loving kindness for our unknown neighbours

our meditation meetup meeting on wednesday was at the buddhist peace fellowship here in vancouver. a great big thanks to my friend jennifer for arranging this!

at the end, we did a bit of metta practice. metta is a buddhist loving kindness practice directed literally at everyone in this world, starting with oneself.

i was astonished and pleased to hear that something similar to what i have been practicing on and off was also recommended there as metta practice. you see, part of the magic of metta is that one extends good will to people one does not really know. however, there can be a bit of a difficulty with this because opening one’s heart to someone who you don’t know can feel a little flat and academic.

so here’s something that i’ve been doing that helps to overcome that. i usually do it at the end of the day. i go through my day and look for feelings, events and thoughts that catch my attention. the other day i was riveted by an image of chocolate, for example! today i am thinking of the people in gaza whose power has been cut off. and a little while ago i was browsing through some research on shyness, so that’s been on my mind a bit.

chocolate, gaza, shyness: things that have held my attention today, things that are emotionally charged for me today.

for metta, then, i might do something like this:

i might imagine someone in my neighbourhood who is struggling with chocolate addiction. i conjure up an image. perhaps a woman sitting in the kitchen, the table littered with chocolate bar wrappers.

may this neighbour of mine who is struggling with her food addiction be healthy, happy, peaceful and free.

then i think, there’s probably someone not too far from here who has relatives in the gaza strip. they must be worried. i imagine them sitting in front of the TV, sighing.

may this brother of mine who is worried about his relatives, may he and his relatives be happy, healthy, peaceful and free.

i can also imagine that someone not too far from here, probably even somewhere in my block, is painfully shy. i imagine that person – you know what, i’ll even give her a name: cindy – sitting in front of her computer, surfing the net, trying to distract herself from the terrifying thought of the meeting she has to attend tomorrow.

may cindy be happy, healthy, peaceful and free.

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