Why Choose Love?
This is part of my Start Here series of posts aimed at teaching beginners the basics of the meditative journey.
Rose tinted metta made me feel like a pushover hippy, men found me nice women thought I was creepy.
Metta to me always felt too abstract.
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.
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:
- Envision someone you already like (but don’t choose someone you are sexually attracted to, as this complicates things).
- 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).
- 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.