In terms of ‘changing our minds’, in the metta bhavana (cultivation of loving kindness) practice we work directly to forge a connection with the loving, open heart that lies within all of us. Many of us need to free ourselves from old habit patterns of aversion and self-hatred. This practice enables us gradually to bring ourselves into a more open-hearted relationship with the world which can be literally revolutionary.
The metta bhavana meditation is taught every week at Bristol Buddhist Centre drop-in classes. The Wild Mind website gives an outline of the practice and free audio introduction. We also run regular introduction to Buddhist meditation courses.
The metta bhavana enables us to cultivate positive emotion, the second stage in our system of meditation. As well as being a calming (or samatha) practice, the metta bhavana engages our heart-minds with the Buddhist teaching of interconnectedness and is also, therefore, a vipassana or insight practice. It is the companion practice to the Mindfulness of Breathing.
It is a simple yet profound practice in which we learn to sit, both with ourselves and bearing others in mind, cultivating (‘bhavana’) a desire to wish ourselves and others well and happy. Sometimes we may not feel in touch with feelings of loving kindness, but even so we can cultivate the ‘wish to’ wish for the well-being and happiness of ourselves and others. This has an effect – one of the Buddha’s most fundamental teachings is that ‘actions have consquences’. Over time we almost literally re-wire our response patterns to become more helpful – and enjoyable!
|Sangharakshita’s book ‘Living with Kindness‘ explores how we can take the practice into our everyday lives and how it can be an insight practice.||A useful book about the metta bhavana meditation is’The Heart‘ by Vessantara, available from the Triratna publishing house Windhorse Publications.|