Saturday, June 9, 2007

Loving-Kindness, American Style

Metta is very popular these days as a meditation practice, especially here in the U.S. and in other "Western" countries. We are in love with the very idea of love here. It seems to me that it may be unrealistic and not always helpful to tell people new to Buddhism to "radiate loving kindness". Of course that's my opinion and my experience. I had the opportunity to practice for a day under the guidance of an American monk. While the experience was helpful in some ways, this particular teacher stresses loving kindness as a specific meditation practice, and that stopped me dead in my tracks on the "path". It took me some time to begin again. I realized that I was lacking a strong foundation in the basics.

Metta, as a meditation practice remains a challenge for me. It seems that I am most likely suffering from what I'll call "Hallmark Syndrome". This is the result of a lifetime of overexposure to the manipulation, artificial packaging and creative marketing of a distorted perception of what love is. As a society we embrace this concoction and beg for more.

I understand that the "Metta" taught by the Buddha is very different from what we have been programmed and conditioned to think of as "loving kindness". Old habits and views are difficult to overcome. Even when we know they are not based in reality.

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