As a wise person once said—and then ascribed it to Buddha—being angry at someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.
It’s not helpful.
Even if we’re not yet in the frame of mind to be willing to see things from the other’s perspective, it’s still in our own interest to let go of the anger. To forgive, if necessary.
But knowing this doesn’t stop me from feeling hard-done-by every now and again. I might still have the odd rant and lick my wounds. And when I calm down, I begin to acknowledge my own role in the energetic state of play between me and any other person.
To heal that, I practice a Buddhist meditation called metta bhavana.
‘Metta’ means love, friendliness, or kindness. ‘Bhavana’ means development or cultivation. Hence, it’s more secular name is “Loving Kindness” and the practice helps us to develop feelings of good will—toward ourselves and toward others—and to repair troubled relationships.
Throughout the process we bring different people to mind and consider the qualities we admire in them. Having done so, we send them loving energy through the form of a mantra:
May you be well.
May you be happy.
May you be peaceful.
May you be filled with loving kindness.
There are different variations on this mantra that can be recited, but there is a recommended sequence in which to call people to mind:
- Start with yourself—this is the ideal, although some people have difficulty with this. If that is the case, then swap around the first and second stages.
- A person you know well and care for.
- A neutral person with whom you are acquainted but do not know well.
- A person with whom you are experiencing some conflict.
- All beings, everywhere.
That may only look like five steps, but the sixth actually comes before all of them—it is to choose to let go of the anger and embrace peace.
For me, this has become my go-to practice when I need to heal the energy between myself and someone I’m not getting on so well with. However, I practice it regularly in group meditation sessions even when I’m not experiencing any conflict with others—it is always a lovely practice to send loving kindness to ourselves and others.
Students often query what to do in stage four if they aren’t experiencing any conflicts at that time. What I suggest—and do myself—is to bring to mind someone that you may be having critical thoughts toward right now, even if you’re not expressing them verbally to the other person. On an energetic level, there is a conflict taking place. This meditation offers us the opportunity to heal the energy before there’s an eruption in the physical and we do find ourselves engaged in conflict.
And if you’re going through a phase of complete peace and contentment and are only sending positive energy to everyone you encounter, then look to the past. Is there a conflict there that hasn’t been healed? We can do that in our hearts and in our minds without needing to bring the other person back into our lives.
We do this for ourselves, for our own healing.
That’s the beauty of Loving-Kindness meditation. While we’re sending peaceful energy toward others, we’re also instilling it in ourselves.
May we be well, may we be happy, may we be peaceful, may we be filled with loving kindness.
Author: Hilda Carroll
Editor: Renee Picard
Photo via Flickr