Thursday, August 15, 2013

Training in Metta

Metta -- lovingkindness meditation -- is a stealth practice that you can do anywhere, without anyone else knowing, and it can transform your experience. I like to do it in groups where I can observe people quietly -- like on the train.
This week I took Metro North into NYC and decided to use the time for my daily metta practice, which I'm doing for IDP's metta month in August. The method I've been using is slightly different from the usual one. It involves visualizing three people: on your left is someone you love, on your right is a difficult person, and in front of you is a neutral person. It works with the three poisons of attraction, aversion, and indifference.
In this case, I chose people on the train. The person I felt affection toward was the man in the seat behind me, who offered to help put my bag in the overhead rack. The difficult person was actually a group of loud giggly young women a few seats away. And the neutral person was the man next to me, a business type in a navy pinstripe suit checking email on his phone.
The idea is to feel the person's presence and your own reaction. The inclination is to lean toward the person you love and away from the difficult person. By touching in with your own bodhicitta, you even out. Is there something in the irritating person you can connect with? In this case, I touched in with the young women's excitement. Clearly, they had plans-- they all wore pretty dresses and had their hair arranged. They had a Big Day in the City ahead of them, and their giddy excitement spilled out. May you be safe and happy in your adventure.
The neutral person was someone I would not have thought much about. But the conductor noted that he had a peak-hour ticket, and this was off-peak, so he was late for work. His jaw was tight. I've been there. May you live with ease, young master of the universe.
It's easy to wish good thinga for the person you like. I caught the cadence of an Irish accent as he talked on the phone, quietly. He was helpful. Be safe, happy, healthy, and at ease, sir.
And then, extend the feeling to everyone in the train. With the walls of your heart down for these three, send metta to everyone. And everyone in the towns we pass through, the city, and the world.
It makes for a pleasant trip. Even the process of getting off and and making my way through
Grand Central didn't annoy me. And that is a transformation.

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