Teagan White/Society6

Followers of this blog may recall how I have struggled with metta. Vipassana, despite its obvious difficulties, seems to me to be the easier practice. It is at its basis, a very concrete task that may be challenging to attain on a procedural level, but is relatively easy to grasp on a conceptual one.

Like many others, I had always thought of metta of pulling a warm and fuzzy feeling out of my heart and projecting it toward others. Of course I didn’t frame it that way, but in hindsight, that is what I was trying to do, especially when I just began meditating. It seems to me that this approach is encouraged by a lot of articles (granted, they were mostly beginner’s articles) that I have read about metta. Metta is really about the opposite. Instead of projecting outwards with greater intensity, you are withdrawing projections in order to make room for the Other. Or, more accurately, you are dissolving/silencing/being mindful of your projections which is where the supporting role of vipassana comes in.

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Edward Blake Edwards

Was listening to a talk by Rob Burbea about metta practice, in which he dispels some common misunderstandings about metta. One of which is where metta is seen as a kind of “meditation lite” or even a remedial practice that one engages in when one cannot get a grip on the rigorousness of vipassana and insight. And he continues to describe how this kind of overlooking or even devaluing of metta was a part of meditation history in the west that caused an imbalance. Or, in the words of my sangha teacher, to only engage in vipassana, is to spend all this time cleaning and polishing the lens of your glasses, only to never put them on. Yet still, metta is sometimes thought by some of as a “baby” practice or at least one that is easier than vipassana.

Metta has never really been an easy practice for me. There is something very challenging to me about feeling out the boundaries of your own heart and moving through them, that is in some ways, more difficult than melting away the narrative of speaking mind that you know isn’t “real” anyway. Despite this, I did think of metta as easier. It’s not that I thought it was unimportant. One doesn’t practice meditation simply to be clear headed afterall; what use is clear perception if it cannot allow us to cultivate compassion, patience, joy, kindness and connectedness? But on the surface, from the perspective of immediacy, vipassana certainly seemed to require more effort. It was so obvious to me how it was a lot of hard work to constantly silence my mind.

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