My Hearts Eye
Erin’s blog is as beautiful as the butterflies. It rests on the right notes for the right amount of time. And leaves a clear picture in the eyes of the reader.
Some have an inquiring mind and a heart on fire for spiritual awareness which is why we are here. It took me two decades to commit to a formal study of the suttas.
Going three years now, I have been trying to understand what is this thing called Metta which I have heard so often. I almost shivered it may be a transmission after-all.
My aim has been simple, to get peace of mind and meditate for longer periods of time.
Getting even this far seems like a lifetime. I have been enjoying the waves of bliss I feel while meditating and I’ve wanted to selfishly retain them. The noble ones I encountered however kept pointing me back to Metta and to make matters worse, when I took my precepts last year, my teacher gave me the Buddhist name Avera` which in Pali means friendly. It really seemed like a day before geography exams. .
Theoretically, Metta or loving-kindness is one of the ‘four sublime attitudes’ which form the basis of universal love. I could have used the word foundations for attitudes and nirvana for universal love but that is where I made a mistake in the past. We approach realization with dryness while we thrive on love and acceptance. It is no wonder we have no interest in the same old same old. The other three sublime attitudes are Compassion or Karuna, Mudita or Empathetic Joy, Equanimity or Upekkha. Hopefully in future I will share about the latter three but Metta in all honesty is very simple. We are not new to any of the aforementioned sublime attitudes. Any number of texts may call them divine abodes or emotions, but it is nothing outside of our range. This point hit home when I posed an existential question to my teacher in class in December to which he responded that human being are the only species capable of self-sacrifice. Now that is a very profound statement and it is wholly true. .
Metta is very tough to practice let alone be in a state of, but it is well within our capabilities with the application of a little self-sacrifice.
There are any number of reasons it is hard to be kind to some people while Metta requires us to extend loving-kindness even to strangers. I won’t use the word enemies from ancient texts because we should be well over that by now. But being able to fully understand and accept a stranger sounds easy only till you are confronted with someone you just don’t get. But look at this way, when my son’s dog throws up in the car he is not trying to irritate me. He is having a hard time like I am having. That is literally how simple a switch I need to make in my thinking. You bet it requires vigilance, a very conscious slowing down of thoughts and growing aware that the well-being of living beings is obviously above all else. Some may also struggle with Metta as we want to be assured there is something in all this for us. This is also the juncture where attitude adjustment helps.
At a seemingly mundane level Metta has helped me sit longer. I have spent a day with total strangers in a farm, with my face towards the wall, meditating. I have not known the height or depth of anyone else’s meditation experience. I was just grateful for these beautiful souls who just love to sit. Sangha is one of the three gems of the Buddhist vows. How clever that it sits perfectly well with the practice of Metta. In everyday life you just have to think of difficult colleagues and Go Metta on them. On a more profound level however Metta has made me realize the importance of people in my life. For anyone who has always wanted to please their parents, and who has not, it has made me very content after a period of intense struggle. I see my parents exactly as they are and not how I want them to be. And that the best thing I can give to them is Metta. Human emotions are the main cause of restlessness which makes it hard to still your mind and body. Practicing Metta puts you in your feels in a good way.
There are a few basic ways you can practice it, other than bringing awareness into your daily actions as cited above. You can set aside time each day to send loving feelings to loved ones acquaintances strangers enemies, in that order, with the help of visualization and stating one’s intention. The Chant of Metta is the sweetest and simplest heart song that calls out for all humanity in all directions. Just listening to it fills one up with a feeling of universal love. These are two easily repeatable exercises. A more active way to do Metta that works for me is to consciously see from my heart’s eye. When you meet someone you imagine you are sitting inside your heart. The insights you are having about the person are just filling up with understanding. When asked to respond you are consciously choosing to be loving and kind. Insight has a very important and critical place in spiritual practice but it follows the lead of the heart when you are meeting someone just as important as you, on their own travels. With Metta,
Alveena is a lay Buddhist on her journey in the practice of compassion. She has been studying the suttas from Bhikkhu Bodhi, renowned scholar of ancient Buddhist texts in Pali. And she has practiced Zazen with the All Beings Zen sangha under the gentle heart of Rev. Inryu Ponce. Throughout her life Alveena has had a special affinity towards children and youth. She has expressed her concern for their well-being by supporting grass root organizations that help at risk youth. She is an advocate for Child Soldiers International and their cause to stop the use of child soldiers worldwide. She also published her life-long poetry as an Homage to Child Soldiers in 2016. She graduated from the School of Intl. and Public Affairs, Columbia University, New York in 2003 and works in the field of finance and technology, supporting start-ups while living in the area. She unwinds as a sustainable home stylist, sharing tips and tricks with fellow brown girls @browngirlmag https://www.linkedin.com/in/alveena/ https://www.instagram.com/astylebee/ https://www.facebook.com/alveena