Metta Bhavana

I have dabbled with Buddhism. Never enough to call myself one, although I once would perhaps have described myself as half-Buddhist-half-biscuit. Probably a chocolate digestive at that.

There is a Buddhist meditative technique called  Metta Bhavana, or sometimes more simply “Loving-kindness” meditation. Metta is a Pali word that means benevolence, friendliness, amity, friendship, good will, kindness, compassion, close mental union (on same mental wavelength), and active interest in others. Often just lumped together under “loving-kindness” for ease.

The practice has a number of steps, in which one cultivates benevolence to an expanding circle of people as follows…

Second step: a good friend;
Third step: a “neutral” person;
Fourth step: a difficult person;
Fifth step: all of the above equally;
and then gradually the entire universe.

Last night I had dinner with old friends, which was lovely. I had to leave to catch the last train back to Leeds and was running through a quick verbal check that I had remembered to pick up all my stuff, hat, wallet, phone etc. Someone chirps up…

Pheromones. Don’t leave those behind whatever you do. They penetrate even the internet so God knows what havoc they would wreak if you left them here.

She was being nice, albeit a tad over-stated. What she didn’t know was that I am currently in a different phase of that particular wash-cycle. The part where I’m more interested in getting used to being single and not really caring about it. I am somewhat mercurial and my moods can shift rapidly, so sometimes people can’t keep up and it isn’t their problem.

Another friend interjected

Hey my wife’s sister and mother did internet dating so they can’t all be bad…

This was a confusing statement. His mother-in-law? The one who doesn’t listen to a damn word anyone says??? Dear me. But then again, his sister-in-law is a different prospect. A woman with all the native cunning and implied devilry to make a man (or a man like me) perk up on the coldest of winter days. I probably shouldn’t admit that, especially as she is happily attached, but fuck it.

There is another Buddhist principle that implies that we can find a place to stand, internally speaking, where you can observe yourself from a distance. From that place I know a few things. I know I will cycle through oscillating attitudes to the prospect of dating again. It doesn’t change how I feel today, but I know that I will feel differently at other times. It doesn’t change my unpredictability. It doesn’t lessen the appeal of my friend’s sister-in-law, or diffuse my irresistible urge to state that inappropriately.

I’m aware of all those observations. Ultimately, I can’t help being me and so very human.

Oops. I just realised I missed out the first step when I described the Metta Bhavana.

First Step: Extend compassion to yourself

If you can’t do that, then you’re on a hiding to nothing.

I recently stumbled across a pat description of the process of psychotherapy, which paraphrased goes something like…

  1. Figure out you’re an asshole.
  2. Figure out you’re no bigger an asshole than anyone else.
  3. Quit worrying about being an asshole.
  4. Quit judging others for being assholes.
  5. Get on with your life.

Do that and, paradoxically, you’re not such an asshole after all.


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