity with compassion. Their pity turns them into weak soy boys.

    • Saturnus says:

      It also comes from a lack of trust in surrendering to the universe.

  5. Florian says:

    I was thinking about this earlier. Do you think that metta practise makes it more or less likely that you will be fucked with socially, “appearing weak” and therefore a target for bullies – or actually appearing strong and open due to your warmth/glow, therefore scaring away bullies, who are low self esteem deep down and have a deep fear of well adjusted, self aware people?

    Of course there are situations where metta is not applicable, at least in that moment. If someone is really trying to harm you, you will be better off using physical self defense, finding a security guard or calling the police. But generally what “metta meditation” is referring to is just the process of having generosity of spirit. Seeing the humanity of others, not taking things personally, and realizing that even when someone IS out to get you, it’s not even really about you, but about them.

    Counter intuitively I think that this kind of generosity of spirit/warmth makes it less likely you will be fucked with, not more. Though when alcohol is involved, anything can happen.. generally I think bullies are low self esteem deep down and have a deep fear of genuine, self aware people (having been in situations where their bullying didn’t “work”, and they were made to feel like nothing by someone that was literally above them spiritually, who didn’t even perceive them as a threat (what the bully really wants)). Most bullies will see this in your face, and decide to target someone more “low risk”, usually a person who looks wounded/anxious.

    • Illuminatus says:

      >Most bullies will see this in your face, and decide to target someone more “low risk”, usually a person who looks wounded/anxious.

      Exactly. We all know on some level that if you are anxious of bullies, you present a target that draws them towards you. That is because the relationship is already established (bully–victim). Changing the relationship changes the endpoints of the relationship.

      The default (ego) strategy however is to strengthen one’s defences. This creates the relationship “attacker–defender” and still creates fights (despite perhaps being better able to defend oneself in those fights).

      Metta changes the relationship to something not based in conflict at all.

      However, I am NOT saying “if you do metta no one will ever go after you”. Life is complicated and throws you curve balls.

      I am however saying: Test it for yourself. If you think doing metta will make you weak, then keep a 30-day journal of metta practice. Are you taken advantage of more often during that trial than in the previous 30 days without metta? I suspect most people will find they are not.

      Like most important things in life, the problem and its solution are counter-intuitive. But don’t take my word for it. Test it out.

    • Saturnus says:

      In my last year of high school, for some reason I had high levels of metta. The school bully would never bully me because I respected him and he respected me. We were actually on good terms. I think because I didn’t fear being bullied or made fun of, it just didn’t trigger him to do those things to me.

      > If someone is really trying to harm you…
      Metta is just 1 of 4 Brahma Viharas. In the case of being attacked, probably equanimity would be the best response so you use minimal necessary force to repel the attack and not harm the attacker (out of hatred).

  6. Rick says:

    Hi Illimunatus,

    When I try to feel love in my heart I sometimes also experience feelings of some kind of anxiety. Sometimes I manage to feel love and sometimes it is quite difficult. Any explanation for this? And how would you deal with these feelings?

    • Illuminatus says:

      Hey Rick,

      Short answer: I don’t know. So what follows is speculative.

      In lay psychology, it could be said that you have an association between feeling love and feeling anxious.

      Biologically, the vagus nerve is involved in both love and anxiety. When you are anxious, the vagus nerve fires as a countermeasure. During terror, it turns on hard which is what causes people to pee themselves. So there may be a biological “circuit” link.

      Does the anxiety go away if you switch person? So, let’s say you envision your mother who you love but are also terrified by (this is just a hypothetical example), it would be normal to feel both love and anxiety since that is a conditioned association. In that case, try switching to someone more neutral and see if the anxious component disappears.

      Practice-wise, I would suggest first re-adding the “love yourself” script as the first target of your metta. The Buddhists will have put that step there for a reason and, if in doubt, following the source scriptures can often set you straight.

      Personally, I would practise through the anxiety. So, try to feel love more, and see if the anxiety eventually disappears.

      Another suggestion is NOTING. So, feel love and see where the loving sensations are in your body. Note them verbally in your mind, e.g. “Warm sensation in left (or right) chest.” Be quite specific with where those sensations are. Then, scan for anxious sensations and note them too, e.g. “Pulsing sensation in abdomen area” (and you can be more specific with that, too). This is one powerful of sorting out the two.

      A lot of meditation is just about sorting one emotion out from another and disentangling them.

      I would be interested to hear back from you how this went. You could start a log here and make regular updates: https://www.personalpowermeditation.com/forum2/meditation-logs/

      (Tracking is a powerful and underrated method for creating progress.)

      Good luck! 🙂

      • Rick says:

        Hi Illimunatus, it differs a bit per person but it differs mostly from moment to moment. The feeling of love I feel more in my chest and the feeling of anxiety I feel more in my throat. What helps is to imagine that I hug a person.
        Thanks for your tips. Do you still also practice the Loving All Method? So then basically you are sending love the whole time, right?

      • Rick says:

        This article basically says the same as Langdon in the Loving All Method

        https://endless-satsang.com/lovearticle.htm

        I notice that the feelings of anxiety is most strong when it is about people I have a business relation with. What would you advise? Feel this fear until this dissolves? Or stay focussing on the love until love overrules the fear so to say?

        • Illuminatus says:

          >I notice that the feelings of anxiety is most strong when it is about people I have a business relation with. What would you advise? Feel this fear until this dissolves? Or stay focussing on the love until love overrules the fear so to say?

          The first step is to build up the love feeling on easier targets. Try directing love at yourself first till the feeling is stable. Then move onto somebody who doesn’t trigger the anxiety, till the love feeling is stable. Then move onto somebody neutral. Then move onto “worthy opponents”, your business relationships.

          From a pure concentration perspective, you would stay with the primary object (love feeling) till it overwhelms all others (anxiety etc.). This is what I would advise. Staying with the primary object with this strong intention is how I developed strong concentration in a relatively short space of time, and I have never lost that skill as a result.

          Also, do not be afraid to dedicate more time to growing and developing the love feeling. Make it your main meditation if you wish to get it handled. Spend 10 minutes entirely on an “easy target” (cultivating love for yourself, or someone you already like) until you really get a strong sense of what that feeling is and how to induce it. When you have mastered this, then turn that love feeling towards a worthy opponent. Maybe it would take you 20 minutes to get a strong undiluted love feeling on a worthy opponent. Maybe longer. This is the kind of dedication required to solve a problem with meditation.

          • Rick says:

            Thanks Illuminatus!!

            Do you still also practice the Loving All Method? So then basically you are sending love the whole time, right?
            It is often advised to feel gratitude. How does this relate to Metta? Or do you think love and gratefulness is basically the same thing?

            • Illuminatus says:

              >Do you still also practice the Loving All Method? So then basically you are sending love the whole time, right?

              That was something I did for a few days with profound results. However, it got me looking into more formal methods for metta practice which led to posts like the above. I feel I have “unfinished business” with the other core meditation practices (metta, concentration, insight) and I am happy to let myself be led down those paths as they present themselves.

              While I don’t actively practise Loving All at the moment, I’m pleased to report that a lot of that mindset “stuck” from those few days. I intend to return to that practice at some point because it is really effective.

              Currently I’m practising a “gentle noting” method I have developed, involving slowly noting body sensations as they arise, because it’s the only thing that effectively and permanently heals my body/muscles/fascia/neurology problem (which is actually looking quite simple to me now, following this practice). It is also the method that most consistently gets me to jhana (with possibly a 100% success rate so far) and feels extremely “non-invasive” as opposed to hard concentration at the nose. I will write it up soon.

              >It is often advised to feel gratitude. How does this relate to Metta? Or do you think love and gratefulness is basically the same thing?

              I would say love and gratitude are two sides of the same coin. It’s easy to be grateful when you love everything. However there is also something to be said for practising gratitude even during the most difficult times (i.e. when you do not feel grateful for the situation you have been delivered). I do not generally practise gratitude formally (though sometimes I feel the inclination); rather, gratitude arises as a result of pleasant states or satisfaction brought on by other meditations.

              One thing I will mention is that AWA brings on gratitude strongly and consistently for me.

              • Rick says:

                Hi Illiminatus, what do you think of the suggestion from ‘Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It; by Kamal Ravikant to mentally repeat ‘I love myself’ all the time?

                What he suggests is this: ”

                “A thought loop is a pathway laid down by constant use. With enough time and intensity, if you repeat it again and again, you start to create a mental river that controls you. You believe it is automatic and the reality you live in, but really it is just a mental loop you have repeated too many times.
                You can reverse this process. You can create your own focused mental loops. Repeat, “I love myself” again and again and again. Lay the pathway for that loop to run over and over. Eventually, it will take hold whether you believe it or not.
                You need to create a groove that is deeper than those unhappy and unhelpful grooves you’ve laid down over the years.”

                Here is a short summary of the book: https://jamesclear.com/book-summaries/love-yourself-like-your-life-depends-on-it

  7. Rick says:

    Another things is that I encountered a quite interesting standing meditation like Zhan Zhuang designed to manifest things like love while at the same time releasing resistance using the power of gravity. as far as I know this is an unique approach. The pdf is free now on the Internet and I am curious what you think of it,

    https://www.slideshare.net/equilibriumpsycho/the-bodymethod-2

    • Illuminatus says:

      From a very brief scan it seems like a rehash of many things already written. I doubt there is anything in there you would not get from a yogic tradition or even straight Buddhism.

      The difference is that the ancient practices (Buddhism and yoga) codify the combined experience of thousands of yogis over thousands of years rather than just being one guy’s take on it.

      I get sent things like this quite a lot and cannot possibly read through all of them. Maybe this one is gold. If it helps you, more power to you.

  8. FirstTimeCommenter says:

    An excellent and also very important post (ornamented by fruitful discussions in the comments)! Personally, you had me convinced a while back, though, during our discussion in the comment section of your post on how to be attractive to women 😉

    I looked up Michael Langfolds “loving all” method again recently and found the clarifications 36 – 44, 56 & 57 as well as 72 – 76 relevant to the topic of your post and coherent with it’s message.

    Those still in fear of metta turning them into wimps etc. might want to check them out (especially 40 – 42):

    https://albigen.com/uarelove/most_rapid/chapter12.htm

    (I know, these clarifications refer to the “loving all” method, but they might also hold true to metta in general, I’d guess.)

  9. Rick says:

    Hi Illiminatus, what do you think of the suggestion from ‘Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It; by Kamal Ravikant to mentally repeat ‘I love myself’ all the time?

    What he suggests is this: ”

    “A thought loop is a pathway laid down by constant use. With enough time and intensity, if you repeat it again and again, you start to create a mental river that controls you. You believe it is automatic and the reality you live in, but really it is just a mental loop you have repeated too many times.
    You can reverse this process. You can create your own focused mental loops. Repeat, “I love myself” again and again and again. Lay the pathway for that loop to run over and over. Eventually, it will take hold whether you believe it or not.
    You need to create a groove that is deeper than those unhappy and unhelpful grooves you’ve laid down over the years.”

    Here is a short summary of the book: https://jamesclear.com/book-summaries/love-yourself-like-your-life-depends-on-it

    • Illuminatus says:

      @Rick:

      Kamal Ravikant is recommending standard affirmations practice here. Affirmations do not work because the verbal mode does not penetrate deeply into the subconscious mind. Only body sensations do this, hence why I recommend working with the “love feeling” primarily.

      See the following for more information: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KlpXGXZ_dT0

      I recommend you stop finding these random Western self-help books which only scratch the surface and get a proper book based on original Eastern practice. “The Mind Illuminated” by Culadasa (John Yates) is the only one I can think of right now.

  10. Blues says:

    I no longer have the ability to care about people outside of my family.

    Something blocks me from having relationships(friends, lovers) like normal human beings would do and I no longer care. This loving all method is too much, the “emotionally allow” things to happen to you is better.

    Before doing AWA I cared about what people thought how me in some ways but now I don’t and it’s really liberating. They can try to break my state negatively or positively but tough luck with that. I seek to become complete and not need people for validation.

    It seems I cannot accept that people might want good for me because it never happenned or I never recognized it happening to me.
    They always ended up ganging up on me on the long run or talking behind my back, I felt like I was intentionally left out of things.

    Now I no longer care about it but I’m done with loving all and stuff like that. Emotionally accepting, being like water and just watching the shit storm happening is enough for me. I care in some ways about trying to fit/barely making small talk because it makes things easier at work.

    And yes I do believe that loving people inconditionally(coming from the right place) makes you a prime target to abuse or a “wimp” then again I’m speaking from my experience which has been mostly negative.

    For loving all to work you need some basic empathy and social skills which is not something everyone has. I had a lot of empathy as a kid but now it’s dead and buried. As for social skills it’s something that I don’t like using, they drain me a lot.

    Being like water, emotionally allowing things to happen to you without having to give anything back/making an effort is much easier/less stressing then loving all for me.

    • James says:

      loving all isn’t about other people at all the reason you can’t love is cuz you don’t love you don’t make me have to come up over here and explain more cliches to you.

    • Saturnus says:

      It’s a phase dude. It’ll pass. When I snapped out of the paradigm of caring what people think about me, I also found it very hard to empathize and love people. Man I could barely love my own mother.

      For now bring awareness into the subtle fear you have when you interact with people.

    • Illuminatus says:

      Blues, how long have you practised AWA for? Any other meditation history?

      • Blues says:

        Illuminatus no other meditation, I have been doing AWA for 2 months and Do nothing too. I have phases where I feel like nothing can touch me and I control everything but others where I feel down and unworthy. I don’t do too long sessions, maybe 5-30 minutes tops almost everyday. I definitely feel improvement on AWA but don’t know how to really utilize loving all and coming from the right place with people. Like I try to sound neutral and calm but that’s probably not emotional enough

        James I think you might be onto something I haven’t tried to love for a long while, maybe not afraid to get hurt but more like deep down knowing that it’s not for me or worth it. I can’t seem to make up my mind, I want to become independant of any validation but I also feel like I am missing out on things.

        Thank you Saturnus I have been doing AWA for not too long, it has been mindblowing and the effects are very good on my natural demeanor, I am becoming quite calm but I feel like I have to fake this calmness in certain situation, I’m not at the point where I’m always calm. i’ve definitely changed for the better ever since but I think it killed my social drive even more.

        • Saturnus says:

          Hey Blues, Glad I could help man! When I started Do Nothing meditation back in the day I had a very similar experience. I went through a detox phase where all the things that I was suppressing before starting bubbling up to the surface so I could become aware of them and dissolve them. It’s a rather uncomfortable experience.

          The following is based on my own personal experience with this issue:

          You have now become aware how your need validation sabotages you. The knee jerk response is to block this need and not care at all.

          Caring about what people think about you has its root in the need for connection. The mind made sense of self assimilates this need and makes it about itself. Hence it becomes what people think about me (aka my sense of self). You can go beyond the need for validation by honouring and respecting the need for connection. This is where Metta comes in.

          As long as you’re identified with the mind made sense of self you cannot genuinely emanate love. The ego is a very fragile entity and needs a continuous source of validation. As an energy vampire it sucks out the energy exchange of giving and receiving love to keep itself intact. I would compare it to cancer that wants to keep itself alive by parasitizing its host, but I don’t like ego bashing. The ego is not a problem as long as you are not identified with it.

          > Re calmness: Yes! I remember when I had my first experiences of true calm and equanimity I liked it so much that I went around forcing myself to be calm. I realized forcing calmness is actually sucking out my own energy. Now I believe true equanimity comes from being ok with whatever is going on, even if you are not physically calm, even not mentally calm, you can still be calm on the level of spirit and it’ll eventually manifest on the mental and physical plane.

          > Re social drive: My social drive used to be completely hijacked by the ego’s need for validation. When I started blocking that, I had zero drive to be around people as it drained me completely. Blocking the need for validation also blocks the drive for connection. I can’t say I’ve completely cured it, but by now I can transcend the old paradigm from time to time and really love unconditionally. The reason I said bring awareness into the fear of other people is that this fear is a big block on unconditional love. All fear is illusory, the fear of being taken advantage of included. Reality is if you really vibrate at the level of unconditional love, people will usually just like you, and like being around you. In that state even if somebody tries to take advantage of you, you see it as their own fear manifesting, and you can easily forgive them.

          BTW unconditional love doesn’t mean you become a limp wimp who turns the other cheek. You can still stand up for yourself if you notice something wrong. It just means that you will use minimal necessary force to deal with the issue. Instead of attacking the person (which is motivated by ill will – “fuck this guy for trying to fuck me over”), you just repel the attack and that’s it.

          You’re about to transcend your old paradigm and shift to a new framework of perceiving and interacting with reality. All this stuff that are coming up is the inertia of the old self that wants to bring you down. You will get glimpses of the new reality here and there, and then you go back to being the old you, which can be depressing at times. The inertia’s sole purpose is to keep you grounded. It is afraid that you will fly too high and hurt yourself. Please don’t make it into an enemy. Respect and honour its existence since it only wants to protect you.

          • Blues says:

            Thank you man. I’m beginning to get all of this stuff and I feel light, as if I was liberated.

            I feel like I was projecting in some ways my anxious state to others people but now I’m coming from a mostly loving place but quite cold because it’s my style. I’m no longer trying to be another person but just being myself and to me that’s being calm and interacting whenever I choose to.

            I feel like I’m coming back to what I used to be back when I was a kid before learning to socialize except now I’m calm, cool and collected and feel like nothing can faze my state. It’s like I am giving myself permission to be who I am and if they don’t like it then so be it.

            Choosing love is the way to go because by default it’s easier and gives more benefits then any other ways.

            I feel like as you said I did not respect the need for connection in other people and might have been projecting that I felt superior to them or probably that I felt unconfortable with myself.

            I felt like my old persona wasn’t cool, calm and collected but more like try hard and I am better than you in some ways.

            Now I’m trying to add more warmth and compassion to it.

            • Illuminatus says:

              @Blues: Glad things are starting to straighten out for you. Meditation has ups and downs like any practice and breakthroughs can come at any time.

  11. Pug123 says:

    Hey Illuminatus,

    I was wondering if you are aware of or have practiced the ‘Loving Consciousness’ method – a new meditation technique advocated by Michael Langford. It is not in ‘The Direct Means to Eternal Bliss’ but in his more recent book ‘How to Live a Life that Knows Only Love’.

    The instructions say to direct love to one’s own consciousness (I’ve heard one description to direct love to one’s awareness but most seem to mention consciousness instead and I’m not sure why but I’m sure both words are to mean the everyday awareness he speaks about).

    This is Loving Consciousness Method Description A of a playlist:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mg3sX3I4cKA&index=2&list=PLL6v3senGSJdV9pS1ljNhmBWpKZZnW-bP&t=0s

    He has said that it works well with the ‘Loving All’ method and it seems like a combination of the AWA and the ‘Loving All method’. I’m curious to know what your results are for it and if it is anything different from your experience with the ‘Loving All’ or AWA methods.

    • Illuminatus says:

      I wasn’t aware that the entity formerly known as Langford had released another book. 😛

      Thanks, I’ll look into it.

  12. Lars says:

    If you follow the link below you can see all the books by Michael Langford in addition to the books he recommends. I’ve checked out several of them and they are all excellent. I highly recommend the autobiography “Manonasa” if you want to know more about “Michael” and his journey towards liberation.
    I think my favorite thus far has to be “The true Self”. It is incredibly inspiring.

    Thank you so much for pointing me towards Michael and his teachings. They are a blessing.

    http://www.thefreedomreligionpress.com

    • Illuminatus says:

      Thanks Lars. I’m currently reading Jed McKenna’s “Enlightenment Trilogy” so will consider purchasing something new after that.

  13. Arpan says:

    “I do not believe in a “self” at the core of each person. Rather, I have found that each person is simply the product of his or her relationships to people and things. Can you really refute that? Everything you think is just an impression put into you by someone or something else.”

    While I get the feeling under which this was written, but on a purely philosophical level: If all we think is an impression put in by someone/something around us(which is true to a great extent, I only question the absolutism), then wherein comes free-will, personal choice ? Unless we subscribe to determinsim/fatalism, a huge chain of cause and effect of which we all are parts, but of whose origin we have no clue. Buddhist idea of No-Self, when taken as a philosophical absolute gets into 2 problems:
    1. Who gets liberated ?
    2. The 12 link causal chain(dwadash nidaan/pratitya samutpad) starting from Ignorance to Death and Rebirth, has no space for free will. It is a perfectly well rounded circle of cause and effects. Wherein comes the scope to follow Buddha’s injunction to practice with great energy of will(virya) ?
    Thich Naht Hanh, a famous Vietnamese monk, in his biography of Buddha: “Old path, white clouds: Walking in the footsteps of the Buddha” he depicts Kassapa asking Buddha: You refute the belief in being, so you believe in non being ? Buddha said: Non Being is another tree in the forest of narrow views, like the self is.
    He asks: What is the truth then ?
    Buddha: Kassapa, look for the answer within yourself.
    Buddha(says something to this effect):

    He was always breaking down the prisons of mental conceptions that people build around these concepts.
    That said: Non Being does come close to the description of the state of Nirvana. It shatters the limited being as we know it.
    However, there are other ways of experiencing liberation, leading to a very different and wider conception of being. Love is a stronger component of these paths.

    • Saturnus says:

      It seems to me in the spiritual community there is a lot of emphasis on “the void” and the fertile ground of being and not too much on “the phallus” and the creator of experience. It is probably due to Phallogocentrism of western culture, and acts as a counterbalance to it.

      • Arpan says:

        Yes. Though a stronger force impelling modern spirituality towards Nihilism is “hard” rationality. Reason is reductionist in its approach. Philosophers keep reducing the number of fundamental entities in the Universe from multiple to double to One/Existence(neo vedanta). Buddhism says: Why even Pure Existence, let’s rest in Non Existence. 😛

        • Arpan says:

          An irony in western philosophy is: All 3 founding fathers of Rationalism: Descartes, Leibniz and Spinoza were theists. With Descartes being a “ghost in a machine” sort of dualist. Leibniz was a pluralist with his concept of monads which represent diamonds of the Indra’s Net in Hinduism and Buddhism and Spinonza(a non traditional jew, and considered a guru by Einstein) was monist, with his “cave with only on a set of footprints entering in, not exiting” being similar to Adwaita. Ofcourse, these are very rough descriptions of their thought as more is not possible here.
          And if you trace back the line of materialist-atheism, it does not follow up to the Rationalist school atall. It goes back to Empiricists, like David Hume.

          Infact, it was Kant who made an attempt to synthesize both schools, and in my attempt, succeeded as far as a non-yogi could. He is one of my favourite modern western philosophers, along with Ludwig Wittgenstein. Both of them impressed upon the western mind, that Reality is not bound by mental-concepts. Kant being more radical of the 2, with his concept of Noumenon(that which is beyond mental categories) and Phenomenon(that which is definable in terms of mental categories and reflects something of the former). He painstakingly forms a really nuanced system of categories and other concepts GET the western mind to look beyond phenomenon. Though his stated interests were rather epistemology(he even declares the true self as an Epistemic one. One that Knows, moment by moment) and ethics(he does a fairly good job of it, by emphasising mastery of desire, and giving a more nuanced model of ethics than the Gospel).
          Wittgenstein on the other hand gave wonderful discourses on the nature of “language”, how there is no such thing as a “private” language, and how language-game works.

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