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The Practice of
Metta in Insight Meditation

 

 by Ajahn Tiradhammo

 

 

(An edited version of a talk given during a retreat in 1993)

The practice of "metta" is one of the meditation exercises which is usually taught as a type of Calm meditation. Meditators bring up thoughts of well-being towards themselves, and then they share this well-being with other beings, eventually including all beings in the universe equally.

I have found, however, that it is also very useful as an exercise in Insight meditation. This is partly because our usual way of relating to experience -- especially the unpleasant things -- is to have resistance. If we could change our attitude somehow to be a bit more peaceful, or even friendly, towards so-called negative experiences, this allows us the possibility to come a bit closer to them in order to see them clearly, in order to have clearer insight into their true nature.

The Pali word "metta" is frequently translated as "loving-kindness", however, for many people this can be quite idealistic. I thus prefer to translate it generally as "friendliness", although also sometimes as "non-contention, "peacefulness", "openness" or "receptiveness", depending upon how we are able to use it.

This practice is especially useful in relating to the so-called unpleasant experiences of life. For most people, as soon as they notice something unpleasant or painful, they want to get away. But that does not really solve the problem ― trying to distract ourselves away never allows us to get to the real source. You have to first recognize: there is some suffering, some discomfort, some pain, and then go to it in order to find its source. Only by removing its source is it really resolved. By distracting ourselves away from it, it may seem like itís gone away, but because the root is still there, it keeps on growing. It just takes other forms Ė resisted in this way, it grows up that way.

Of course, as you know, for many people this is easier said than done. Who wants to go to the source of their pain? Our usual reaction is to get away from it. But by developing a more friendly, peaceful attitude towards the so-called negative, towards the so-called unpleasant, we can change our usual way of relating. At the very least, we do not increase it, we do not react in the same habitual, resistant way over and over again, but have the possibility of relating to it in a new way. And this, together with a foundation of collectedness and clear awareness, allows us to see it a little bit more clearly for what it really is.

 

Pain is Subjective

That is why I say it is only so-called "negative" or so-called "unpleasant". As I mentioned already, what we call "pain" is subjective. Each one of us makes their own definition: there is a sensation, there is a state of mind, one person says: "ouch!", another one says "thatís ok". Not only that, it depends upon our individual mood too. If we are feeling very distracted, in an unhappy mood, the slightest little physical irritation can be very painful. Or, if we feel in a more happy or peaceful mood, we can tolerate a lot more discomfort. So where is the real discomfort?

In the Buddhist teaching what we call pain or what is unpleasant is in the mind. It is a particular aspect of mental phenomena. So simply, if we change our state of mind, we can also change our experience of pain and discomfort.

Of course, to some people the practice of friendliness does sound a bit crazy, to be friendly to your pain sounds crazy: "What?! That does not make sense, to be friendly to my pain?! You should get rid of it, should crush it out, you should conquer it, defeat it, rather than being friendly with it."

But then all of this is coming from will power, which is the basis of ego. "I want to crush out my pain, I want to get rid of my discomfort" is all coming from our ego. And maybe we have to accept that sometimes it works. But with a broader, longer-term perspective we see it is not really successful. We get temporary relief, temporary gratification, but no real resolution of it. At the very least a more friendly attitude allows us to come a bit closer to some of this stuff with a more open, receptive, peaceful attitude.

Take something practical, like physical pain for example. Who likes pain? If you like pain youíve got to be a masochist. Every sentient being with feeling, every conscious being, whether it is a human being or a mosquito, does not like pain. It is like an instinct: get away from the pain! Well, if you do hurt yourself, do put your finger in the flame, you donít even stop to think about it: "This is painful, I should move my finger". It is an automatic reflex. Sometimes you do not even actually register the pain immediately, but then there is a reflex and then "ouch, my finger is burning". First there is some kind of a reflex action.

 

Body more Intelligent than Mind

I have this theory Ė which is more than a theory I guess Ė a belief maybe, that our body is much more intelligent than our mind. Not that it could pass an IQ-Test, but I mean the body is first of all very simple. Our mind is just complicated so it has to go through all these various channels of nerves to figure out: "hey hey, your finger is burning!". But your body just responds.

Once I had a little accident up the mountain here. I was walking on a steep slope and I slipped. Suddenly I was sliding out of control faster and faster down the slope heading for the precipice. As I was sliding down my brain was thinking how to get out of it. But separate from my thinking process, for some reason my body just rolled over to the side of the rock and as I slid over this ledge I landed on the only piece of flat ground in the whole area -- just big enough for two feet! I immediately came to a stop and stood there in disbelief. What?! I was not even thinking to tell my body to roll over right there. But somehow it just did it automatically and I stood there with a kind of wondrous disbelief, shaking a bit.

It has been several times like that: when one is really pushed to the extremes, when the mind cannot think anymore, but the body somehow knows what to do. And many times these situations show that there is another way of relating to reality. If we are left with the usual way that our mind thinks, we are hopelessly over the precipice, goodbye! But there is a different way of relating.

The same with the so-called "negative" and the so-called "unpleasant". If, for example, we notice some particular pain in the body, if we try to see it in a new way, if we are able to look at with more collectedness -- which means that the mind does not spin out to all the old memories about it, all the fantasies that might happen -- we can perhaps begin to experience it in a different way. And if we add to that more of an open, peaceful and friendly attitude, we can change the whole perspective of how we relate to these things.

 

Reality Subjective

What happens is that we usually divide up reality quite subjectively. In reality there are no pleasant or unpleasant; I mean in the real reality. Each one of us makes up our own personality: "I am the one who says that is unpleasant, I am the person that says that is pleasant". That is what accumulates this part of the personality. And so we get a whole backlog, a whole set of things that are unpleasant and pleasant, then we keep reinforcing that, feeding that. And when there is any kind of threat that some of that stuff will be contacted, resistance comes up. That way is simply making it an enemy, our enemy, and all this stuff is our enemy. Then you want to fight with it, get rid of it, hopefully destroy it, and burn it and bury it, and be peaceful, we hope.

However, if we can have a more peaceful attitude, some of this stuff can come out of the closet and we can see it in a different way -- you can see it as it really is. And, when we begin to see it as it really is, without all the subjective stuff, all the subjective colouring: "Itís a threat to me. That hurts meÖ," with the point of view: "This is just a thought, this is just a memory, this is just a feeling, this is just a sensation", it looses its personal emotional sting. At the very least we can neutralize it to a certain degree. Because the whole nature of it is based upon our relationship to these things. For example, if you notice that something like physical pain comes along, and as soon as you say, "pain" or "it is me and my pain", you get stuck with this dualistic relationship -- me and my pain. And our usual way is trying to get rid of it: I want to get rid of my pain. Of course, it is quite absurd -- how can I get rid of my pain, because it is me? Ė That sort of fight goes on.

But if we see it with awareness then it is a different story. First of all we are not identifying with it, "itís my pain". There is a particular sensation just happening in this time, at this place, and at one level that at least cuts off the memories and associations we have built up around it. And if a new "old" pain comes along, we would say itís just like last time that happened. And so we get caught in this repeating the same old patterns based upon memories, not on what is happening right now -- this moment, this particular sensation, at this particular place, in this particular state of mind.

The first time when I was in Sri Lanka I had a little hut in a monastery. Two of us came there and there were two little huts and so we drew straws who got which hut Ė and I got the nice one, I got the one with the mosquito screens. That was a real success, because it was in the lowlands, surrounded by a swamp, so had lots of mosquitoes. So I thought "Ha, I really got the good straw this time, for a change." So I went to this little hut and I was thinking that I was really safe from all the mosquitoes. But the problem with mosquito-screens is that it keeps some out, but when one gets in, it cannot get out. So the night came and I closed all the doors and windows and I thought I was safe. I sat in there and then "zzzzzzz" Ė one mosquito! And of course Ė because it was my first experience of mosquitoes, I thought "mosquito equals malaria". So whenever this thing was buzzing around in the room it was OK. But whenever it stopped buzzing, I knew it had landed somewhere, probably on me. Well, needless to say I could not sleep the whole night. I would sit there for a few minutes and as long it was buzzing it was OK, and then it stopped and I jumped up, and then it started buzzing againÖ

I could not sleep the whole night for this one mosquito. The next morning I told my friend. He did not have any mosquito-screens in his place. He said: "I had no problem sleeping." So I said, "What about malaria?" He said, "There are no malaria-mosquitoes here." Of course, it was a Buddhist monastery and I could not kill the mosquito. It would have been OK for the mosquito to kill me -- malaria, heart-attack maybe, or something.

But just by having this particular way of thinking, we can create so much extra suffering for ourselves. Later I learned, after many years, lessons of mosquitoes. Has anybody been to Thailand? I can give you an unedited copy of my book "The secret life of mosquitoes". If you let the mosquito bite you, it bites you once and flies away and finish, you can get back to sleep again. But the worrying about it, the worrying about being bitten once kept me awake the whole night!

But if we can have a more friendly attitude towards some of these things that we usually relate to as being negative or unpleasant, it changes the whole situation around. And the point is that what we defined as negative is relative to my point of view -- my ego, in other words. So what happens is, when we meet some unpleasant situation, we say "Oh, Iīve got a problem". As soon as we define it that way we have stopped, locked into and now solidified the whole flow of reality.

 

Friendly Enemies

What awareness tells us is: there are sensations. They arise and they pass away. They come and they go. And one sensation comes along and you say "ouch Ė thatís pain" and rather than allowing it to cease, to go through its lifespan, we try to get hold of it with our mind, identify with it and say "ah, that is painful, Iíve got a painful situation to deal with." And we are locked into this relationship, and most of the time that is what the real problem is; between this "me and my problem, me and my problem".

If we can change our attitude, for example, have a little bit more of an open and peaceful attitude, what happens is, since <me and the problem> is <me and the enemy>, to be friendly, I have got to change. I have got to be different. I change. When I change, the enemy problem changes too.

If you are friendly to your enemy what happens to them? Simple! They are just half an enemy! But when we define them as an enemy, they stay that way. The enemies you see get reinforced by looking upon all the negative things about them: they are the ugliest and the dirtiest and all the worst, etc, etc. But if you change your attitude, being at least a bit more friendly towards them saying, "Well Ė they are human beings too. Maybe they even have a few friends, they might even have a little dog, or even a black cat like ours." Then suddenly they are not such an extreme enemy anymore. Okay, you donít have to like them. They still maybe have their unpleasant aspects, but they arenít a hundred percent bad, negative and all the rest of it. And practicably speaking, maybe they are still ninety percent your enemy, but ten percent changes, and then there is a possibility of some different way of relating. A ten percent possibility of something different.

The same with this relationship with the so-called "unpleasant". We have created this "it is me", we have held on to "me" as a certain person who has this pain, this problem. Identify with that and it is fixed. The problem is fixed. And we also have to accept some kind of strange aspects of human nature -- we even like that, at least we know who we are. If I have a problem, I know who I am Ė Iīm the one with a problem!

However, having a more friendly attitude to the problem at least opens it up, it allows a bit more flexibility. And if we can develop this we see the results, we see the benefits and it can increase, providing a lot more flexibility in this relationship. I mean, it is a bit too idealistic to say: "Well, really there is no "me", so there is no problem." But "ouch", it still hurts. Some of these so-called negative things are well-supported by our memories.

 

Friendly Change

If we can continue with this practice of friendliness, really, we change. Our ego

is that which wants to be in control and just get rid of this and get rid of that, so that it has its own little island of control. But to be able to be peaceful and friendly towards all things, you have got to give up your ego position, and allow everything to be just as it is.

Who can do that? Do you allow things to be just as they are? "Yes, well, butÖ that is not so nice, I donít like this, . . ." That does not mean that you have to agree with everything, and everything is wonderful. But you see everything has its place. Even the wrong, even the evil has its place. It doesnít mean that you are saying now "evil is good". That is ridiculous. But you see its place within the whole fabric of reality. And when you can actually acknowledge that there is wrong, then you can start to make it right. People say it should not be this way, people should not kill each other. Well, sorry. If we just leave it at "should nots", where do we even start to change that situation? If you can acknowledge, well, people do kill each other, then we can consider what to do about it. Where does it come from? They donít kill each other just like in a fairy tale. There is some deep root to it. And we can acknowledge it, which means being open to that reality rather than saying it should not be that way, they should not do this Ė but they do.

Similarly with the pain in the body, "I should not have this pain". The reality is, or awareness says: "But you have." So we say, "What, but I shouldnít have." But it is how it is right now at this moment. (again, it is not saying that this is how it is going to be forever.) Just the openness to that changes it. Because it was there in our unawareness. Our unconsciousness knew it, but we didnít want to know it. It is there Ė our unconscious mind knows it is there Ė knows that there is all this stuff, all of the negativity, all of the dark side of ourselves. Our unconsciousness tries the best to keep it hidden away from us. So that is the situation. But if we can bring it into consciousness it is quite different -- it does not stay hidden and frozen away. When you can bring it into consciousness you see it in a different way. When some of this stuff which we are holding on to begins to come into consciousness, it unfreezes and enters the flow of reality. And a lot of these things have no substance in themselves, other than our own mind holding on to it.

With the development of more collectedness and clear awareness we can sometimes just observe all the confused thoughts, the angry thoughts, the frustrated thoughts. They just arise and pass away. Thatís the nature of mind. Most people, if they see an angry thought think, "Oh, get rid of it! Quick, hide it!" And when you do that, you reinforce it, give it a new life, hold on to it. And then it does stay there. By allowing it into consciousness, it has its own lifespan: it arises and passes away, just like the breathing. It comes and it goes.

The point is though, we usually need a more open, receptive, peaceful attitude to these things, rather than the usual reaction which is to judge it somehow, manipulate it, do something with it. Thatís why if we have some degree of collectedness, when the mind is a bit more collected and stable and calm, it does not have to erupt, all this stuff. Friendliness allows us to come a bit closer to it, to see what it is really like. Most of the time it is so-called "unpleasant" because we keep it over there, keep it fixed in a certain fixed idea, a fixed memory.

 

No Thing

When you come closer to it Ė what is really there anyway? There is no real substance other than a memory? How much does your memory weigh? What shape is your memory? Can you bring up your memories and put them on the floor? But if you hold on to them in your mind, they are pretty heavy arenít they? When you allow them up Ė where are they? You can put all your memories into this room and it still would not get full up. But if you hold on to them with your attitude, they are pretty heavy stuff.

The Buddhaís insight was that all the problems come not from themselves but because of our grasping them. Holding on, grasping, clinging, clutching at, that is the whole source of our suffering. But the point is this is also a fundamental reaction, fundamental reaction of ego. Ego is only there, it only exists because it has something to hold on to. In the Buddhist time they had various philosophers and they were saying, what does this ego look like? Or you can use a spiritual term like the soul, what does a soul look like? There were all kinds of theories about it Ė it is a little seed in the middle of the brain, or behind the heart. The Buddha was using meditation practice, not philosophizing, but using meditation to see clearly Ė "Okay, what is the soul? Letís look at this! Lets investigate!" Not believe any theory about it or any philosophy, but look, investigate it with clarity. And while he was investigating that nature of soul, of ego, he found no thing. That is called "enlightenment". Simple. Letís do it again, the course is over!

But how many of us can really look very clearly at the nature of the sense of self and not stop anywhere? You say, "Well, OK, Iím not my body. Yes, sure, but Iím an intelligent mind!" Oops, canít give that one up.

It is easy to think about, to theorize about: well, the body, yes. But then: who is it who is thinking about the body? There is this little mind back there saying: "Yes, yes, it is all very reasonable, yes." But the rational mind goes too. Because it is just a creation, a conditioned thing; conditioned by our rules of logic and our education. And with the practice of insight meditation we are trying to awaken this new way of seeing. The way of seeing which comes from direct experience. It is awareness now, awareness-seeing, not the reasoning, not the logic, not the concepts, but the awareness seeing what is really happening.

 

Awareness

Of course, for many people, even this awareness is part and parcel of their ego. Because we only allow ourselves to see what we want to see -- which will make me comfortable. This is not really awareness, it is awareness with a small "a", awareness which is a slave of my ego. But with meditation exercises we can increase this awareness, we can give it more power of its own. We start off with "Okay, I am developing my awareness." This is the little awareness. And actually this word which I translate as awareness, you know what it means "awareness"? After all one needs to experience it for oneself. In Pali it is called "sati". And there are many different kinds of this "sati". Its root is "to remember". At its very simplest it is just to remember. For example, to remember to come back to the breathing, to remember to come back to the body. Than there is Ė you would say - a little bit more developed level to recollect yourself. Not only to remember to come back but actually doing it. It can happen sometimes quite spontaneously. As soon as your mind gets a bit clearer you come back to the breathing. You do not have to remember, "Oh yes, what am I doing here, yes 1993, yes this is Kandersteg, yes meditation, oh yes!, of course, yes, breathing right." You got it! Ting! Ė the bell goes. Then recollection is: you can come back much more quicker.

And then there is the level of what I call "awareness". Awareness is much more flexible. Because we all have some degree of awareness. To some degree we can walk up the stairs, down the stairs, to find the toilet and things like this, some degree of awareness, even if the lights arenít on. And it can be developed, canít it? Besides having awareness of where the stairs are, you can have awareness of the physical sensations in the body. And over a period of a few days perhaps you can significantly develop this. There is an increase in awareness.

 

Me & My Control

We say "increase in self-awareness", which in Buddhism is awareness of the body, mind, feelings. And if we put some effort into it; first of all from a selfish level (I am developing my awareness), once it gets going then we become aware of certain aspects, letís say of the body, which we werenít aware of before. We notice particular sensations, particular states of mind, particular feelings that before we only noticed if they really attracted our attention. Or if they were really interesting so we had some investment in them. As we notice these things we see, "Hey, this body gets on without me. I donít need to stay aware: foot move there, leg go there, arm go here!" You notice that "Hey, its working anyway. So I can just go to sleep!" And you notice that most of the activities of the body happen without your conscious interference -- food is digested, the breathing happens, the hair is growing, getting older, etc. It happens automatically.

If we just are aware of the body within our limited sphere of ego, "Well, gee, I am in control of this body." So I can say, "Okay arm: move! Wow, look at how powerful I am, I can move my arm. It took scientists years to get a robot to do that! I can sit up, I can move, I can dance, I can sing (well, not as a monk).

But then when it comes to these other things . . . Okay, you can move your arm, but can you say, "Okay digestion, stop digesting!"? Maybe it would be useful if you could do some things. Letís say, "Hair, stop growing! Save razors!"

But how often do we look at the limitations of the body? We usually look only at where we have control. If the body gets sick, I donít want to hear about it, I donít want to know it, "I am not sick, keep going, come on." But finally you have to accept, "Ugh, I am ill, I canít make it." And then we meet the limits of our control over the body; usually only in these sort of crisis situations youíd say.

In the story of the Buddha it was old age, sickness and death which the Buddha had to confront, and there was no solution. He asked people what does this mean: old age, sickness and death. Well, what do you mean "what is it" -- it just happens to everybody. And well, isnít there some solution to it? Well, no, sorry. Oh gee, life wasnít so rosy after all! We better have a good pension-plan. But it was these limitations of the sense of self that set the Buddha questioning, inquiring -- aha, the self is not all-powerful, it is not ultimate, doesnít last forever, has its limitations too.

For some people it is a bit of a shock at first. When you see that you are 40 years old and have your first grey hair, itís a bit of a shock, but you get used to it. And then we adapt to it, adjust to it and take it in to the ego realm: now we are comfortable with it. But when we begin to really see these limitations then we begin to see more clearly what the nature of this body really is, seeing clearly what it is. Which means we donít have to feel depressed about it, to feel irritated about it -- it just is that way. This is being more at peace with the nature of it.

Sometimes there are experiences which we have had had before and are now in our memories which are very heavily loaded with emotional content. And to say, "Just open to them!", is a bit optimistic; because we not only open to that, we open to all this negativity we have padded around it. However, if we change our attitude to be more peaceful to that, more peaceful towards all this negativity around it, then it allows us to open it up, to see it for what it really is.

So, what happens? If you can be really friendly towards the unpleasant, the so-called negative, what happens to it? Sometimes if we can be more friendly towards the so-called unpleasant experiences they begin to open up, become like a cloud. They arenít so solid any more. Because they are only so-called solid because of our clutching, holding attitude. To be friendly one has to relax oneís grip, oneís hold on it. And by doing that it allows us to become a bit more flexible. Before, when we looked at the pain, there was only one answer -- ouch! But now when we look at it again there are different kinds of "ouches", different kinds of pains, so to say. Its not so simple anymore. And we have to accept too that we still have our limit. It doesnít mean you have to just sit here till tomorrow, "Itís not pain any way. Itís just friendliness, peace opennessÖ" But this is coming from our ideal rather than from our experience.

This is something that we can work with. Itís not a magical solution. Because to some people they do think, "Aha, Iíve now got the magical formula to get rid of all my pains!" Oh, Oh! Thereís the ego speaking again. The ego is again asserting itself to take over our attempts at openness and friendliness. And if the ego is involved itís not going to work, not really. Because in order to be really friendly one has to totally surrender. Real friendliness only happens when we can step outside our ego confines, surrender my ego identities, my ego definitions. Ok, practically this happens step by step. The more we can develop friendliness, the more we let down our ego guard step by step.

 

Unreasonably Friendly

There is a story in one of the post-canonical books of 4 people sitting together somewhere on a bench. You, your best friend, a neutral person and your worst enemy are sitting there, having a cup of tea. Not your worst enemy, no, no, they drink sour-milk! Some murderers come along and say they want one of you for a sacrifice. You have to choose one of these four people to be killed. Well, whom would you chose? This is a great moral dilemma, yeah? You can choose yourself and say, "Well, I am so selfless and holy, take me!" Or you could say, "Well, take my worst enemy heís not worth anything anyway. Cleanse the earth of this fellow." How about the neutral person? He is nobody special. Or you could be really generous, "Well, I cannot go because I am making a decision, so take my best friend, he is the same as me anyway."

We could make a personality test here by the answer people give. So who would you choose? I said this was a hard one - maybe we leave it for tomorrow? It has to come from the heart, a heart-felt decision because this is serious. You can leave your answers on my seat, put your name on it please so I know who to keep away from, or perhaps to sit with you on the bench. But I will give you a hint -- you wonít get it by thinking. The answer is not anything you could ever think about, it is unthinkable. So weíd better wait till tomorrow.

If we continue with this practice of friendliness what can happen is that we arrive at an experience which is totally unexpected, totally unreasonable, illogical, because it is transcending these limits of the ego. In order to be really friendly to your worst enemy, to the things you define as being the most unpleasant, you have got to change. You have got to surrender all your points of reference, all places you are holding on to. And then the result is unthinkable.

In the story above, the unthinkable answer, if you really develop friendliness to a very high degree, is that you cannot choose anyone of the four. Friendliness is developed so extensively that one no longer discriminates between any of the four persons, one is completely open and friendly to them all equally Ė and even to the murderers as well! See, I told you it was unthinkable.

But we can apply this in a practical way. Gradually we begin to see, first the resistance, even a resistance to being friendly. There is trying to be friendly to the resistance, but the resistance to being friendly. People have come to me after days of practice and said, "I just canít be friendly. I am just not capable of it". So one very helpful hint is -- maybe you have to forgive first, to forgive before you can be friendly. Forgiving means that we fully receive this experience without judging it, just receive it fully as it is. When we can fully receive it as it is, then we can let go of it Ė because we have absorbed it, taken it in, so we donít need to hold it anymore. If we donít fully receive it, open to it, absorb it, we stay with our judgements about it and end up with righteous indignation. This comes out of our own ego-based, reasoning mind Ė "Yes, I can forgive, it is good to forgive. But they did this. Itís not right. They should not do this, and it is not right, itís wrong, they should do that." But the point is, in a sense, it has happened, itís done. So maybe we have to forgive, receive, absorb that particular experience, that particular situation, before we can start anew. This is especially true of the past -- we are never going to change the past. The only real benefit we can get from the past is to learn from it, and hopefully not to repeat mistakes again. But we have to really open to the pain and the wrong and the injustice that has happened there. To open to it, to receive it, doesnít mean we have to agree with it or like it. But that is the way it was then, start over again from now.

 

Universal Friendliness

This practice of friendliness - I would say very simply - is the single most useful meditation exercise in the whole practice of meditation. When people meet some difficulty in the practice, the simplest and most practical solution to it is more friendliness, more peacefulness, openness, receptiveness towards it. So wherever we say there is a problem, the problem is not really the problem in itself. The real difficulty is the relationship to it. Basically it is "I" (subject) have a "problem" (object). If we hold this relationship then subject and object battle it out until victory Ė I conquer the problem or the problem conquers me! With a more friendly, peaceful attitude, however, we can at least peacefully co-exist. And, maybe, if we develop this attitude further, we can establish a totally new relationship. That is, when I change with friendliness, the problem changes too! Friendliness implies an opening towards and a softening towards. And then we notice that the problem also opens and softens. And the more we open and soften with friendliness, the more the problem opens and softens Ė opens and softens until (its possible!) subject and object dissolve, melt together in friendliness. How does the saying go Ė Love conquers all.

But we have to work at this practice too. It is not something that comes so easily to us, we have a whole backlog of ego-conquering-problem habits. So it sometimes seems a bit crazy to be friendly to the things which you donít like, things that you find unpleasant. But if we see it as providing a new space from which to relate we have the confidence to change our attitude and see what is really happening there in a much clearer way. Thatís why I find it useful for Insight meditation. To be able to see clearly we have to be able to come closer, with a friendly, peaceful attitude to see what is really there. You canít see anything very clearly if its off over there covered in a cloud of resistance.

 

Friendly Wandering

If you can be peaceful with the wandering mind, then the wandering mind isnít a problem. There are two ways to relate to the wandering mind. Some people think that they should not have it and they fight with it (and the mind wanders even more wildly!). And others can be a bit more peaceful towards it. It is still there, but there is no conflict. Wandering mind happens sometimes, so what?

And when one is more friendly towards it, it starts to tell us its deeper secrets, just like your trusted friend does. The wandering mind is just one face to the mind, and not even its true face. But until it trusts you, until it knows its not going to get criticized, condemned or violated, its not going to open up its deeper secrets to you. Relating to it with friendliness allows it to relax, to not have to keep up its particular "face", and to transform into something quite marvelously different. What that is we donít know, but we are peaceful with that too.

There are different kinds of peace too, there is a peace "away from", peace without disturbance, when your disturbance is all gone and then it is quiet. But what I am talking about is "peace with disturbance", being at peace with the noise, being at peace with the pain, being at peace with the wandering mind -- it is a different kind of experience. And practically, how often can you really be away from disturbances? We go off to the quiet mountains, walking peacefully, "Oh, so peaceful", until one of those Swiss Jets comes blasting over you: Wrooooaammm! Or here, especially in the springtime, it is an especially good place for wakefulness. If you go wandering up the path here a lot of little avalanches come down. You just walk along in a daydream, and then Craaash! This is a different kind of peace.

Insight meditation is seeing the way things really are. When you see how they really are, you can be at peace with them. Whatever is there is alright, it is just the way it is. We donít make suffering and complications around it. But in the process it is different. It is a different kind of a wandering mind. When we are at peace with the pain, it is still there, but it is a different kind of pain Ė a soft, peaceful pain. Try developing a more peaceful, friendly attitude to the so-called unpleasant and see for yourself what happens to it. Then it will be your experience.

May your practice of friendly insight develop well and bear fruit.
Be well.

 

 
 
Source : http://www.forestsangha.org

 

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