This is Post 11 in the ‘Meditation Guidance’ series. Summaries of the other articles in this series can be found here.
It is understandable that mettā, or Loving-Kindness, would be the best understood of the four brahmavihāras. It is the one which has its own short recorded discourse in the Pali Cannon of early Buddhist tradition, but more importantly, it is the one which most resonates with our experience in ordinary life. Mettā extends our ordinary notions of love to express an attitude of unconditionally valuing everything in our experience, and unconditionally valuing all of the people in our world. People who practice the mettābhāvanā meditation practice, would generally describe mettā as being characterised by a feeling or attitude of warmth, kindness, care, and of love – in the sense of a deep valuing and well-wishing. The most common translation of mettā is Loving Kindness, but it includes qualities of ‘unconditional love’, ‘unconditional valuing’, and ‘unconditional acceptance’.
The mettābhāvanā practice is often felt by practitioners to be powerfully transformative – a powerful support to psychological integration, and to social interaction. Because mettā is that attitude of Consciousness, which unconditionally values and accepts our experience, it powerfully transforms the evaluative, or ‘Feeling’ function of the human mind. In ordinary egoic consciousness, the evaluative, or ‘Feeling’, function discerns that which is of value to us by attending to the internal flow of pleasant and unpleasant feeling states that are our emotional guidance system throughout life.
This discernment between that which is of value to us and that which is not, may be conscious or unconscious, and plays a very important role in the egoic construction of identity, and in the establishment of the defensive threshold between egoic feeling, which we are happy to identify with, and the feeling aspect of the unconscious – emotional content of the mind that we would rather not feel, or that which we would rather not remember, or that which we would rather not recognise as an aspect of ourselves.
Mettā – Healing and Evolving the Emotional Body
In regard to how this Feeling aspect of the personal unconscious is experienced, there is a useful notion in esoteric Buddhism and other spiritual traditions – the Emotional Body. In my view, the idea that we have a psycho-spiritual anatomy made up of subtle energy bodies and ‘chakra’ points or areas, where the energetic state of the subtle bodies is most keenly felt, is a very useful one – and is one that fits the experience of myself and other meditators. I am in general very critical of the way this ‘somatic’ anatomy is described, and shall be attempting to bring some clarity to this area ‘Meditation Guidance’ series. Continue reading