Week 45 - The Noble Eightfold Path: Right Thought II: Lovingkindness

        Right Thought is the second step of the Noble Eightfold path and there are three aspects to Right Thought; last week Joseph talked about Renunciation and next week he will focus on Compassion. This week, the aspect of Right Thought to be discussed is Lovingkindness or Metta – those thoughts that lead to our own well-being and the wellbeing of others.

        Joseph describes Metta, even towards ourselves, as “simply the gateway to an open heart”. When developed and practiced, “it makes no distinction between beings”. He speaks of the benefits of Metta practice.

        Joseph goes on to describe the near enemy of Lovingkindness, which is desire. These states can easily be confused and Joseph points to ways we can recognize when desire is masquerading as Lovingkindness. This recognition helps to slowly disentangle Lovingkindness and desire.

        As in other areas we’ve learned about, Joseph points out the Buddha’s words, “What we frequently think and ponder upon, that will become the inclination of the mind”. Joseph suggests ways of cultivating Lovingkindness, including focusing on the good qualities in people and perhaps finding it easier to connect with the kindness aspect rather than that of love. He concludes, “The willingness to train our hearts, whether in Metta or anything else, requires great patience, which the Buddha called ‘the highest devotion’.”

Questions

1. What part of Joseph’s talk spoke to you the most?

2. What has been your experience with the practice of Loving Kindness?

3. How has the “near enemy” of Metta, desire and craving, played a part in your practice of Loving Kindness? How do you delude yourself into thinking you are practicing Metta but it is really something else?

Practices

1. When the feeling of Loving Kindness arises and is strong and clear, stop for a moment and frame the feeling. Take a look at it. “ This is what the feeling of Loving Kindness is like”

2. If the practice of Loving Kindness is to “gather everyone up in our field of good will”, explore whether there may be an individual and or a group of people whom you have a hard time including in that field of good will.  Is it possible to rephrase Loving Kindness to include those people? Could a genuine offering be “ May you be free from hatred or ill-will”?

3. Once a day, find a time to practice forgiveness: If I hurt or harmed anyone in my thoughts, my words, or actions, I ask forgiveness. I freely forgive anyone who may have hurt or harmed or offended me.

Final practice:

Find someone in the group and silently offer Loving Kindness.  When you hear the bell find another person. Finally, with the next bell offer Loving Kindness to yourself.