If you’re familiar with the traditional way in which metta bhavana is taught these days (as based on the Visuddhimagga) then you may be familiar with the idea of learning to develop it by using classes of people: oneself, the benefactor, one’s patents, close friends, neutral people and difficult ones. In the traditional approach that many of us have learned we are asked to move through these classes slowly and not moving on until we have been able to successfully feel goodwill towards each type of person.
Although I think this recommendation had great merit I have found that, when pressed for time as I usually am, I rarely make it beyond my circle of friends and family before my half hour rings out. Yes, I do intend to work with metta bhavana in longer sits but it seems to me there is also a place for working with the difficult person when conditions aren’t quote perfect. Apropos of that I decided tonight to spend my evening session primarily devoted to cultivating metta for the person who is giving me the most difficulty at present even though he isn’t here and doesn’t even know what he’s doing (poor guy).
In order to do so I have been relying on some techniques I picked up during my acquaintance with lojong practices and the excellent book A Truthful Heart by Jeffrey Hopkins. I find that by reflecting on the fact that my enemy only wants happiness and does not want to suffer just as I want happiness and not suffering helps to pretty open the doors of my heart. Further, I can reflect that this person has carted for me as a mother, protected me like a father, been a beloved son or daughter and my brother or sister throughout infinite aeons which helps me tap into a feeling of warmth while recognizing how temporary and fragile the current state of affairs is.
Which brings me to my question: how do you parce metta for the difficult person? How do you open your heart and overcome anger and resentment?