Shaman & Holistic
Transformation Facilitator

Day 23 of May is for Metta 2012: Take Your Metta To Work Week, Dealing With Difficult People

Day 23

Take Your Metta To Work Week

An Exploration in Bringing Loving-kindness Practice to the World of Work

“Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals.  Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others.  Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.” – Pema Chödrön

As I mentioned yesterday, one of the gifts of Metta meditation is that it offers an opportunity to work with our direct experience and allows us to customize our practice to what is arising in our daily lives.  I’d like to share a link to William Berry’s Blog.  He is a member of our virtual sangha or community who is participating in May is for Metta for the second time.  As he did last time, he is using his blog as way to journal his experiences in cultivating loving-kindness and developing his meditation practice.  I was excited to see how he has been working with Take Your Metta To Work Week.  His Metta Meditation Journal for Day 21 is a great example of how one can explore Metta at work and in daily life.  I hope you’ll take some to explore how one of our group is working with May is for Metta.

Today, we will continue our practice of Metta for our organization and ourselves.  In addition, we will add the category of Difficult person, referred to in traditional Buddhist texts as the “Enemy”.  There are clearly varying degrees of difficulty and this is something to explore as part of the practice.  At the most basic level, the Difficult person is someone whom we find it challenging to like or feel friendly towards.  It is someone towards whom we may have varying degrees of negative feelings.  Sometimes, just thinking about this Difficult person causes us to be upset or frustrated.

Working with the category of Difficult person offers us the opportunity to go to a deeper place within ourselves.  Oftentimes, when someone causes a reaction in us, there are feelings and issues we need to resolve within ourselves.   As always, we begin by cultivating loving-kindness and compassion for ourselves.  We acknowledge that something is arising within us that is causing discomfort and in a sense, we comfort ourselves with our attention and our compassion.

In the workplace, there are often people and situations that challenge us and cause uncomfortable feelings to arise.  Often, we need to deal with seemingly difficult people and situations but there is nothing we can do to change the fact that we have to relate with them.  This is one of the places we can shut our heart down as we feel there is nothing to do with our feelings but stuff them inside.  By offering Metta, we begin to work with our resistance, which supports having a more open heart and mind.  It also gives us a vehicle for dealing with something that we may feel we have no power to change.  Perhaps we cannot change this outwardly, but we do have the power to create change within ourselves.

As we begin, we recognize that the Difficult person is suffering just as we are suffering.  Even though we struggle with this person, we acknowledge that they deserve to be happy as all beings do.  You may wish to choose someone whom you have struggled with for some time or just notice a situation that arises during the day, such as a frustrating phone call or stressful interaction with a coworker.  In the beginning, it can be helpful to choose someone to work with who you find is only mildly difficult rather than someone who stirs up very strong emotions.  However, if a very difficult situation arises, this can be a good time to explore responding with loving-kindness and compassion.  Remember you can always bring your practice to yourself first.  Once you are in that space of loving-kindness you can explore extending it to the Difficult person or situation.

Daily Practice:  Do your foundational practices.  Find a comfortable position. Imagine yourself in the center of a circle of loving beings or enveloped in the feeling of loving-kindness.  Connect with your own heart center and begin your practice by offering the Metta phrases for yourself:

  • May I be happy.
  • May I be peaceful.
  • May I be free of suffering.
  • May I have ease of well-being.

Even if you did your practice at home, take a few moments as you arrive at work to center yourself in the heart and repeat a round of two or phrases for yourself.  Also, remember to do your foundational practices several times throughout the day, especially when you are experiencing stress or difficult emotions.

Whenever you are ready to practice for your organization, just take a moment to center yourself in your heart, imagine being in your circle of loving beings and offer a round of phrases for yourself.  If you notice there is tension or stress within your organization, your department or team, this can be a good time to do your practice.  When you are ready, begin to offer Metta for your whole organization or whatever groups you have chosen.  Say to yourself, “Just as I wish to be happy and peaceful, so do all beings within my organization.”  Begin to offer the phrases remembering that you, too, are a part of this organization:

  • May we be happy.
  • May we be peaceful.
  • May we be free of suffering.
  • May we have ease of well-being.

Practice for as long as you feel to or as long as you have time.  Even a few moments are beneficial.  Again, it can be something you do a few times throughout your day or as the need arises.  Let your heart be your guide.  When you connect more with your heart center and the energies of loving-kindness, you begin to become more responsive to your own needs, your environment and those around you.

At some point in your day, explore practicing for a Difficult person.  Remember, it can be someone whom you often struggle with or someone who has annoyed you or caused difficult emotions for you today.  Do your foundational practices and say, “Just as I wish to be happy and peaceful, so does this being wish to have peace and happiness”.  Begin to offer phrases for your Difficult Person:

  • May you be happy.
  • May you be peaceful.
  • May you be free of suffering.
  • May you have ease of well-being.

Practice for as long as you feel to or as long time allows.  As part of our exploration with Metta at work, you might explore working with Difficult people as the need arises.  This is a way to help you to continue to cultivate loving-kindness and compassion in yourself, others and your organization.  One of my clients, who was new to Metta, began to practice for a coworker whom he had struggled with for months.  He was amazed that within a couple of days after offering Metta for this Difficult person, the whole dynamic that existed between them changed for the best.  He no longer felt challenged by this person who had caused him considerable distress for months.  I encourage you to explore what’s possible.

As always, if at any time you have difficulty staying present or are struggling with difficult feelings, you can return your practice to yourself.  This includes when you are doing the practice or in general when you notice you are struggling in some way and are unable to stay present.  Taking a moment to offer Metta for yourself brings you back into the present moment.  Explore this as you go about your day.

At some point in the day or evening, consider all of the beings you have practiced for today and ask that this practice benefit them and all beings.  Ask that our organizations benefit from this practice and become more heart centered.  Do this in a way that feels appropriate for you.  It can be incorporated into your own practice of meditation, prayer or reflection.

Journal Notes:  Are you enjoying your exploration of bringing Metta to work?  How does it feel to do Metta for your organization?  How does it feel to offer Metta for a Difficult Person?  Are you remembering to be gentle and loving with yourself as you practice?  Did you take some time to return to your heart center and offer Metta to yourself today?  How does it feel to consider being more loving and compassionate at work?

May you have a day filled with sunshine and happiness.

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