The word metta has been translated as “loving kindness”. I think of it as unconditional love for each and every being. It is my goal. As I am now surrounded by people going through crazy loss in life, it keeps bringing up the question “Why do we do this? Why are we here? To what end?” The answer that comes back from people who have had NDEs and from people who communicate with the dead is it’s all about love. We are here to love and to learn how to love. That sounds strange to me. Learn how to love? Isn’t love something that comes naturally (or not)? It’s just there.
What I realized after the birth of my children is that love here is almost always conditional. We love people based on what they can do or have done for us. This doesn’t necessarily mean material things, it’s how they make us feel, how they stroke our ego. I thought when I had my girls I had finally learned what unconditional love was, because I would love them no matter what. What I have just realized though is even that love I have for them is conditional. It’s based on the fact that they are my daughters. Granted it’s a condition that won’t change. I will always love them for as long as I exist. But, it is a condition.
In the practice of metta meditation, we try to practice compassion, unconditional love, for all beings. All beings. We start close. We start with ourselves. We give ourselves love and compassion. We then expand out to someone we are genuinely fond of and it’s easy to give compassion to. The wild thing is we often find it easier to give compassion to others that we like than to give compassion to ourselves. Self love isn’t as easy and natural as it might seem, but it’s essential to truly be able to have anything to give to others. Next, we move on to people we are not fond of. This is generally the most difficult one. I try to think of someone who has done me wrong, someone who is a real thorn in my side. Then, lastly, we spread love to every living being. This is easier than individuals. As the old saying goes “I love humanity, it’s people I cannot stand.”
I did a metta meditation with a group recently. It’s done slightly differently by different people and maybe in different Buddhist traditions. This particular group skipped the part about loving someone who had done you wrong, someone you consider an enemy. I think that’s a key component. For me right now I am fighting the ideas of Donald Trump with my entire being. I think he’s a dangerous man who represents a dangerous (and dying mindset). I am practicing opposing what he represents but trying to respect him as a human being and a child of the Light and continue to spread compassion to him and to his (deluded) supporters.
Yesterday I was talking with a friend who has also suffered a horrible loss in her life recently. We were talking about going on with this life, the how, the why. I told her I want off. I don’t want to come back and do this again. Her thought is we have to keep coming back until we can learn to be like the monks in the caves in the Himalayas- pure love. God, I sure hope not.
Then, last night I was watching Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday (don’t laugh, it’s a fantastic program) and they had a feature about a woman whose last name is Stepanek. She is the mother of Mattie Stepanek, who was one of Oprah’s favorite guests of all time. This woman had four children and then found out that she has a rare and usually fatal muscular disease. That disease was passed to each of her children. And, one by one, each of them has succumbed to it. She has buried four children. She has to decide to take each breath as she pulls a straw to her mouth to breathe through. It would be so easy to quit. Wow. I sat there in total awe. How she chooses to go on and to continue to be a light in this world living with her physical and emotional pain is beyond me. The metta is strong in this one because she says she is here to do God’s work. I sure hope I don’t have to keep coming back until I reach that level.