#81 December ’15

Loving Kindness – in the Buddhist tradition ‘Metta’ – in Western Speak – ‘Clearing’

In the Theravadin Buddhist tradition, this practice begins with the meditator cultivating benevolence towards themselves, then one’s loved ones, friends, teachers, strangers, enemies, and finally towards all sentient beings. In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, this practice is associated with tonglen whereby one breathes out (“sends”) happiness and breathes in (“receives”) suffering.

I suspect that the only path out of the current heavily polarised dilemma the manifesting world faces at the moment is the practice of ‘Metta’ or loving kindness.

No matter what situation we observe, it is our own personal judgement that dictates whether or not that situation develops into conflict or collapses. There is a danger in watching televised accounts / perceptions of what is going on in the world, of listening to the news, or reading newspapers. We don’t even have to believe what we see, the words and images are still very powerful and have a significant impact upon us. If we take for one moment seriously that which we are exposed to, even on social media, then we are still lost in the polarised world. To imagine that any information is an accurate representation of what is going on is a mistake.

‘Clearing’ is, essentially, developing our own practice of loving kindness. Through noticing our thoughts and feelings and giving them less energy, judging them less and less we are cultivating benevolence towards ourselves. As our heart opens more and more, with less and less fear we begin to feel more peace within ourselves. There is less room for anxiety if there is no fear, and fear cannot exist (for more than 90 seconds!) in a compassionate heart.

As the heart opens so the body is allowed to heal itself. Once started and practiced often this has a domino effect, upon ourselves and all around us. This cascade of change that started as a moment in time when we noticed and did not judge that which we noticed, when we failed to take whatever it was personally, ripples throughout our awareness and spills over into the world around us.

Hard to see or understand while we are still lost in the duality that appears to be the status quo, but, as we practice and as those around us notice change, then we are encouraged to practice some more. The more we are able to embrace all aspects of the self, without judgment or attachment, the more the heart opens.

Then, as though effortlessly, the loving kindness that we are becoming expands to our loved ones, friends, teachers, strangers even our enemies. This is not something we think about, not something we practice, it is just the result of who we are. The inner peace that arises as a result of the practice simply allows all that is around to release old conditioned stress and patterns and return to a balanced, loving state.

‘Clearing’ = ‘Metta’ =’Tonglen’ = ‘Loving Kindness’. Not the easiest state to discover, let alone remain within. There always seems to be something on your path that calls you back into the past, a past that only arose because of the polarised mind.

For me, the practice is to observe the unfolding drama, but not to take sides, not to judge and certainly not to take it all personally. To notice where I still have preferences, judgments about right and wrong, good and bad, and then to remember the teachings. “Since everything is a product of one’s own mind, empty of meaning, like a magicians illusion, having nothing to do with good or bad, right or wrong, one may well burst out in laughter.”

Change, true change, can only come about, according to my current beliefs, through each and every person practicing ‘Metta.’ Many may not even be able to acknowledge this but there can be no blame when there is so much polarised charge holding the collective. For blame to arise there must be a lack of loving kindness, yet, with each person who begins to walk the path, no matter where they start or which road they take, the collective is impacted in such a way that, without confrontation, without anyone being ‘right’ (or ‘wrong’) that which has not been built on love collapses.

If you fail to see the value and the impact such a state of being can have upon you, your family, friends, neighbours, colleagues, the earth itself, then you have simply bought into the idea that change comes about through opposition and so it goes.

The moment you become aware is the moment of choice.
— Eric Dowsett