Metta and the Cultivation of Loving-Kindness

Metta from the Pali language, the language of many buddhists sutras, is often translated as “loving-kindness”. Additional meanings include friendly, benevolent, kind. From “A Guide to a Simple Life”: 

Metta is goodwill, loving-kindness, universal love; a feeling of friendliness and heartfelt concern for all living beings, human or non-human, in all situations. The chief mark of metta is a benevolent attitude: a keen desire to promote the welfare of others.” 

Metta subdues the vice of hatred in all its varied shades: anger, ill-will, aversion, and resentment.   

Often metta is translated as love. I hesitate some, when I hear that because when I hear the word love used, it triggers a wave of conflict in me. It is used so indiscriminately: “Luv ya!”, “You have to love your family.” “making love”, “love the one you’re with” and redhearts all around. There is even a chain of truck stops called Love, not to mention the chain of sexual support stores. The origin of the English word for love is associated with the Sanskrit word lubh that translates as lust. In this context “love” may be defined as a passion for something that one wants to possess, sustain, or be attached to. In Northern Eurocentric cultures we often hear that love is something virtually impossible to reach or achieve but something everyone should have in order to have a fulfilling life and maybe get to heaven. Metta is not like any of these and that is the source of my hesitation when using love. 

Metta  is the inherent, true nature of being in relationship with oneself or another. It is the capacity to be fully attentive and present in an interaction. Loving-kindness arises; amity, benevolence, accord, all arise, out of this inherent quality of being, as symptoms or manifestations of Metta. Yet no single concept or experience encapsulates the absolute nature of it. Metta can not be encapsulated, held, defined. It is immeasurable.

When I am open and at ease and listening in Nature, I observe metta as a constant activity of all the organisms and the manner in which they interrelate; being alert, sensitive, responsive and equanimous. Humans tend to use violent, conquest related terms like battle, waging war,  overcoming, wiping out, to identify the interactions in Nature between predator and prey, invasive species and endemic, ocean and land. In my observations, it is only humans who have these dominance-seeking approaches to interactions with others and we project them onto the natural world; often to justify our own behavior. “Survival of the Fittest.”

Once, while in the Amazon, I was walking, at ease in an open state of mind and sense, when I was overwhelmed by the density of interactions in the forest; the deafening sound of insects and birds, the etheric pulsations of the plant beings, the tsunami of smells. While sitting I noticed a giant elder tree that had pierced the canopy where I could see a clear blue-white sky outlining the leaves like grout on a mosaic. The power of that tree rumbled through the soil beneath me and it was almost as if all the beings of the forest were offering homage to the elder. Then I noticed a body-wide vine entwined around the tree from exposed roots to crown. It seemed to be writhing as it used the elder to climb into the canopy and I realized that this vine was not only using the giant elder to reach the light of the sun, it was also draining the life essence of the tree and soon would pull it to the ground, like so many others I had seen scattered on the forest floor. A mournful cry welled up in me and I could feel my anger burning as my mind demonized the great vine for killing such a magnificent being.  Beneath that rumbling rage, there was another sensation almost like a voice, filled with ease and equanimity. If I were to put it in words it would have been something like this:

“Be at ease little one.

This is the way of all life in the forest

All of us, from smallest fungus to oldest tree,

Strive to live with all of our being and in every moment

While striving to die with all of our being and in every moment.

For living brings death and death brings life.

Look around and see.”

I did and I saw.

Metta is an unconditional, relentless, living and dying. Metta is the activity of the sun, non-discerning, non-judgmental, non-discriminatory until they burn out; like the vine and the tree, like the wolf and the deer, like the microorganisms and the rotting flesh of life. 

When I reflect back on my time in the Amazon forest and especially now, in the wake, and as a result, of the meditation Practice, I see the Natural world as a teacher manifesting the qualities of metta. The “chief mark” of which  is a benevolent attitude: a keen desire to promote the welfare of others.

Metta is the unending and ever-creative evolution of diversity which develops in order to enhance interactions, and create more effective interactions. When humans consciously cultivate metta, there is no discrimination for who will receive and who will not, who is deserving and who is not, who earned it and who did not, who has been naughty or nice. Metta rays out into the innumerable pores of all beingness.

When we become ignorant of this Nature-al quality, or live in the realms of forgetfulness, metta pushes on our consciousness like an infant crying to be fed, like a glorious blossom signaling to be pollinated, like the call of the moon to the tides. This forgetfulness of the reality of things as they are, and the resulting attempt to impose a hierarchy of beings, feelings, actions, beliefs on an innately equanimous reality, causes suffering and separation, and isolation and an experience of being trapped in the cycles of Nature rather than being freed by them. Meditation in general and the cultivation of metta, in particular, lifts the weed blocker from the gardenscape of life, a Natural life, and allows an experience of circumspherical interrelatedness, a celebration of diversity, and an end to suffering.

In the upcoming Spring Equinox retreat, we will practice the cultivation of Metta  and the activation of Generosity. If you are interested in joining the retreat follow this link:

Spring Equinox Retreat. Cultivating Loving Kindness and Activating Generosity

or continue reading below. If you would like to sit and Practice meditation please email me and I will provide the schedule and links.

In the names of all teachers, Buddha’s bodhisattvas and enlightening ones, seen and unseen, known and unknown, heard and unheard, I offer these words.

Warmth and ease,

William

wrgentner@gmail.com

Spring Equinox Retreat. Participation is free and everyone is welcome!

Dear friends,

In the spirit of the unending, unconditional kindness and generosity of Nature, which is so prevalent in Spring and especially after a particularly harsh winter, I’d like to invite you to join us in a virtual retreat.

Spring Equinox Virtual Retreat:Cultivating Loving Kindness and Activating Generosity.

The retreat is free and everyone is welcome!

Saturday March 20, 5 PM PST – Sunday March 21, 3 PM PST

Through gentle “rewilding” of our connection to nature, spontaneous writing, meditation, and Council, we will explore our innate capacity for loving kindness (metta, S.K.) and discern obstacles to its fulfillment. While cultivating loving kindness, we will activate the bodhisattva way of embracing a life of generosity (dana, S.K.) and develop unique ways of practicing these capacities in our daily lives.

Please register at: https://form.123formbuilder.com/…/retreat-registration…

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to email me at: wrgentner@gmail.com

I look forward to retreating with you!

Warmth and ease all around!

William

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