In MIDL Mindfulness Training 31/52 you take the foundation of loving kindness developed in the two previous trainings to embrace all beings. This is done by first generating the loving feeling towards yourself and those close to you, then gradually widening it to your neighbours, suburb, city, country, world to the whole universe. In this way loving kindness is cultivated to be unconditional and not only focused towards those that you can benefit from. When decondtioning defensive habitual patterns it is necessary to replace these habits, once weakened, with positive qualities of heart if we are to live a meaningful life. Submit Your Question
Your Question: I had some difficult feelings come up during this metta meditation and found it hard to be loving towards a certain person in my life.
Stephen Procter: Metta directly challenges some of the defensive postures within our mind. If we have difficulty offering loving kindness towards another it is often a reflection of the difficult relationship we have with our self.
When these meditations were recorded I followed the traditional progressive order of developing Metta that I was taught: Ourself - respected person - loved one - difficult person - pervasive. After spending time with many people teaching meditation in daily life I came to realise that outside of intensive practice this is not a practical way to do it. If we find it difficult to cultivate loving feeling towards ourself, due to habitual defensiveness, and are unable to cultivate the concentration necessary to suppress this defensiveness within our mind, then we will also find it difficult to cultivate loving feeling towards others.
I have since revised the way that I teach this and made the adjustment in my new book 'Step by Step Guidance in MIDL Mindfulness Meditation' to reflect this.
1. We first learn to develop loving feeling just towards a loved one / respected person. We do not include ourself or others until it becomes easy and the loving feeling flows freely.
2. We can than include ourself. We start by generating loving feeling towards a loved one / respected person, once strong we then bring an image of ourself to mind and transfer the loving feeling present towards ourself.
3. When the loving feeling towards ourself becomes weaker, we then switch back to the loved one / respected person to cultivate the loving feeling again and so on. Gradually in this way we also become a loved one. During this process it is normal for difficult emotions to come up; this is ok. It is just a cleansing process, our mind is cleaning out the cupboard to make room for loving kindness. If these emotions arise we allow ourself time to feel them within our body, and using a few Softening breaths, relax / soften into any resistance we feel then resume our Metta practice.
4. We can then gradually include others such as a difficult person until they also become a loved one. loved one - ourself - difficult person, cycling back when the feeling starts to fade and so on, opening up to include all beings.
Your Question: Before this we have been doing mindfulness meditation practices and now in the last three trainings we are doing loving kindness. How does this all fit together?
Stephen Procter: The Buddha outlined the development of the path as four intentions. Abandoning, Guarding, Cultivating, Establishing. Abandoning means to abandon Negative Qualities of mind or heart that have already arisen. (Negative means those that divide - push away) As the practice develops we then have the ability to Guard against the arising of Negative Qualities of mind or heart that have not yet arisen.
When the Negative Qualities of mind or heart become weak we then focus on Cultivating Positive Qualities of mind or heart that have not yet arisen; those weak in us. (Positive Qualities are those that combine - bring together). The fourth stage is Establishing Positive Qualities of mind and heart once they have arisen - making them strong - making them our dwelling place.
Loving kindness meditation if done correctly abandons, guards, cultivates and establishes.
Your Question: The issue here is compassion for all beings, animals, yourself, and loved one. One way I deal with such difficult issues is to practice loving kindness. Stephens weeks 29-31 are excellent trainings.
Stephen Procter: Compassion is developed in our practice in two ways:
1. Intentionally: We can intentionally sit in meditation and develop the feeling of compassion towards our self and all beings in the same way that we do with loving kindness.
Towards our self:
“May I be free from mental suffering”.
“May I be free from physical suffering”.
“Physically and mentally at ease”.
“May I be able to take care of myself, happily”.
“May you be free from mental suffering”.
“May you be free from physical suffering”.
“Physically and mentally at ease”.
“May you be able to take care of yourself, happily”.
This is a concentration practice that conditions the mind to view the world in a certain way through repetition.
2. Through Wisdom: By becoming intimate with the depth of our own suffering we also feel empathy towards the pain of others. As this matures we develop compassion towards the depth of our suffering which naturally gives rise to compassion towards the suffering of others.
This can be enhanced by reflecting:
"Just as I feel pain, you also feel pain, may we be free from pain".
"Just as I experience mental suffering, you also experience mental suffering, may we be free from mental suffering".
This is a mindfulness meditation practice that arises from repeated self observation.
The difference between the two is that the first is based on reconditioning the mind through repeated cultivation of the feeling of compassion to colour awareness. The second practice is based on deconditioning the mind through observing the characteristics of reality and does not arise through generating a colouring but rather from a depth in wisdom.