Over the past few months I have noticed that my practice has skewed much more towards the brahmaviharas and in a very specific way. Perhaps as a result of the influence of the book by Jeffrey Hopkins I read (A Truthful Heart) the technique I used to cultivate th brahmaviharas changed from one which used metta as the key and progressed through groups of people to one which used karuna for a specific person a way to gain entry. It really seems to me that Hopkins’ admonition to use one’s imagination to visualize compassion inducing situations is what caused the shift in my own approach.
Although I am having difficulty articulating it, I feel that my method has changed fundamentally from a hammer only approach (that is, a one technique only method) to one where I will use whatever tools are necessary to open the door of my heart. I think an example is really the best way to explain what I mean.
This morning, after reiting the refuges and precepts before my altar, I sat down and readied myself for meditation. As always I made a quick check with myself to clarify my intention and, as I had decided to cultivate the heart, I posed a silent question to myself asking if there was any ill will towards anyone in the heart or mind. Not surprisingly there was and so I set my timer and began.
For whatever reason the usual method wasn’t working to elicit a ender heart so even though I could see the truth that this person wanted happiness and not suffering just like myself it was as if I were a block of wood. My next thought was to try to imagine hellish situations that the person could find themself in as a key. This worked somewhat but I was concerned that there was some small part of myself relishing the suffering I imagined. At this I saw that I was holding onto the aversion and to let it go I would need to forgive and so I spent the next while offering forgiveness to the person, to myself and the reflecting on my wish to be free from aversion.
And that was the key. Forgiveness was the key that opened my heart on this day and allowed the warnth and tenderness of metta and karuna to flow forth. Is it always this way? No, not always but by experimenting and not allowing ill-will to inhabit my mind unchallenged I am finding my days much easier and my heart much lighter. May you be happy!