Sitting here in the beautiful Yangon evening and reflecting further on the time spent in the monastery.
Metta meditation loosely translates as lovingkindness meditation from the Pali, but there is no totally satisfactory translation as is often the case with these Pali terms. Another possible translation could be “friendliness meditation” and there is also a connotation with sunlight in the Pali meaning also.
I spent most of the first five days and also some time towards the end of the retreat doing this meditation in preference to the mindfulness practices.
It is considered a good balance with mindfulness practice and is similarly rooted in Buddhist scripture.
The idea is to cultivate a strong feeling of well wishing towards both ourselves and others. It is remarkably simple in concept. We simply repeat simple phrases in the mind such as – may I be happy, may I be healthy, may I be peaceful; or thinking of another person – may you be happy, healthy, peaceful etc. Being more general – may all be healthy, happy, peaceful etc.
We do our best to focus on the meaning of the words allowing concentration to develop naturally and, over time, this feeling of well wishing gets stronger although with ups and downs as mood, energy and concentration fluctuate.
It is considered a good balance with mindfullness practice; contributing to calmness, concentration and a general friendliness towards ourselves and others which is so neccessary both in the practice and in life.
There is nothing extraordinary about this mindstate. Indeed it is the natural, ordinary impulse of the mind when fear, anxiety or confusion are absent from the mind.
This practice is especially helpful for dealing with anxiety as this well-wishing mind displaces worry and anxiety in the mind.
I use it with my daughter when putting her to bed at night when she tends to be a little anxious and always marvel at the power and simplicity of the practice. We simply take turns picking out people and wishing them peace, happiness, health, sometimes being a bit playful with the wishes – ” may grandpa pat be especially happy on saturday” for example! We finish by wishing well to all beings everywhere.
It was lovely to do it in the retreat center with the cacophony of life breaking incessantly into the mind visually and especially aurally. Birds, cows, pigs, lizards, car horns, the endles drone of traffic; all ultimately the sounds of life doing its thing. It also desolves the sense of self by orienting us outwards, making us more aware of the smallness of the personal “I” in the greater scheme of things.
I’ll leave you with a few more pictures and a recording of some chanting, all from the monastery. As ever, feel free to comment and share