When we do mettā meditation, loving-kindness meditation, it’s often good to start with ourselves. But when doing that, it is important that we not put ourselves under our thumbs—making demands about who we are and what we should be. When this happens, it’s as if we’re looking at the mind the way judgmental parents look at their child, power tripping and demanding that the child behave in a particular way. I’m going to tell this kid what to do, and he’s going to do what I say! There can be no joy in approaching the mind with the assumption that it will toe the line if we force it to do so. Joy has to be unfettered with a sense of real freedom.
When we practice loving-kindness meditation, we turn our awareness and consciousness toward our sense of being, our sense of existence, and we give ourselves the space and freedom to be exactly as we are. There are no demands placed on us—not on our physical bodies or on our personalities. All of our expectations are irrelevant; they are a fiction. We give ourselves freedom to be what we are, and from that freedom we wish for ourselves, May I be happy.
For many of us, there can sometimes be a sense or even an insight that our modus operandi is not to be happy. For me, when I look at my own behavior, it doesn’t always feel like it’s coming from a wish for happiness. It can be like that for all of us, so we cultivate mettā as an antidote. We turn our awareness toward mettā, and eventually we may have a deeper insight: Actually, I really do want to be happy, and my heart genuinely wants that freedom. The greatest freedom we can experience is not the freedom of letting ourselves do what we want out in the world. The Buddha says that freedom in its highest form is freedom from affliction; it’s not from the gratification of the senses. It’s simply the experience of sitting here with very little suffering occurring for us; we’re not making problems out of our experience.
When we have loving-kindness for ourselves, we want to imbibe the sense that we are what we are, and we don’t need to make a problem out of any of it. We want to tune into the sense that generating loving-kindness for ourselves is what our hearts want—we want to be happy and free from suffering. We genuinely want to care for ourselves. It’s almost insane how we don’t act in our own best interests, how we forget that this is actually what we need to be doing. So we need to make a conscious effort to value our own well-being and to recognize the heartfelt wish for our own happiness.
When doing loving-kindness meditation, we give ourselves space, freedom, and acceptance. We express ourselves from a nonjudgmental attitude, I am what I am, and however I am, that’s okay. We bring up the wish, May I be happy. Then we relax into that space and see what happens.
This reflection by Ajahn Yatiko is from the book, Beginning Our Day, Volume 1, pp.18-19.