Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Cultivating the Heart

Cultivating good-will (metta) gives another dimension to the practice of Insight. Meditation naturally teaches patience and tolerance, or least it shows the importance of these qualities. So you may well wish to develop a more friendly and caring attitude towards yourself and other people. In meditation, you can cultivate goodwill very realistically.

Focus attention on the breath, which you will now be using as the means of spreading kindness and good-will. Begin with yourself, with your body. Visualise the breath as a light, or see your awareness as being a warm ray, and gradually sweep it over your body. Lightly focus your attention on the centre of the chest, around the heart region. As you breathe in, direct patient kindness towards yourself, perhaps with the thought, 'May I be well', or 'Peace'. As you breathe out, let the mood of that thought, or the awareness of light, spread outwards from the heart, through the body, through the mind, and beyond yourself. 'May others be well'.

If you are experiencing negative states of mind, breathe in the qualities of tolerance and forgiveness. Visualising the breath as having a healing colour may be helpful. On the out-breath, let go-of any stress, worry or negativity - and extend the sense of release through the body, the mind, and beyond, as before.

This practice can form all or part of a period of meditation - you have to judge for yourself what is appropriate. The calming effect of meditating with a kindly attitude is good for beginning a sitting, but there will no doubt be times to use this approach for periods, to go deeply into the heart.

Always begin with what you are aware of, even if it seems trivial or confused. Let your rest calmly on that - whether it's boredom, an aching knee, or the frustration of not feeling particularly kindly. Allow these to be; practise being at peace with them. Recognise and gently put aside any tendencies towards laziness, doubt or guilt.

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