Although we traditionally begin by offering Metta to ourselves and end by offering Metta to ‘all beings,’ please we should not expect to be able immediately to offer these phrases to all beings from the onset of our practice.
The three months I dedicated to intensive practice of metta changed my life forever. However, when I first began to practice it was the hardest practice I’ve ever taken on. Trying to generate unconditional love towards myself, initially I only saw what I didn’t like about me. What I didn’t have.
Then it was time to offer metta to others. Sometimes I would sit and offer metta to a loved one and remember something I don’t like about them. Sometimes a dear one became difficult, a neutral one boring and a difficult one just got me so angry I had to stop the practice and take a break. Even worse, I felt ashamed for having these feeling. As if I expected myself to be “beyond”.
In truth, any one individual may fit into a number of different categories. This ambiguity should be expected and embraced. Noticing a feeling of aversion, or mixed emotions, when evoking the image of a particular person in our practice does not mean we’re failing to offer Metta. I found out that I needed to allow any negative emotion to arise, and then I intentionally replaced them with Metta, a loving-kindness.
But as I kept on meditating things changed. The metta practice became easy, soft, embracing, heart opening and addictive to some extent. It turned out to be the culmination of almost two years of practice and everything just fell into place. Words like infinite, endless, boundless, limitless or immeasurable took on a whole different meaning. It was literally as if the mind melted into the heart and reality as I knew it changed forever.