I closed my mouth and spoke to you in a hundred silent ways.
It’s been only three days, but I’m already getting into the metta practice. After clawing my way out of the practice of mindfulness of emotions, I’m grateful for the chance to dress my wounds and rest in thoughts of kindness and compassion.
From what I can tell, metta seems to be anchored in the oneness, the non-duality, of all beings. This is philosophically comfortable territory, as it has some resonance with Advaita Vedanta. But instead of focusing on the jagat as maya—as illusory, as the neti neti to the Real—the metta practice opens me up to sitting in this wild, impermanent swirl of bodies/emotions/minds, and wishing it well.
What a sweet gift that is.
During Sunday’s metta sitting, Ambika guided us to make one of our benefactors the object of our meditation. I bounced around anxiously among a few who seem to fit that general description, and ultimately landed on one. But, as I proceeded to attempt the metta practice toward him as my object, doubt crept in. Is he really my benefactor? What place does he have in my life now? There’s a lot of heartbreak here, let me tell you, and I didn’t open up about it during the group chat. But the practice brought into focus many questions I have in terms of this relationship. Have I projected on him an untenable expectation of perfection? Has he failed in his promises? Have I enabled false perceptions?
Needless to say, I scurried home to the breath during that portion of the practice, and directed some lovingkindness toward myself.
This morning’s commute lightened that burden a bit, giving me a chance to practice some “demi-metta” toward strangers. As we poured into a 4 train, scores of commuters squeezing our bags tight and our bodies in, I found myself interlocked with two other men in the rear of the car. We were so tightly packed in—body to body—that I was frankly grateful for the apparent absence of the morality police, lest we be arrested for an affront to common decency. Anyway, there we were: breath to breath; arm to arm; shoulder to shoulder…you get the picture. And I decided then and there to do a standing metta practice, making these two far-too-intimate strangers the objects of my meditation.
And, I’m happy to report, never has the ride from Atlantic Avenue/Barclays Center to 42nd Street/Grand Central gone by so quickly.
Metta reminds me of an idea that has found expression across many spiritual practices and cultural traditions: What we think becomes what we say; what we say becomes what we do; and what we do becomes who we are.
So let’s start with our thoughts, and speak silently from that place.
May all be happy and peaceful; may all be healthy and strong; may all be safe and protected. May all live with ease.
OM Tat Sat.