by Bhante Mahinda
First it is important to get a grounding in the basics by listening to the guided instructions, until we learn the ‘formula’ for metta practice. At the early stages, it may be difficult to experience a real feeling of metta, but over time, with regular practice, you will find your mind becoming more quiet and settled, and you will start to feel a sense of calm and peace.
This sense of calm and peace means you are beginning to connect with your heart. It is the heart that feels, and when you are able to connect with your heart, you will be able to practise metta with sincerity. Sincerity is very important because in today’s society, we are so used to talking without feeling. Consider conventional social greetings like “Hi, how are you?”. Many people use them, but do they really mean it?
Metta will develop the qualities of the heart and that’s when we will start to be able to feel more. As soon as we think ‘May I be well and happy’, we will be able to feel our energy is uplifted. When we talk about happiness it is not about excitement or thrills – it is this sense of upliftment.
Once we can do it for ourselves, when we turn our thoughts to someone else, they will also feel calm and uplifted. Of course, this will take some time to develop fully.
The 15 minutes of guided instructions are a general introduction which will develop the thought of loving-kindness (ie. the wish for all beings to be well and happy) at the mental level. But the cultivation of metta involves going beyond mere verbalisation in order to refine the gross emotion of love. To do this one needs to spend more time to practise more consistently.
For example, try for one week to spend extra time each day, in addition to the basic practice, to just focus on wishing yourself well. Then once you are able to really feel the calmness in yourself, for the following week spend more time on radiating this sense of wellbeing above, below and all around you. With some practice you will be able to ‘sense’ the immediate space around you – your room, office etc. When you can feel the space immediately around you, then you can gradually extend this out to the whole building, the surrounding area, the whole city, the whole country, and the whole world…
Metta practice should not be confined to just 15 mins of formal meditation. Throughout the day, in whatever you do, try to remind yourself as much as possible using a short phrase such as ‘Be well and happy’…, or just ‘Be well’…, or ‘Smile in your heart’. If you have a tendency to get angry, keep reminding yourself ‘May I be free from anger’… and so on.
Use your phrase as a constant reminder to have thoughts of metta. When you get into the car, wish the other drivers and passersby to be well and happy. When you need to attend meetings, wish the participants well and happy. Apply this day to day until it becomes part and parcel of your life, until you reach a stage when you no longer need to verbalise it anymore and a sense of wellbeing will flow naturally from within you.