It was mid- afternoon on day five of a 9 day meditation retreat and although the retreatants were practicing sincerely and things had settled down nicely since the first few restless days, somehow the air in the Dhamma Hall seemed a little hard and dry. I felt that it would be good to encourage the yogis to “Open the Heart of Loving-Kindness,” in order to nourish and sustain their continuous efforts, and perhaps add a little creative element to the practice as well with a visualisation component. As so many meditators struggle with too much wilfulness, impatience, the need to control as well as a lot of harsh criticism aimed inwards, I always start these metta meditations by encouraging people to lovingly accept the way things are and to drop all of the judgements and other agendas. This simple step is so often overlooked, yet it is of paramount importance as it helps us to recognise the way we withhold metta from ourselves as well as highlights painful judgements that we might not have known we were holding onto. Recognising these things we can “let them go” and open up a space for something much more worthwhile. From this foundation of genuine acceptance we move onto generating and then radiating the warmth and tenderness of Loving-Kindness.
In this meditation the meditator is asked to visualise a small white crystal lotus at the very centre of the heart… and then to radiate warm golden light from this lotus outwards filling the entire body. Affirming phrases are utilised as well in conjunction with the in and out breathing. By the end of the half hour one could feel that the tension in the room had relaxed considerably, and that a lovely gentle quality of joy and ease was pervading the quiet air. Later in the evening when I asked the yogis how many people found the meditation useful about half eagerly held up their hands… the other half scratched their heads and mumbled something like “I just can’t do visualisations!” Meditation methods can be like this, different practices resonate with different character types… or perhaps if something is new we just need to keep on trying. Having the intention to establish the attitude of metta and radiate it from the heart is already very wholesome, and following through with a sincere quality of trying builds upon this wholesomeness. I am hoping to add two more guided metta meditations soon which will have a different emphasis. Trying them all might give you a good sense for which method is the most direct and suitable for your character.
May we all grow in Loving-Kindness and receive the many wonderful blessings that come from this most excellent practice!
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