Valentine’s Day 2012: ‘All you need is love, love, love is all you need…’ One very small problem about love is that if you love this person, you can’t love that other person as much. So you have to manage all the likes, dislikes and unlikes; friend and ‘unfriend’ too. The stormy weather of loving one thing completely and other things not at all – but how can we love everything? The practice of mettā holds all beings in loving-kindness; all phenomena, all sentient beings, we contemplate in terms of loving-kindness. Okay but it’s not easy to love everything… yep, some things aren’t very lovable; lovability potential: zero. No matter how much I try, I can’t love that thing; sorry, no, I can’t do it. But what I can do is have mettā for the feeling that I can’t do it; I can have loving-kindness for my resistance to loving the unloved. Being open to all conditioned experience with an attitude of kindness, and accepting things as they are; this is the practice of mettā.
The aversion I experience is not so much about the unloved thing itself, it’s about ‘me’ struggling to accept the reality of it being there. Mettā is about non-aversion, if I have aversion for the unloved, it just exacerbates the situation. Allow it in to conscious awareness, the unlovedness, let it be there and just know this feeling as it is now. Okay, so I leap into a state of aversion as soon as I open up to it like that. But I have mettā for that state too. I can come back later, try again; I can be patient with this condition as it is right now in this present moment. Having mettā means allowing it to be. I’m not interacting with it, I’m just willing to be with it. It’s the same as everything else, its nature is impermanent, it changes, breaks down, crumbles into pieces and it’s gone. I’m not looking for the natural cessation of it, though, that’s not the goal. I’m just allowing it to be as it is, accepting that and, bit by bit, there’s a release of the tension caused by ‘me’ resisting the presence of the unloved. That’s the point of the exercise.
The effort to get away from the reality of the unloved, restimulates the discomfort and negative emotion starts building up again. Even so, there’ll be times when it’s possible to just receive the experience without resisting it. I see then, this is the way to go; loving the unloved. Over time, things begin to change, there’s a willingness to let everything be as it is, pleasant feelings and unpleasant feelings. I can have mettā for all the negativity locked away inside, opening the door, letting it all go; freedom! The heart isn’t heavy with dislike, blame and resentment. A sense of lightness and well-being.
‘By reminding ourselves to have metta for the feelings we experience – not thinking about them or analysing them but going to the place in the body itself, to the mental quality, really embracing that – really being willing to feel those particular emotions, they become bearable. By changing our attitude to one of acceptance rather than of rejection, to interest, rather than just wanting to get rid of them, we find that they are things we can tolerate. Then they cease on their own, for all conditions are impermanent.’ [‘Universal Loving Kindness‘ by Ajahn Sumedho, Forest Sangha Newsletter, October 1997, Number 42]
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