"When understood, the Buddha’s universe..is anything but alien and inhibiting. It is a world full of hope, where everything we need to do can be done and everything that matters is within human reach. It is a world where kindness, unselfishness, non-violence, and compassion achieve what self-interest and arrogance cannot. It is a world where any human can be happy in goodness and the fullness of giving." ❦ Eknath Easwara

June 19, 2012

On Bringing Loving-Kindness Practice to Daily Life

Here is a great teaching on mettaloving-kindness practice—by the skillful and great-hearted Bhante Vimalaramsi.

This excerpt from a talk called "Metta in Daily Life" gives many helpful ideas on how to take metta "off the cushion" and into one's daily life.
Metta in Daily Life
by Bhante Vimalaramsi

"...With your daily activities, the other times, you can send Loving-Kindness to anybody. You can send it to individual people, you can send it to groups of people, you can send it to all beings, it's up to you.

But the thing that you want to try to do is start making "keys" for yourself. A key like: when you're brushing your teeth, that that's your time to send Loving-Kindness. When you're walking from your house to your car, try to use that as a key, for that's the time to open up your heart and send Loving-Kindness. Now you're going to forget sometimes, just like you do here, and that's OK. There's no problem with that. But when you see your mind is wandering, then you want to begin again. And that should be the name of this practice: "Do It Again", or "Play It Again", is that the...? [laughter]

When you're walking from your car to wherever you have to go, what are you doing with your mind? Your mind is just kind of ho-humming around, getting caught in all kinds of unwholesome mental states, or it's just kind of flying around thinking about this or that. So you use that, getting out of your car, or getting into your car, as your key to practice your Loving-Kindness. Open up your heart and, and if there's someone that you know that is suffering, send them some kind thoughts. Put them in your heart, radiate that Loving-Kindness to them.

The more times you focus on having an open heart, the more easily the practice progresses. And this is because, when you have an open heart, and you're radiating that Loving-Kindness, you'll notice it very quickly when it closes, when you get caught by thoughts and feelings and all kinds of whatever the circus is that's running in town at that day. So gently let go of those thoughts, let go of those feelings, relax. Wish somebody happiness.

When I was in Malaysia, I used to tell people to keep a little diary: how long were they able to practice Loving-Kindness during the day. And a lady came to me and she said, "You know, I wrote down every time I practiced Loving-Kindness. Sometimes it was only fifteen seconds and sometimes it was a little bit longer, sometimes it was less. And I only practiced Loving-Kindness for eight minutes during the day, that's all I could remember." And she thought she was being a failure. And I said, "Gee, that's great! That's just not regular good, that's real good! That's good practice. And, as you become familiar with doing it, it will become easier."

Now when you have your Loving-Kindness with you during the day, and then you go and sit and do your Loving-Kindness practice in the evening or in the morning, whenever you happen to do it -- I recommend the morning -- your sitting is easier, because you've been mindful during the day. You've seen that your mind has been, wandering around doing this and that, getting caught by this thought and that thought, this feeling and that feeling, and, you start working with it right then. Letting it go, relax, come back to that open heart and giving that love away.

One of the keys that I use, is, every time I see a little baby, makes me smile. So I send Loving-Kindness to that baby. It was funny, I went into a restaurant with some people, and as I was walking out there was a little, oh, must have been two or three year old baby, sitting in a high chair, and he started looking at me. And I started smiling, just because he looked so great. I mean he was just, really, really soft-faced, and he started smiling back. And then he started bobbing his head up and down. He knew what I was doing. [laughter] And by the time I'd reached the door I started chuckling. Now this was right after the Twin Towers thing, and I walked out the door laughing, and some people were walking right by the door and they heard me laughing, and they had a look of shock on their face. And then they started smiling. So that was a real successful trip. How do you affect the world around you?

So you use as many different keys as you can remember, to, let go of whatever you're thinking about -- it's not that important anyway -- relax, come back to your heart-space and feel that open up, and then send that Loving-Kindness. You're standing in line at the grocery; what are you doing with your mind? " Awh, this lady's got a lot of stuff, it's going to take a long time, aww man." And you know, everybody else in line is doing the same thing. "I can't wait to get out of here, I've got other things to do, I don't want to be here." So you can have compassion for those people.

Now, what's the definition of compassion? Compassion is seeing another person's pain, allowing them to have that pain and loving them anyway. When I would go into the hospitals, when I was doing that quite a bit, I'd walk into somebody's room, smiling. And, ok, they have a lot of pain, they're really in serious trouble, they're getting close to death. OK. That's a sad situation. That's right. And I can love them anyway. Now it was real amazing because, people would tell me that when I walked in the room, it felt like some fresh air came into the room.

Now, if you know somebody that's depressed and you walk into the room where they are, how does that feel? Not very nice. Your have a choice at that time: you can either take their depression and become depressed right along with them, or you can allow them the space to have those kind of feelings, and love them. They can go through whatever they want to, that's their karma; they want to get caught by these things, that's fine. But, ultimately, I'm responsible for me. So what I wind up doing is just radiating Loving-Kindness and wishing, quite often it's all beings. And after a little while the energy in the room starts to change.

Now, when you have strong Loving-Kindness, when you're able to focus on it very deeply, there can be some heat arising in your body. And this heat is a healing energy. And when you focus very strongly with Loving-Kindness, when you practice enough, your mind becomes very calm. And because your mind becomes calm, their mind becomes calm. And when their mind becomes calm, then they start letting go and that depression starts to raise up a little bit. It starts to dissipate a little bit in them.

So you can't take another person's pain away, no matter how hard you try or how much you indulge in their pain; you only make yourself suffer. The more you practice focusing on Loving-Kindness and having an open heart, that's where the healing is. The more you can radiate that feeling of happiness and love, the more you can smile -- and laugh once in while, the more you effect the world around you in a positive way by your example. . ."

You can read the full talk by Venerable Bhante Vimalaramsi here:
and you can learn more about this wonderful teacher here:


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