For weeks in a row, every day, while meditating I began to feel a warmth and friendliness towards the old man, and every time I passed him my heart widened.
When I first started practicing loving-kindness meditation, metta, there was an experience that helped me see my own mind clearly, as well as how I relate to those around me. At that time, I was instructed to practice spreading my love to a neutral person, even though I didn’t understand what a “foreign person” was at the time either. My teacher, Anagarika Munindra, just told me to pick someone nearby who I neither love nor hate.
At that time I was living in India, and in the small monastery where I lived there lived an old man who was a gardener. I see him every day, but I never really think about him. He was just someone I saw every time I passed by. And I was startled when I realized that there were so many people around me, whom I neither loved nor hated at all. That discovery in itself was an enlightenment for me as well.
And then for several weeks in a row, every day, while meditating, I began to visualize the old man in the garden, and silently recited phrases like “May you be well, may you be well, may you be well, may you be well. so that he may not suffer.” After a while, I began to feel a warmth and friendliness towards the old man, and every time I passed him my heart widened.
And it was also a very important experience in my internship. I discovered that my feelings for a person depend on myself, but in fact, that feeling has absolutely nothing to do with the other person, their attitude, or the situation. . The old man in the garden is still the same. He never changed the way he worked or his attitude towards me. But because I had a new perspective, and a practice, my heart began to expand with a sincere and loving sympathy.
And this also helped me learn an important lesson about the energy of loving-kindness. Since this love does not depend on any particular personality of the other person, it will not easily turn into hatred, resentment, or resentment, as other types of conditioned love do. This unconditional love comes from a generous heart.
We can all feel this kind of love, but we may be afraid or think it is completely out of our control. But loving-kindness, metta, is not a power reserved for the likes of the Dalai Lama, Mother Teresa, or some far-off person. We can all practice and develop, and we are all capable of loving in that way.
How can we open our hearts to suffering? What insight can generate a loving-kindness within us?
It is a very simple and profound truth that true happiness does not come from accumulating, or accumulating, many pleasurable feelings. Try to look back at your life, with the pleasant feelings, the pleasant events that you have experienced, have they brought us any lasting happiness? We know for sure not, because they cannot be present for long on their own.
Our society and culture has always fostered a belief that our happiness is derived from our pleasurable feelings. I once saw a cigarette advertisement, with a picture of a very beautiful man and woman standing in a heavenly setting, with a cigarette in hand. Underneath is the words “Nothing can stop me from having fun.” And it’s not just advertising for cigarettes, it’s actually ubiquitous in every aspect of life. Get this and you will be happy, get that and you will have a joy.
It is very dangerous that this belief – true happiness can only come from pleasant sensations – will make us close to what brings us discomfort. But if we close our hearts to suffering, we also close our own fountains of love.
The insight of meditation will help us see that happiness does not depend at all on our pleasant feelings. But if so, where does true happiness come from? And that is also a key question of meditation practice.
Meditation is an art of living, an art of relating to what is in us and around us. Whenever we have emotions like sadness or joy, anger or love, fear or courage… there are always many different ways for us to relate to them. Are you in trouble? Do I accept them as myself? Is our mind big enough to accept them, or is it being manipulated by them?
Mindfulness – the heart of meditation practice
Our mind is like a vast sky, a vast space. Things can arise in it, but that space remains unaffected. With the practice of meditation, the mind can be like that sky, without being attracted or attached to any phenomenon. With such a mind, we will surely rest in happiness, because it is not altered or influenced by conditions. There is no higher happiness than bliss. And there will come a time when we will feel that truth.
The important thing to remember is to treat loving-kindness as a practice. Sometimes we feel love, and sometimes we don’t. There are also times when the pain and suffering is so great, we also need to step back a little, close a little bit, so that we are not overwhelmed. At those times, we need to create a space for ourselves to regain balance and peace. And with a new energy, we can open our hearts again. Every time we practice loving-kindness, each time the loving energy in us grows stronger.
In meditation as in everyday life, it is not a matter of having a particular experience. What matters is how we practice receiving them! If we know how to deal with them wisely, whatever it is, our mind will open up to all the experiences of life. And that insight will nourish and strengthen loving-kindness within us.
The Dalai Lama said: “We are only visitors to this planet. We are here at most ninety, or a hundred years. During that time, let’s try to do something useful, bring what is good to life with our lives. Train yourself to have a peacefulness, and share that peace with those around you. And if we contribute happiness to others, we will see the purpose of this life, the meaning of this life.”
That is very simple. We are only here for a very short time. Can we do anything good with our lives? Can we create a peacefulness for ourselves and share that happiness with others? And when we contribute more to the happiness of others, we will see the purpose and meaning of this life. That’s my job. And that is also a challenge for me.