Day 26 Meditation
It may seem odd to aim your caring attention to billions of beings, but sending our well-wishing out to all beings reminds us that we’re connected to a vast network of lives and that small daily shifts in behavior and intention can radiate outward exponentially. You may find, as you continue with lovingkindness practice, that it transforms you in ways you weren’t quite expecting.
Lovingkindness is a profound recognition that our lives have something to do with one another, that everyone counts, everyone matters.
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Lovingkindness meditation dispels the illusion of “us” and “them,” and that in reality there is only us. We can take that vision of life into everyday encounters and situations. Today doesn’t exist apart from the network of relationships and influences that brought us to this moment in our lives. How many people were involved in some way in your decision to meditate? How many people loved you, or prodded you? Told you about their meditation practice? Challenged you so that you decided to look for more inner calm and understanding? What about those who hurt you, brought you to an edge of some kind so that you thought, I’ve really got to find another way or I’ve got to look for another level of happiness? They may be a part of why you’re reading these words. We are each swept into the here and now by a confluence of events, causes, and conditions. A large community brought you to this moment.
Question & Answer
Q: If you send lovingkindness to someone but don’t feel any emotion toward the person, does that mean the practice isn’t working?
A: In my experience, there are many times when we do lovingkindness practice and there’s no feeling—but that doesn’t mean nothing is happening. The love we’re contemplating is recognition of a connection that’s actually deeper than emotion. The phrase is really the bottom line, because it’s the expression of our intention to connect, to include rather than exclude, to pay attention in a different way. We gather our intention behind the phrase and hold it lightly. We don’t try to wrest feeling out of it. You have to let the practice carry you. Sometimes the words may not carry emotion for you, but they’re working in subtle ways nonetheless. Maybe your expectation of what you think you’re supposed to feel—a surge of sentimental love accompanied by chirping birds—is getting in the way of your seeing the subtler, more profound changes occurring slowly within you.
Welcome back as we continue our expansion of the practice of lovingkindness. We offer lovingkindness to all beings everywhere in a few different ways. First, we offer the phrases of lovingkindness to different categories of beings, making sure to include pairs of opposites or complimentary sets that when taken together, they form the hall of life. For example, the traditional categories include all enlightened beings and then all unenlightened beings. Enlightened beings are those who are good hearted, committed to wisdom, to love, to compassion. Unenlightened beings are those who live in ignorance. So, all enlightened beings and all unenlightened beings. Those whose lives are largely happy, they’re joyous, those whose lives are a mixture of pleasure and pain, and finally, those whose lives are largely painful.
This is a template just to reveal how one might go about this part of the practice. You can use these categories or any categories that come to mind, as long as when combined, they cover this immense picture of life. And of course, we may be partial to one side of things. We may like enlightened beings a whole lot more than we like unenlightened beings. But, the exercise works to gently dissolve our reluctance to include.
Each time we do include someone, we realize that we can experience the power, the force of kindness, of love beyond our preferences. The phrases of lovingkindness are big enough to capture the immensity of life. Phrases like, may you be safe, may you have mental happiness, may you have physical happiness, may you live with ease. You can use these phrases or any phrases that are meaningful for you. What would you wish for all beings everywhere?
So as you sit, you can close your eyes or not. And start with various groups… Such as all enlightened beings, and all those who live in ignorance, all those whose lives are largely happy, those whose lives are a mixture of pleasure and pain, those whose lives are largely painful, all beings who live on the earth or in the earth, those who live in the air, in the ocean. Whichever categories you might choose to use. Gently repeat the phrases, focusing all of your attention on one phrase at a time. If there are no waves of emotion or sentiment, don’t worry about it.
The power of the practice is developed through the power of concentration. So, gather all of your energy behind just one phrase. And, if you find your attention has wandered, see if you can let go of the distraction without judgment and come back to repeating the phrases. May you be safe, may you have mental happiness, may you have physical happiness, may you live with ease, or whatever phrases you’re using.
See what categories come to mind. Those beings who have a home and those who don’t. Those who are waking up, those who are asleep. Whatever pairs of opposites come to mind, be sure to include both or all parts of a complementary set. We then move on to offering the phrases of lovingkindness to all beings everywhere without distinction, without exception, without separation.
This is an expression of our capacity to connect to, and care for all of life. So, open your heart and begin with the phrase, may all beings, may all beings be safe, may all beings have mental happiness, may all beings have physical happiness, may all beings live with ease – all beings, all creatures, all individuals, all those in existence. We connect to the boundlessness of life, so many life forms. May all beings be safe, have mental happiness, have physical happiness, live with ease.
And when you feel ready, you can open your eyes. Notice if the sense of spaciousness, expansiveness, lovingkindness, affects you throughout the day.