Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness (pp. 65-70)
We all want to be happy and peaceful. However, it is very hard to imagine that those whom we feel are destructive and/or evil have at their very core that same wish. The practice of Loving-Kindness (or Loving Friendliness) helps us to replace our thoughts of ill-will and negativity towards others with openness and understanding. Metta is another word (Pali –ancient language) for Loving-Kindness.
What is ill-will?
It is a thought like all phenomenon accompanied by a body sensations. Looking at ill-will mindfully, the first step is to know (admit) that we do harbor such feelings toward others. These feelings come from judgments that stem from beliefs, memories (past experiences), views, ideas and opinions. As Bhante G notes, “These rigid ideas stifle our natural loving-friendliness”.
These feeling s of ill-will are more harmful to us than they are to others. These feelings cause personal suffering as well as inciting actions that we later regret. Ill-will serves no useful purpose despite what our mind tells us.
Ezra Byda in Being Zen notes that Loving-Kindness creates openness which reduces our capacity to constantly judge. So how do we create or make room for more Loving-Kindness?
The Practice of Loving-Kindness or Metta Practice is simple to understand. It is often challenging to practice because as we give Loving Kindness to those whom we harbor ill-will, strong aversions may arise.
To prepare for a Loving Kindness meditation, first relax the mind through a concentration practice of observing the sensation of the breath on the nostrils while breathing in and breathing out.
Then make an intention to come from your heart and to be as open as possible. Make an intention to offer joy and happiness to yourself and others by repeating a series of phrases. Start with yourself and then move to a loved one. Shift to neutral person (someone whom you have no positive or negative feelings about). Then shift to someone with whom you feel ill-will. Finally gradually expand your loving-kindness to all beings. You can start with a small geographic area and expand to the universe.
There are many phrases that you can use or you can create a set of your own, all with the intention of wishing happiness and peacefulness to yourself and others.
Some examples with blanks to fill in for whom you are offering loving-kindness:
- May ______ be happy and peaceful.
- May ______ be safe and protected.
- May ______ be filled with contentment.
- May ______ be free from suffering.
- May _____ be well, happy and peaceful.
- May no harm come to _____.
- May no problems come to _____.
- May_____ always meet with success.
- May _____have patience, courage, understanding and determination to meet and overcome inevitable difficulties, problems and failures in life.
- May I be free from anger and ill will.
- May I be free from fears and anxieties.
- May I be free from suffering and pain.
- May I be free from ignorance and desires.
- May I be happy and peaceful.
- May I be harmonious.
- May I be liberated from greed, hatred, and delusion.
- May I realize the deeper peace within.
- May all beings be free from (repeat as above).
- May I accept other beings as they are in this moment.
- May I accept this moment just as it is.
- May I accept myself as I am in this moment.
- Reflect on ill-will. Can you see how it harms you more than others?
- Practice a Loving-Kindness (Metta) meditation for several days and when ill-will arises. You may have some strong reactions – just observe. See if your feelings of ill-will change over time.