When I do metta, I call up an image of the person that I’m wishing the good wishes towards and see what arises-how it looks, feels, is dressed, etc. The image itself is very telling-sometimes it’s a version of that person (or myself) as a child, or older than they are, or sick or happy or any variety of appearance. I’m a visually oriented person in general, so the way that the image appears to me gives me a lot of information, especially as I remember that these images are a part of my subconscious, or of myself in general. Seeing myself as an unhappy child tells me something about how that period in my life may have shaped me, how patterns and habits that I exhibit now are arising from that conditioning, be they helpful or harmful. In a way it’s a shamanic practice, almost like soul retrieval, and I will often try to bring that child back into myself, especially if there is a sense of brokenness or separation or isolation there.
I was taught to do it this way so that the practice would go a bit deeper than just using words and language, so it’s not just happening inside the left brain, so to speak. Moreover, I was taught to find the feeling in my body of warmth, spaciousness, energy, love, etc, and breathe that out with the words. Thus it could become a full-body experience and have a greater effect on me and my habitual patterns. I don’t know if this is helpful to other people, but so much of my meditation training in the last two and a half years has been to practice from a fully embodied place, not just mentally, which of course is the gift of practicing asana before sitting-it gets me into my body very deeply and then allows all of the neurons throughout my system to get involved. This is a deep reprogramming and very important, especially considering recent research into neuroplasticity and the fact that we continue to learn and grow new neurons and evolve as we age, which is not what was once believed.
So finding the feeling inside myself, settling into it, breathing it out, and breathing the image in-all of this creates a deep connection for me to the other person, and fundamentally it’s to my image of that person, my projection, the way that I believe them to be. Often the feelings that come back when I breathe them in show me something that I’ve been totally missing, and that “image” will actually speak to me (just like in Jacquie’s recent post) and tell me things that I didn’t see or was ignoring. What I find really interesting is that I actually DO know these things about the other person (or myself), but my left brain isn’t getting with the program, or intentionally suppressing the information. But my body, my right brain, my intuition, call it what you will, knows what’s up. So for me, the practice has this huge component of bringing to light the dark knowledge that is there and contacting this wisdom aspect of myself that knows exactly what’s going on, all of the time. And that’s the heart of yoga-getting the little storyteller ego in line with the deeper Self, getting them to talk and be friends and coaxing the little me into service of the heart, the bigger me.
That’s my story. I hope it’s helpful. It has been so amazing to read the blog posts and see how much people’s journeys are unfolding and deepening in just a month. Imagine what will happen if we continue to practice regularly!! In a few years, we may be completely unrecognizable. Now that is the miracle of meditation.