The Wisdom Blog: Classic & Contemporary Buddhism

Monday Mindful Morsel: Beyond Mindfulness in Plain English

by Lydia Anderson
May 5, 2014
Mon, 05/05/2014 - 10:17 -- landerson

In honor of Mindfulness Month, May's Mondy Mindful Morsels will all be centered around mindfulness. This week's book is Beyond Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Gunaratana. In this book, Bhante helps meditators of every stripe take their mindfulness practice to the next level—helping them go, in a word, beyond mindfulness. In the selection below, Bhante teaches how to begin practicing loving-friendliness or metta.

The force of loving-friendliness within the mind is called metta in Pali. It means wishing the best for yourself and others. Metta is also used to refer to mental exercises we use to cultivate this loving-friendly state of mind. We say specific words and think specific thoughts in order to generate a pure feeling. Generating metta is one of the principal routes to jhana. It is also a specific remedy for states of mind that keep us from jhana.

In fact, metta makes the perfect preparation for jhana-oriented meditation. It clears away the hindrances so that concentration may arise.

Loving-Friendliness in Thought and Action

Practicing loving-friendliness meditation can change your habitual negative thought patterns and reinforce your positive ones. When you practice loving-friendliness meditation, your mind will become filled with peace and happiness. You will be relaxed. You will gain concentration.

But loving-friendliness is not limited to your thoughts. You must manifest it in your words and your actions, too. And it involves others, not just yourself. You cannot cultivate loving-friendliness in isolation.

You can start by thinking kind thoughts about everyone you have contact with every day. If you have mindfulness, you can do this every waking minute with everyone you deal with. Whenever you see someone, consider that, like yourself, that person wants happiness and wants to avoid suffering. We are all the same. We all feel that way. All beings feel that way. Even the tiniest insect recoils from harm.

When you recognize that common ground, you see how closely we are all connected. The woman behind the checkout counter, the man who cuts you off you on the expressway, the young couple walking across the street, the old man in the park feeding the birds, and the birds themselves.Whenever you see another being, any being, keep this in mind.Wish that one happiness, peace, and well-being. It is a practice that can change your life and the lives of those around you.

The meditation center where I teach is in the hills of the West Virginia countryside. When we first opened our center, there was a man down the road who was very unfriendly. I encountered him regularly on the long walk I take every day. It is a quiet forest road with little traffic and I always wave at everyone who goes by. Whenever I saw this man, I would wave to him. He would just frown at me and look away. Even so, I would always wave and think kindly of him, sending him loving-friendliness. I was not disappointed by his attitude. I never gave up on him. Whenever I saw him, I waved just as I did with other people. After about a year, his behavior changed. He stopped frowning. I felt wonderful. The practice of lovingfriendliness was bearing fruit.

After another year, when I passed him on my walk, something miraculous happened. He drove past me and lifted one finger off the steering wheel. Again, I thought, “Oh, this is wonderful. Loving-friendliness is working.” Another year passed. Day after day, when I took my walk, I would wave to him and wish him well. The third year, he lifted two fingers in my direction. Then the next year, he lifted all four fingers off the wheel. More time passed. One day I was walking down the road as he turned into his driveway. He took his hand off the steering wheel, stuck it out the window, and waved to me.

One day, not long after, I saw him parked on the side of one of the forest roads. He was sitting in the driver’s seat smoking a cigarette. I went over to him and started talking. First we chatted just about the weather and then, little by little, his story unfolded. It turns out that he had been in a terrible accident. A tree had fallen on his truck. Almost every bone in his body was broken. He had been in a coma. When I first started seeing him on the road, he was only beginning to recover. He did not refrain from waving because he was a mean person. He did not wave because he could not move all his fingers. Had I given up on him I would never have known how good this man is.

To top it all off, one day, when I had been away on a trip, he actually came by our center looking for me. He was worried because he hadn’t seen me walking in a while.

Now we are friends.

To learn more about Beyond Mindfulness in Plain English, click here.


How to cite this document:
© Bhante Gunatarana, Beyond Mindfulness in Plain English (Wisdom Publications, 2009)

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