“Metta is also called a paritta — a spiritual formula capable of safeguarding one’s well-being, protecting one against all dangers and rescuing one from mishaps and misfortunes. When the monks could not stay and meditate in that beautiful forest provided with all facilities because the deities were hostile to them, they had to leave the place. And when they were armed with the protection of the Metta Sutta, which they recited and meditated upon throughout their journey, by the time they reached the place, the deities were full of friendly feelings and already waiting for them. Hostility had been turned into hospitality.” – Acharya Buddharakkhita
Today, we will move our practice of Metta to the category of a Difficult being, referred to in traditional Buddhist texts as the “Enemy”. At the most basic level, the Difficult person is someone we find it difficult to like or feel kindly toward. This is someone who we may have negative feelings toward or we find that they challenge us in some way. There are varying degrees of difficulty and this is something we will explore as part of the practice. This category offers us the opportunity to go to a deeper place within ourselves as we work to evoke and hold loving-kindness for someone who may have hurt us in some way, whom we have resistance towards and whose image stirs negativity in us.
When choosing a Difficult person, you can choose someone you have mildly difficult feelings about or a real “enemy” with whom you have experienced true problems. It may be someone whom you find unpleasant, frightening, or annoying. The Difficult person can include someone who is hostile toward you or someone toward whom you have hostility. In the beginning, it is best to choose someone to work with who you find is only mildly difficult rather than someone who stirs up very strong emotions; this helps to expand your ability to generate loving-kindness. Later, when you have practiced offering loving-kindness toward a mildly difficult person then you can expand your practice to increasingly difficult people.
Daily Practice: Do your foundational practices. Get comfortable and settle into your breath. Spend a few moments centering on your heart. Imagine yourself sitting in a circle surrounded by loving beings. By now you should have a clear sense of how to begin your practice. If you need to, you can always return to Days 1 – 7 to deepen your foundation in loving-kindness practice for yourself. Then, begin to send Metta to yourself by repeating the phrases.
- May I be happy.
- May I be peaceful.
- May I be free from suffering.
- May I have ease of well-being.
When you feel immersed in the energy of loving-kindness for yourself, bring an image of the Difficult person you will work with into your awareness. Remind yourself that this person, although difficult, is also struggling to find his or her way in life and in the process, is causing you discomfort. Begin by saying to yourself, “Just as I wish to be peaceful and free from suffering, may you also find inner peace and calm.” Then, begin repeating the phrases while holding the image of the difficult person in your mind:
- May you be happy.
- May you be peaceful.
- May you be free from suffering.
- May you have ease of well-being.
It is natural for feelings of resistance, aversion, anger, guilt, and discomfort to arise. Sometimes the phrases seem weak in comparison to these strong emotions. If you are struggling with your own emotions, try to name the emotion you are feeling, such as sadness or anger. Take a few moments to practice compassion for yourself using the phrases and when you begin to feel more settled, then return your practice to the Difficult person. Use the Switchback as often as you need to maintain an overall feeling of loving-kindness and compassion. If it feels too much to practice for a difficult person, trying moving to another category that we have worked with and then move back to the difficult person when you feel to.
Practice as long as you feel to or have committed to for today. When you feel complete, return to your heart center. Spend a few moments reflecting on your practice. Notice how it felt to connect with and offer loving-kindness to a Difficult person. Spend a few moments dedicating the merit of your practice for your own benefit and for that of all sentient beings. Do this in a way that feels appropriate for you.
Journal Notes: How was your experience practicing Metta for a Difficult person? Was it harder than the other categories? Did you have difficulty choosing or holding a Difficult person in your awareness? Are you using the Switchback when you need to? Are you continuing to be gentle and loving with yourself in your practice? And, in your daily life? If so, how does that feel? If not, what is getting in the way?
May you have a beautiful and peaceful day.