In Buddhism, the cultivation of kindness (mettā bhavana) is revered as a practice with many benefits. One fruit of the practice of mettā is equanimity. When equanimous, the heart/mind is steady, even, peaceful, and balanced, supple like bamboo that bends rather than breaking or solid, immovable and unshakable like a mountain. The desire for equanimity, whether we know that word or not, is often what draws us to meditation practice and interestingly, increasing equanimity is one of the first benefits that beginners report.
The Pali word mettā, often translated as “loving-kindness” is evocative of an inner attitude of friendliness, benevolence, goodwill, acceptance and similar flavors of love. In the mettā cultivation practice, we start by generating or inclining the mind to mettā where it’s easy. I often think of baby goats. Hard to feel ill-will or aversion toward baby goats. Notice how you feel when you look at the photo. Then we can widen the circle to our self, the stranger, the difficult person and eventually all beings everywhere.
The heart/mind that can direct mettā in equal measure, without discrimination, toward the loved one and the stranger and the enemy, where mettā is a gentle rain or a sunbeam that falls evenly on everyone has a quality of impartiality of mind that is a cornerstone of equanimity. With this impartiality of mind, the mind, even if just for a moment, is not for or against anything. There is no struggle, no push and no pull, just resting in ease and contentment. From that place of resting, we can then move into the world and do what’s needed with greater compassion and wisdom.
The Great Way is not difficult
for those who hold no attachment to preferences.
When the mind exists undisturbed in the Way,
there is no objection to anything in the world;
and you will walk freely and undisturbed
-Third Zen Ancestor – Jianzhi Sengcan (died 606 A.D.)
Here is a short guided mettā practice.
Come join me and my dear friends and colleagues Tera Abdala and Dawn Mauricio for our upcoming online retreat Remembering: Coming Home to the Body and Heart from February 1 through February 7. We’ll spend the week cultivating the wholesome inner qualities of mind and heart that lead to a deeper sense of freedom, joy, ease and well-being.