Start with what is easy to love

Buddhist monk Ajahn Brahm shares his personal approach to loving-kindness meditation, also known as to put.


Photo of Lydia Torre.

First stage

A warm fire in your heart

Metta can be accurately compared to a warm, radiant fire that burns in your heart. You can’t expect to light the fire of loving goodness by starting with a difficult object, no more than you can expect to light a bonfire by hitting it with a missile under a thick trunk. So don’t start metta meditation by trying to spread the metta to yourself or an enemy. Instead, start by extending loving-kindness to something that is easy to ignite with loving-kindness, or what I like to call kindness. Kindness allows you to embrace other beings as well as yourself as you and they are.

In meditation, focus your attention on the feeling of loving kindness, developing that delicious emotion until it fills your whole mind. The way it is achieved can be compared to the way a bonfire is lit. Start kindness with paper or anything that is easy to light. Then add firewood, small twigs or strips of wood. When the firewood is on the fire, add thicker pieces of wood, and after a while the thick logs. Once the fire is roaring and very hot, you can even put wet, wise logs and they will soon light up.

Start with What is easy to love

I get ready for meditation by imagining a little kitten. I like cats, especially kittens, so my imaginary kitten is of loving kindness like gas is on a flame. I just need to think about my kitten and my heart lights up.

I keep visualizing my imaginary friend, imagining him abandoned, hungry, and very scared. In his short life he has known only rejection, violence and loneliness. I imagine his bones protruding from his emaciated body, his dirty coat of dirt and some blood, and his stiff body of terror. I believe that if I don’t care about this vulnerable little person, no one will, and he will die a horrible, lonely, terrified death. I feel the pain of that kitten fully, in all its forms, and my heart opens releasing a flood of compassion. I’ll take care of this little kitten. I will protect him and feed him.

Wherever you go, whatever you do, my heart will always welcome you. I always give you my unlimited loving goodness.

I imagine myself staring deep into his anguished eyes, trying to dissolve his apprehension with the metta flowing through my own eyes. I approach it slowly, reassuringly, never losing sight of it. Gently, I grab this kitten and carry it to my chest. I take the cold out of the kitten with the warmth of my own body, take away the fear with the softness of my hug and feel the confidence of the kitten grow. I talk to the kitten on my chest:

Little being, never feel alone again. Never be so scared. I will always take care of you, be your protector and friend. I love you, little kitten. Wherever you go, whatever you do, my heart will always welcome you. I always give you my unlimited loving goodness.

When I do this, I feel my kitten warm up, relax, and finally purr.

This is just an outline of how I begin my meditation on metta. I usually take much longer. I use my imagination and my inner speech to paint an image in my mind, to create a stage where the first flames of metta can arise.

At the end of the mental exercise, with my eyes still closed, I focus my attention on the region of my heart and feel the first warm glow of the emotion of kindness.

Find your own Kindling

My kitten is like the paper you use to light a bonfire. You may not like kittens, so choose something else, maybe a puppy or a baby. Whatever you choose as your first object of purpose, make it an imaginary and not real being. In your mind you can turn a kitten, a puppy or a baby into anything you want. You have more freedom to generate meta when you use a fantasy creature instead of a real world one.

Once you have chosen your first object, use your imagination to create a story around this being that awakens your loving goodness. With practice, this innovative method becomes one of the most successful and enjoyable ways to practice goodness.

Kindness block

A few years ago a student complained to me that this method was not working for her. He regarded small animals, especially naughty kittens, as small pests, nor did he like babies crying and crying with diapers. He had a serious case of what I now call a “goodness block.”

He kept telling me that he had been growing potted flowers in his Sydney apartment. So I suggested that you choose one of your plants as your first metta object. He imagined such a delicate and tender seedling. He was so fragile that he needed all his care, love, and protection to survive. He directed all his maternal instincts towards that vulnerable little potted plant, feeding and feeding his friend until he burst from his bud to pay for his kindness with a beautiful, fragrant flower. He really adopted this method. This was the first time that metta meditation worked for her. During the retreat, when that happened, he said it was the only session where he wasn’t waiting for me to ring the bell.

dog hug

Photo by Eric Ward.

Second stage

A loved one close to you

After the first flames of metta have been established in this way, release your imaginary creature and put in its place a real person, someone very close to you emotionally, such as your partner, a loved one, or even and all your best. friend. He must be someone for whom it is easy to generate and maintain loving kindness. In the metaphor of the bonfire, they will be the first pieces of wood called lit. Again, use your inner speech to paint a picture around you in your mind. They need your friendship and love too. They are also emotionally vulnerable, subject to the disappointments and frustrations of life. Using your inner comment, say:

Dear friend, I sincerely wish you happiness. May your body be free from pain and may your mind find satisfaction. I give you my unconditional love. I will always be there for you. You will always have a place in my heart. I really care about you.

Of course, you can use similar words of your own design. Use any phrase that awakens the warm glow of metta in your heart. Stay with this person. Imagine that they are right in front of you until the metta grows bright and steady around you. Now briefly place your attention on your body close to your heart and feel the physical sensation associated with metta. You will find that you find it a delight.

dog group

Photo of Al Lucca.

Stages Three and Four

A close acquaintance and a group

Release the image of this person and replace that of another close acquaintance, creating the feeling of being around him using your inner speech in the same way: “May you live in happiness …” Imagine them in front of you until it shines. bright and steady around it.

Then replace an entire group of people, perhaps all the people living in your home. Develop the affectionate glow of metta around him in the same way: “May you be well and happy …” In the likeness of the bonfire, you are now laying the logs.

Golden radiation

See if you can imagine that metta is a golden glow emanating from a beautiful white lotus flower in the middle of your heart. Let this glow of loving kindness expand in all directions, embracing more and more living beings until it becomes limitless, filling everything you can imagine. “May all living beings, near or far, large and small, be happy and at peace …”

It bathes the whole universe with the warmth of the golden light of goodness. Stay there for a while.

In the likeness of the bonfire, the fire is now roaring and very hot and can now burn the wet, savory logs. Think of your enemy. Visualize someone who has hurt you so much. You will be amazed that your goal is now strong enough to forgive them. Now you can also share with them the healing golden glow of loving kindness: “Friend, whatever you have done to me, revenge will not help any of us, so I wish you all the best. I sincerely wish you freedom. of the pain of the past and the joy in all your future. May the beauty of this unconditional loving goodness reach you too, bringing you happiness and satisfaction. ” When the metta fire burns hard, nothing can resist it. Then there’s one last “wet, well-known stick” to throw at the metta fire. Most meditators find that the hardest person to give them loving kindness is themselves.

From Kindness, by Ajahn Brahm. Adapted with permission from Wisdom Publications.

#Start #easy #love

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