By Mary Jaksch
What do you think about most? It’s likely to be about yourself. How you were, how you are, how you will be, what people think about you, and so on.
That is why the world is like it is: full of suffering. Just open the newspaper and you will see suffering all over the world. You can also find suffering right next door. I am sure you too know friends and family members who are going through hard times. And maybe you yourself are suffering.
I want to share with you a wonderful way of changing our self-centred way of being. It’s a meditation that heals and opens. It’s from an ancient Buddhist text, called the Metta Sutra. Metta – or loving-kindness – is an ancient form of Buddhist meditation.
In the Metta Sutra it says:
Cherish all living beings;
Radiate kindness over the entire world;
Spreading upwards to the skies,
And downward to the depths;
Outward and unbounded,
Free from hatred and ill-will.
Whether standing or walking, seated or lying down,
One should sustain this recollection.
What a wonderful aspiration! Aspirations are like lofty mountains that we look up to. We may never make it to the summit but the towering peak defines the path we travel. I think if you and I – and everyone else on the planet – were to live by this loving-kindness practice, the world would be a better place.
Well, we can’t be responsible for the way others live their lives. But we can determine how we live. To this end I want to show you a simple way to put this grand aspiration into practice.
The root of the word ‘aspiration’ is the Latin word ‘aspirare’, to ‘breathe upon’. The breath is life-giving. When we breathe in, we take in the energy of the whole world. When we breathe out, we connect with all beings. Mindful breathing is a natural meditation technique that many spiritual traditions include.
The particular kindness meditation I want to suggest to you today – which I call Boundless Kindness – has the breath at its centre. The central practice is to radiate kindness in all directions and at all times. You can approach this practice by following the seven steps below:
- Choose a time when you are undisturbed
- Sit upright and silent
- Focus softly on your breath flowing in and out
- Dedicate each breath to the wellbeing of all
- Imagine your kindness flowing into the world with every out-breath.
- Feel it flow from you in all directions
- Notice kindness flow through your own body, softening it with each out-breath
As the Metta Sutra suggests, you can also practice Boundless Kindness whilst moving. I recently tried it while running. As soon as I dedicated each puff of breath to all beings, my face relaxed and I smiled, even though I was struggling uphill. You can try this meditation when you practise yoga, when you are caught in a traffic jam, when you are doing the dishes, when you are standing in an elevator, or as you lie in bed just before you drift into sleep. In fact, you can practise it at any time. Try it and see what it’s like!
Can Boundless Kindness save the world?
This practice transforms the heart and inclines it towards kindness. When practising Boundless Kindness, you will notice that the mind lets go of the ME-tape that continually plays stories about yourself. It allows you to be kindly towards yourself and all those you encounter. The kindness you radiate is infections. People respond with warmth and smiles. And the encounter with you will shape the way they respond to others. In that way it’s like throwing a stone into a still pond: your ripples of kindness spread throughout the world without end.
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