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Sharon Salzberg

Metta or Loving Kindness

From Pali, the language of the original Buddhist texts, metta has been translated as lovingkindness, love, and friendship. Metta is knowing deep in our bones that our life is inextricably interwoven with all life, and that because of that we need to take care of one another -- not out of sloppy sentimentality or pretentiousness, but out of wisdom.

Environmental understanding teaches us that we are all connected, despite some protestations about the distance of the Arctic or confusion about cause (how we live) and effect (on the planet). Epidemiology confronts us with that same certain truth of interdependence, as borders are proven again and again to be conceptual constructs, and economics reminds us of it as well—somehow what happens in Greece seems to have an effect on my life in a small town in Massachusetts. Because of the evident truth of interconnectedness, we are going to make it together, or not at all. Metta is about changing our consciousness to craft a way to make it together.

Metta isn’t just an abstract ideal, but a hands-on, practical path to realizing a changed life, starting with acknowledging our many layers and complexities, including our hatred and fear and alienation, while learning not to be imprisoned by them.

Metta is a meditation method that opens our awareness so that we pay attention to ourselves and others in a different way. Instead of being so distracted and fragmented, we learn to gather our attention together and become more centered. Instead of fixating only on what is wrong with us and endlessly castigating ourselves and feeling defeated, we learn to see the good within us as well, and see our huge human potential for growth and change. Instead of looking right through people, declaring them the “other” not even through dint of bias or disdain, but through indifference, we notice them, and give them the respect of full attention. We all can learn to include rather than exclude, to see the strength and courage in compassion rather than mistaking it for weakness and foolishness, and because of this, to be a whole lot happier.