Giving and Compassion

Metta in the Moment

Finger Pointing at the MoonMetta, like meditation itself, isn’t limited to one’s time sitting on a cushion or to extended periods of meditative work.  Just as mindfulness, attention, and looking into cause and effect can embrace every aspect of one’s life, even so, loving-kindness can be practiced all the time and especially “in the moment.”

Of course, our outward actions can reflect loving-kindness, as is in kind and selfless acts for others. But in many situations, we have no opportunity to interact, and then all the loving action has to take place inside of us—in terms of what’s going on in our own heart.

Let me given an example.  I was walking downtown from my apartment, when a young family walked by me.  The couple’s two children were adorable—so full of life, and joy, and filled with wonder at everything around them. Of course, it was easy to love them, and feel love toward them!

India Kashmir ProtestBut that day, my heart also ached for them.  We all know how hard life can be, how many sorrows there are, how many losses.  I thought of all the little ones around the world—so vulnerable, so defenseless in an often hard and heartless societies.  As adults, we know how fleeting this innocent childhood time is.  We have learned, as these children would learn all too soon, the fact of the Buddha’s first Noble Truth — there is suffering —  and it cannot be avoided.

We also know how much can goodness and genuine innocence can be lost in “growing up,” and somewhere in our adult hearts, perhaps we grieve that childhood loss.  That tender spot, that “hurty spot,” while painful and poignant, is not to be avoided or blocked off or denied.  We need to look into it.  If we do, we will find that the aching in the heart for the suffering of ourselves and of others is in fact the very root and wellspring of our compassion.  It is the very ground of metta.

Realizing some of these things, and knowing that these dear little ones would have to walk the path of suffering we all have to walk as humans, my heart involuntarily poured out to them.  And the metta just came:  “Dear little ones!  May your innocent hearts be safe.  May your never lose sight of the beauty and wonder of this world.  Throughout your life, may you be happy and know causes of happiness!”

Child Exploring StonesThat was it!  Quick and simple–and utterly heartfelt and sincere.  The metta was a simple blessing to these little ones, sent with all sincerity from the bottom of my heart.  And even now, as I write this, and think of them, I again send those little ones metta. And not only to them, but to their parents, and then, to all children and parents everywhere—and to you, who are reading this and to those you love, and to sentient beings everywhere.  This is the way and spirit of loving-kindness.

Throughout any day, there are innumerable opportunities to open up our hearts and send and embrace others in loving-kindness in our hearts. All it really takes to give metta is to be present with one’s heart and alive to the people and incidents of one’s life.  I have never found a happier way to live than to live life itself as continual practice of metta,  an outpouring of one’s heart for the well-being and happiness of others.

May the hearts of all beings beings be filled with happiness and peace!

May all beings be safe and secure!

♡♡♡ 

About Steven Goodheart

"I have made a ceaseless effort not to ridicule, not to bewail, not to scorn human actions, but to understand them." Spinoza

4 Responses to “Metta in the Moment”

  1. PS — Michael, I too am a vet — served in the Army from 1972 to 1975. Happily, my service was in Germany and not in Vietnam, and so while the war was still “winding down,” I didn’t have to deal with the terrible trauma and horors that many of my friends and buddies did in ‘Nam.

    I think metta practice can be particularly helpful dealing with trauma and with post-traumatic stress, because my experience is that it is often more “doable” than meditation for some folks, because being quiet with themselves is virtually impossible due to what can rise up in the silence. I talk about this in some other posts I’ve recently done. (Heck, I guess my posts are all “recent,” because I just started up!)

    Steve

  2. Steven,

    What is this “metta” business?
    I’ve seen it mentioned in connection with Buddhism, meditation and compassion, but thought someone would eventually provide me with a definition.
    No such luck.
    Can you help out this old vet on Veterans’ Day?

    thanks,

    Michael J

    • Hello Michael! Thanks for stopping by.

      Metta as it’s called in Pali, (or maitri as its called in Sanskrit) is the simple but profound practice of bringing the aspiration and intention of loving-kindness to oneself and others. It can be as simple as what I describe in this post, “Metta in the moment,” or can follow are more formal pattern established in the earliest Buddhist scriptures.

      In different schools of Buddhism, there are may formal forms and steps and variations, but here’s one I often use. First, typically, one sits and seeks to be present and then brings to oneself the intention and aspiration, “May I be happy and know the causes of happiness.” Then, when that feeling and aspiration are established in our heart, we may move on to a someone we love dearly, and to them, we send the wish and aspiration, “May my loved one be happy and know the causes of happiness.”

      Next, we may feel and send loving thoughts and intentions to a friend, and then to what’s called a “neutral’ person — someone we see or know but have no real acquaintance with. Then, the hardest of all—and a step that one may well need to defer for some time!—we work at sending and feeling loving-kindness to an “enemy” or someone who may have harmed us or loved ones. Finally, as mindfulness and love are established, we may expand our sphere of loving-kindness in our thought to wider and wider circles of people, finally concluding with, “May all beings everywhere be happy and know the causes of happiness.”

      That, in a nut-shell is what it looks like “from the outside” or as a description. What it actually is, and feels like, can only be found in the practice of it, of course! I can assure you, it’s not just positive thinking, or as it might appear, just wishing others well, though it includes the latter. It’s a profound form of mindfulness in which love is the essence of presence and being present. And like everything in Buddhism, it’s a skillful means that requires practice and patience. If you’re interested in more explanation, from some very good teachers, take a look at the page Metta Resources here on Metta Refuge. And actually, I think the talk Seeding the Heart: Loving-kindness Practice with Children on that page is a great place for anyone to begin, child or adult.

      With all best wishes,
      Steve Goodheart

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  1. Celebrate World Day of Metta! | Metta Refuge - 2013/03/20

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