being human,  embodiment,  learning,  spiritual direction

Metta & Growing in Compassion

Metta (lovingkindness) practice is a tool to grow compassion, and compassion is absolutely essential to the work of spiritual guidance. Metta, it seems to me, is a deep internal practice that uses the mind, yet bypasses it entirely. It meshes the heart with the mind with the soul. As we repeat the short simple phrases for ourselves, our loved ones and those we don’t hold in high esteem, our hearts begin to incline toward a softer way of being; our hearts grow more compassionate. We cannot will compassion per se; it is more of a graced way of being. We can, however, practice metta to nurture its growth within us.

What I sense from the readings and recordings is an intention on your part, as our guides and teachers, to help us grow contemplatively. The contemplative mind, to me, is non-dual. It is not black and white and it is not either/or. It is both and; this is the calling I’ve been living into for the last few years—beginning with my own effort/will and eventually leaning into the grace that allows it to manifest more deeply. Pure presence and lovingkindness practice grows our compassion and awareness. As one of the readings said, “Awareness deepens because we hear more acutely the cries of the world. Each of those cries has written within it the plea to be received.” 

Also, “the smallest sorrow is as worthy of compassion as the greatest anguish.” I recognized my awareness of this on my trip to Florida with the Red Cross and it was reinforced as I arrived back home and re-read the reading assignments. I met with people from all walks of life during my time there. I met with people who literally lost everything as well as others who only lost a little (comparatively speaking). And what I noticed was the ways I felt differently about those two groups of people.

I felt such compassion for the most vulnerable, those who lost everything. I met with people in hospitals and nursing homes, as well as those now living in tents because their homes were destroyed. I met a guy whose leg was amputated because of injuries sustained from the storm and subsequent flood. My heart cried out for each of these people. At the same time, I recognized judgement toward those who still had money in the bank, roofs over their heads and jobs to attend to; their situations seemed minor compared to the former group. And yet their worlds, too, were turned upside down. I recognized that they too were deserving of love and compassion. It was an interesting dynamic to recognize and begin to dismantle within myself.

What I also noticed was a growing compassion for myself. Another line from the readings that stuck out to me is “genuine compassion makes no distinction between self and other.” This too points to the cultivation of a contemplative mind. We are all one in God. I found myself going into conversations with people much more at ease than I’ve been in a long time. God has brought me to a new place relationally. So little is about me anymore. I am ever trusting that God is directing me, speaking through me and helping me to love others from a place within and yet beyond myself.

SGTI Essay for Module 2/3, Part One

Photo by Veit Hammer on Unsplash