On a dark, rainy night near the winter solstice last month, I had the surprising privilege of talking with a person very new to meditation, who has been experiencing a major life transformation through Metta (or loving kindness) practice. He discovered this practice through a series of coincidences and began doing it on his own with guidance from internet Dhamma talks. Listening to him, I was re-inspired by the power of this important intentional, concentration practice.
I sometimes reflect that the Buddha’s weaving of what we call mindfulness practice and loving kindness practice indicates that they are not separate qualities of heart. An important quality of mature mindfulness is openhearted friendliness, and to be in touch with our benevolent heart requires being mindful of the moment. A very useful inquiry for me in my daily life practice has been to softly and kindly ask myself: “Is there any Metta present in this moment?” Often the rekindling of awareness in this way brings the friendliness into consciousness.
The intention to be present is deeply rooted in the intention to be kind. In the final verses of the Metta Sutta we are reminded that in order to walk on this path, we should “sustain this recollection.” Sati, the word translated as “mindfulness” has its roots in the verb “to remember, to recollect.” Remembering to be fully present becomes remembering to be kind. “Treat everyone as an old friend,” says the Dalai Lama. Remember.
“It is in this way that we must train ourselves: by liberation of the self through love. We will develop love, we will practice it we will make it both a way and a basis, take our stand upon it, store it up, and thoroughly set it going.”
~ The Buddha – Samyutta Nikaya
This winter’s VIMS course offerings focus on understanding and cultivating mindfulness, a state of clear awareness, which is infused with kindness. Peg Meyer’s class, Exploring Meditation Through Mindful Yoga, will use gentle yoga postures and embodied attentiveness to guide us; and the weekend retreat at the end of February provides a dedicated block of practice time to help us further stabilize and sustain our connection with this clear, openhearted seeing. As it becomes more and more familiar through consistent meditation practice and deeper understanding, mindfulness steadies itself and emerges as an important and safe refuge for us in this ever-changing, sometimes confusing and painful world of the ten thousand joys and ten thousand sorrows. With a friendly, interested mindfulness established as central in our daily mental stance, we rest in a balanced attitude, which guides us gently towards both peace of mind and wise, compassionate action.