I have been thinking a lot about my post from the other day and what it means to be "more loving". I've been thinking about how to have a calm mind and a peaceful heart, how to be compassionate to myself and to others, and how to express what this means to me in words. Today I stumbled across a Wikipedia article about Loving-kindness that I thought I'd share with you because I think it summarizes some of how I think a person might go about becoming more loving -- and what a person might hope to attain by becoming more loving. The idea, I think, is that by meditating on feeling loving kindness towards yourself and then towards others in your life -- those who you have positive and negative feelings for -- and then gradually spreading that loving feeling towards all of the planet and then the universe, you will become more calm, peaceful, and loving. (Was that redundant?) Makes sense to me!
Here's a short excerpt from the article:
"The object of mettā meditation is to cultivate loving kindness (love without attachment, non-exclusive love) towards all sentient beings... It is a good way to calm down a distraught mind because it is an antidote to anger. Someone who has cultivated mettā will not be easily angered and can quickly subdue anger that arises. They will be more caring, more loving, and more likely to love unconditionally.
Buddhists believe that those who cultivate mettā will be at ease because they see no need to harbour ill will or hostility. Buddhist teachers may even recommend meditation on mettā as an antidote to insomnia and nightmares. It is generally felt that those around a mettā-ful person will feel more comfortable and happy too. Radiating mettā is thought to contribute to a world of love, peace and happiness...
Indeed, Mettā is a tool that permits one's generosity and kindness to be applied to all beings and, as a consequence, one finds true happiness in another person's happiness, no matter who the individual is."
The article goes on to say,
"The six stages of mettā bhāvanā meditation which are most commonly found involves cultivating loving-kindness towards:
1 - Yourself
2 - A good friend
3 - A 'neutral' person
4 - A difficult person
5 - All four
6 - and then gradually the entire universe"
I actually find undirected, free-form meditation very difficult and find that I am usually enormously unsuccessful at it. But, meditating or praying with specific thoughts in mind (or specific prayers) is something I find quite calming and wonderful. I wonder if there are other ways of doing this -- meditations or prayers similar to this with a similar intent, from this tradition or others. And, I wonder, how does one cultivate loving kindness?