Updated: Apr 21
Yes. Metta (Loving Kindness) meditation is a profound and deed, wonderfully heart-opening, centering practice – AND at the same time, it isn’t just a nice midsummer’s afternoon spent swinging in a hammock, reading our favorite book, sipping on some Monkey Picked Oolong tea. It certainly takes tremendous courage to face our own hearts and humanity but that of others as well. It brings up a lot. I have a hard time with this whole idea of basic goodness – yet somehow, this particular practice of loving-kindness seems to drop us off right at the edge of that precipice.
So, there we were again. All 15 of us – sitting together in that same tiny beige room. Again. With the shared intention of settling our minds and opening ourselves beyond that, what seems logical and/or even possible in prison. Again. Doing this week in and week out points me to the practicality of the well-known Buddhist mantra of ‘continually returning and coming back to the breath’ and how it is not only what we do during meditation, but ultimately, this is a training for what we do every day in our lives – whether we are greeted in the morning by a hidden sun blocked by thick clouds and pouring rain or the tender, heart opening gaze of our lover – this is exactly what we are training to do – day in, day out until our last moment here on this precious planet (and perhaps beyond!).
And this is a bold practice to help us with that.
I’d never been able to get into this practice until last night when I felt an opening in my heart that went beyond what I’ve ever felt. The Metta exercise seemed to provide more open space for what was alive to grow. What was initially alive was some fear – I’d be lying not to say this. “Did someone really just instruct me to open my heart even more?” I asked myself with caution and disbelief, “In a prison! I mean the space is tiny and there are 15 guys in here, and I’m the only woman!….”
My flight response started to filter in and tell me I was in danger and needed to move out. Move on, Madrone – this is not a safe space here. I mean, we are sitting in prison..how many people want to open their hearts at all, let alone in prison!? Oh, wait a minute. I do. Phew. I almost forgot. Back to my breath….back to my heart…
That is why we are here, right? Why else, if not, to open ourselves deeper and deeper? If this path is teaching me anything, it would be that the whole point is to open our hearts further and further to the unfolding moment before us – regardless of what we deem safe or unsafe.
Somehow this trust landed me back to an old Marine Corps saying my dear father often says to me in the midst of life's challenges:
And it’s true. It’s not always so easy to get back up and into our saddle when we fall, but one thing is sure: each moment provides the opportunity to do so.
So there we were, simply sitting in a space together, feeling our hearts open to another being who we don’t necessarily want to feel anything but anger, aggression, and sometimes even hatred for. This is a practice that can push us beyond our comfort zone. It’s a practice that can send us down the rabbit hole of habitual patterns, and it is a practice that can show us a way to move out of our notions of friend and foe – allowing a multitude of us to train in seeing the basic goodness of ourselves and that in others. We start with self and expand out — guiding us towards an ever-expansive heart:
May I be free from inner and outer harm and danger? May I be safe and protected?
May I be free of mental suffering or distress? May I be happy?
May I be free of physical pain and suffering? May I be healthy and strong?
May I be able to live in this world happily, peacefully, joyfully, with ease…
Thanks for reading!
Until next time,