(On the cultivation of Loving-kindness and how it can help with hatred, getting along with others, and self-hate.)
When we think of meditation, we usually have this image of a person sitting in the full lotus posture and focusing on their breath.
Inhale. Exhale. Repeat to eternity or until you can’t feel your feet anymore.
For the longest time, this was the same image I had about meditation. Only this past Christmas Holiday I rediscovered the other way we could meditation.
Now, before I dive into the backstory of what led me back and the nuts and bolts of how you can practice, I want to say the many kinds of meditation techniques are wonderful tools for everyone — regardless of religious beliefs. It’s a great stress reliever and an anxiety management tool when dealing with different obstacles in life.
For this post, the name of game is Loving-kindness meditation (also known as Mettā meditation).
Tim Ferris, the author of books like The 4-Hour Workweek and The 4-Hour Body, had posted a YouTube video last June about giving his advice and tips on how to start meditating. The link will take you to the 13:40 mark of the video that mentions Loving-kindness meditation briefly. The whole video was a good kick in the ass to start getting back into the habit of meditating and, as mentioned before in other posts, reap its many benefits to your mind and body.
Ferris also mentions Chade-Meng Tan and how the people at Google are using techniques relating to mindfulness and meditation. It can be simple as wishing someone to be happy. What’s important is not the words themselves but the power of thought. Something that we’ll get to, in a moment.
OLD BUDDHIST TEXT
This was not the first time I had heard about this particular type of meditation. In fact, I was able to recall step by step instructions on what I would do if I was going to do it myself: sending the love to myself before expanding it to those close to me. It’s like creating a bubble around you, surrounding yourself with a blanket of positive thinking and kindness and love. Then, you gradually expand it to include the people close to you, acquaintances, those you despised, your community, country, the world, and the universe.
I had to makes sure of the details so I went back to the original source of my discovery, those many years ago.
When I was a kid, there was a meditation manual, Basic Buddhist Meditation Practice by Ven. Piyasilo, that belonged to my father when he was still in the refugee camp on Bidong Island in the early 1980s. It was this very manual, published in 1983, that outlined the basic steps for anyone wanting to practice Buddhist meditation.
The book outlines the basic idea of what meditation can do for you and some basic step-by-step instructions. It discusses the possible benefits and obstacles for any beginner and provides some solutions of what to do.
Overall, there were two main ways to practice meditation:
THE TWO KINDS OF MEDITATION METHODS
Personality problems are more common in our society today than ever before. Two predominant manifestations of such problems are, namely:
(1) Tension and its related problems (anxiety, worry, etc.)
(2) Communication difficulty (e.g. anger, aggression, etc.)
For each of these areas of problems, Buddhist meditation has a number of cures. Two highly recommended (for their practical ease and effectiveness) are, namely:
(1) Mindfulness of Breathing (for the first problem area), and
(2) Cultivation of Loving-kindness (for the second problem area).
I’ve been coping with my own social anxiety issues and dropped caffeine completely (about 15 days and still going). With the added bonus of mindfulness training with my breath, I’m feeling more in control and enjoying the experience more and more.
However, my main goal of quitting coffee and all caffeine, in general, was the issue of not being able to access it and reacting negatively with those around me. And, when dealing with high-pressure situations, reacting with harsh anger when it’s completely unnecessary.
That’s why Loving-kindness has come into play for me.
You can assume the same sitting setup as you would do for breathing meditation or try to apply it whenever and wherever you are. The important thing is really putting your thought into it. Here is an excerpt from the manual that gives a breakdown of one way to practice:
ONESELF. We develop loving-kindness towards ourselves, and mentally say such positive words like:
MAY I BE WELL!
MAY I BE HAPPY!
MAY I BE FREE FROM HATRED!
MAY I MEET SUCCESS ALWAYS!
MAY NO HARM COME TO ME! … and so on…
(You may repeat the sentences or add new ones in any way you like — it is not so much the words as the thought that counts.)
A NEAR AND DEAR FRIEND OR RELATIVE, someone of the same sex, of roughly the same age as ourselves (say within ten or fifteen years) and who is still alive. Visualise or imagine the figure of that person and develop loving-kindness in the same way you did to yourself earlier on.
A NEUTRAL PERSON. Choose someone you neither like nor dislike, especially someone who you meet often and whose face you know very well. Show the same loving-kindness to this person as you did to yourself and the dear friend earlier on.
SOMEONE YOU DISLIKE. Think of someone that you dislike, one who has done you harm or injury, even an enemy. Direct the same loving-kindness towards that person. Should you be unable to think of such a person, try someone who has done something you disapprove of.
It’s interesting to draw upon those you hurt you, but there’s a profound effect about it. There’s a calming effect that makes you realize that it’s better to send the love and thoughtfulness than the malicious thoughts at them.
UNIVERSALIZING THE LOVING-KINDNESS. First of all, we line up all four persons mentally before us: self, near and dear, neutral and enemy, and we develop the same loving-kindness equally towards them all.
Then we direct the same loving-kindness towards everyone in the room in which we are meditating — and then everyone in the same building; all the people in the locality; all the people in the city, in the country. Then we proceed continent by continent, going all the way around the world, filling the whole world with loving-kindness.
Finally, we radiate our loving-kindness to all beings in different parts of the universe — east, west, north, south, above, below and across.
On a daily basis, I have at least one session of 20 minutes. Two sessions, if I can manage it. I’ve been using the timer that’s in the app called Insight Timer so it has a setting for interval bells. I have one around the 10-minute mark so I can switch from Mindfulness of the Breath and into Loving-kindness and a bit of a smiling meditation hybrid practice.
There’s no mystery to meditation, whether it’s mindfulness practice with breathing awareness or generating positive thoughtfulness towards yourself and others around you. For me, it’s been something that’s helping with my own anxiety issues and even aggression in general.
If you suddenly become aware of being too negative and pessimistic, perhaps you should give Loving-kindness a try. Modify it in any way you want it to be. It can be as simple as wishing someone well.
Good luck and enjoy!