There is an ancient Buddhist meditation, which strengthens love, in the sense of being completely for the welfare of the person brought to mind. It is called the Metta Bhavana. This article is mainly about bringing to life the first stage, which is caring for yourself. On that basis the mind can expand beyond itself to states of mind which allow a sublime experience of being for the welfare of all.
The spirit of this meditation conveys the sense of a journey into the depth of the mind to engage with the essence of personal responsibility and social engagement. The Metta meditation is a journey of discovery and learning about care, kindness and responsiveness.
This whole approach of working with the mind is not just about meditation but entering into discovering what it is really like to be wholeheartedly for another’s welfare. Like many inner journeys you are to some degree entering into the unknown to discover what is here and what the choices are.
Being for your own well-being is at the centre of being able to be for others. The over-arching sense of being for your own physical, mental and emotional well being, rather than against it is the main working ground of a metta-full attitude. It is all about being in a process of finding how you can come into real and effective care for yourself. It is engaging in a process of change and transformation in ones life as a whole.
When we enter into such a vast topic as love and well wishing the relationship between receptivity and following a state of care on the one hand and personal initiative and purpose on the other become very important. It is very effective to have a whole and thorough approach to receptivity and personal initiative. So consciously engaging with these issues becomes part of the process. To have a sense of purpose and direction needs continuity and persistence. This is effectively taking on everything to do with love in a direct and purposeful way. It is taking on the attitudes and actions that lead to things going wrong with your health and bringing harmful assumptions and habits to light. This includes the more forward-thinking prevention of harm and ill health as well as dealing with existing difficulties. This is far more than a fix-it approach to curing ailments. A healing process is about reconciling harmful attitudes and their corresponding actions and replacing them with realistic care and actions. You might value your work more than your health. That set of values is directly related to your attitude to your health and welfare, and by implication the things that you do that affect your health. Emotional and mental attitudes ofbeing for your welfare and being against your welfare permeate everything you do.
Being engaged in a process of taking care of yourself is about engaging in everything that affects your well being. It’s on going, through health and illness. Taking care of yourself when you are healthy is a way of preventing difficulties later. This has to do with paying attention to the emotional and mental attitudes which affect your health and well-being. Looking to attitudes is as effective as actual practical and tangible things. This more mental side takes in all the explicit and implicit attitudes that you have about your health and well being as a whole. To take a whole and complete approach to your health is about taking responsibility for your attitudes, values and beliefs. Your actions and practical approaches to your well-being often come out of attitudes and beliefs.
This means taking yourself on with regard to every direct or indirect attitude you have in relationship to your health. By implication this means being prepared to learn from experience and change over time. Part of this is evaluating your values and committing to values that have your health as a high priority. Your values can change they are not fixed. So attitudes based on your values can change too. We can have inherited values, which in a way means that they are not really ours until we make them conscious.
Attitudes to the value of your health can be hidden from you or not taken seriously, but they can still make you do things that are detrimental to your health. Sometimes unhelpful attitudes need to be healed in themselves, by being transformed into healthy attitudes and values that are really for rather than against our own health and welfare. This means going deeper than a fix-it when it’s broke approach. It’s more about being fully behind being well, rather just fixing ailments and stopping pain.
Our primary drive is to be well. That drive can be subverted by attitudes and ideas that lead us in a direction of activities that are not actually good for us. We take on patterns of behavior that then become engrained habits, which effectively divert us from being able to wisely assess what is actually good for us in any given situation. Healing these unhelpful attitudes partly comes about by reconnecting with the underlying drive of wanting to be well and checking our ideas and behaviour against it.
Part of the healing attitude towards our health and welfare is to re-enforce positive qualities of care over time. It can be very effective to have a clear strategy to regularly bring to mind that you do value your health. That sense of what is important becomes re-enforced and goes deeper. Regularly reminding yourself of your values increases your confidence in them. Just remembering a value mentally is helpful but meditation can help the value of well wishing go deeper. When there is a time of crisis or unusual difficulty then that momentum of well wishing can be drawn on and can give you strength.
There is a kind peace that comes from having a thorough and effective approach to wishing yourself well and healthy, partially because it is so obviously affects your physical and emotional health.
Vajradaka, April 2008