Yesterday in class we had more discussion of metta (loving-kindness.) One student talked about how she had a difficult family member whom she had started silently sending metta, and how over time that family member had started opening up, blossoming into someone less complaining, less prickly and less difficult. Now they are closer, and her relative is actively engaging with her in a way she never did before. She did not send metta to change this person, yet somehow the sending metta seems to have created a space for her loved one to grow and soften in her dealings with others. If she had sent the metta in order to make a change happen, it would not have happened.
A blog follower wrote to say that she realized that she had been sending metta to those she perceived to be in need – a friend in the hospital, someone going through a rough time – but what she hadn’t been doing was sending metta to her husband. She recognized her relationship with him in a sentence of the last post about being paved over with concrete and calcified with fear. She recognized that their relationship had calcified, and that she needed to send metta to him on an ongoing basis. Metta arises out of such recognitions. She’s not sending metta because she wants to change her husband but because she recognizes an absence of metta-sending warmth in herself in this relationship.
Metta is powerful! All the more so because it is such a quiet practice, not announcing itself, not arriving at the doorsteps of friends or family saying ‘I’ve got the answer, YOU need to change.’ This is a stealth practice! It is such a generalized sense of well wishing that it can be totally unnoticed. These are internal wishes, though they might ride on the words we say every day to each other, like “Have a good day.” It’s just the difference between tossing it off by rote as a way of saying goodbye to the grocery clerk, or really feeling that well wishing for them in that moment. Even if they said ‘have a good day’ first, our ‘You too!’ can be heart-felt.
I shared with the class a little about the Gratitude Sit out at Spirit Rock that I was invited to attend. It was a lovely warm day and so sweet to be at Spirit Rock in the upper retreat grounds, my spiritual home. Rick Hanson, author of Buddha’s Brain, a book we have explored together in this class, was leading the meditation and giving a dharma talk with visual aids about the human brain and altruism. It was a very rich talk that I wouldn’t do justice to here. He says it will be available on dharmaseed.org. The date of the talk was 10/10/10.
I have a prepared dharma talk for next week and look forward to sharing it.