Metta, 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!
But 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!”
That 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.