Yesterday, I introduced a method for the cultivation of loving- kindness using the phrases: “May I be well, happy, peaceful. May no harm come to me. May no difficulties come to me. May no problems come to me. May I always meet with spiritual success. May I have the patience, courage, understanding, and determination to meet and overcome inevitable difficulties, problems, and failures in life.”
Then we used those same phrases to generate the recollection of loving-kindness towards parents, teachers, family, friends, those who are unfriendly, and then all living beings. I think the use of phrases is a helpful reminder to try to direct attention to a particular feeling. The feeling of loving-kindness is the object of meditation in this practice: the actual feeling, an emotional tone within the heart. That is what we are trying to generate, support, and sustain. As we direct attention, it’s like trying to enter into and abide in that feeling, allowing it to establish itself.
I think it’s also quite important in terms of the cultivation of loving-kindness that we recall this mettā-nimitta, the sign of loving-kindness. Find a place where that feeling of mettā begins to establish itself and then protect it. Then use the different phrases to try to support, nurture, and hold loving-kindness in a skillful way so that it can grow and expand.
Sometimes there is a problem with language: directing attention to parents and teachers isn’t like taking loving-kindness and beaming it off this way and that way, shooting it out and radiating it. It’s much more the sense of beginning with what might be a little spark and allowing the heart to be a vessel for loving- kindness. What we do is then expand that vessel, expand that sphere of loving-kindness, so that it includes parents, family, teachers, friends, and ultimately, all living beings.
Alternatively, it’s establishing that base of loving-kindness, that mettā-nimitta, stabilizing it, nurturing it, and then inviting parents, teachers, and friends into it. Allow them to come into that sphere, include them so that the base of loving-kindness is right here, within this body and mind, in the present moment. This is where the base of loving-kindness is—then allow that to include other beings, inviting and expanding it so that it’s not excluding anything.
This is thus a different approach in terms of stabilizing the concentration and using it as a meditation that provides a solid anchor within the heart. It’s quite important, this shift of perspective to having a stable vessel of loving-kindness that then expands, allowing it to include all of these other beings we associate with. It’s never divorced or separated from the loving-kindness that is established toward yourself. That is the base that you are always returning to and depending on: “May I be well, happy, peaceful. May no harm come to me. May no difficulties come to me. May no problems come to me. May I always meet with spiritual success. May I have the patience, courage, understanding, and determination to meet and overcome inevitable difficulties, problems, and failures in life.”
It’s always grounded in respect, kindness, and well-wishing toward yourself. That’s not selfish. It’s the most practical reality, to be able to look after yourself so that you have the resources to be able to support others.
This reflection by Luang Por Pasanno is from the book, Abundant, Exalted, Immeasurable, (pdf) pp. 63-64.