BV-Metta and Inner & Outer Peace

In our first Insight Meditation Houston meeting of 2024, we take refuge in our community or sangha of kindred spiritual seekers. As warfare rages in the Middle East and Ukraine and political differences divide our country, we need quiet spaces to gather and to connect with peace in our hearts. It is from a place of inner peace that we are moved to speak and act with lovingkindness or Metta.

To inspire us, let us listen to Maya Angelou’s Christmas Poem called “Amazing Peace.”

Thunder rumbles in the mountain passes
And lightning rattles the eaves of our houses.
Flood waters await us in our avenues.

Snow falls upon snow, falls upon snow to avalanche
Over unprotected villages.
The sky slips low and grey and threatening.

We question ourselves.
What have we done to so affront nature?
We worry God.
Are you there? Are you there really?
Does the covenant you made with us still hold?

Into this climate of fear and apprehension, Christmas enters,
Streaming lights of joy, ringing bells of hope
And singing carols of forgiveness high up in the bright air.
The world is encouraged to come away from rancor,
Come the way of friendship.

It is the Glad Season.
Thunder ebbs to silence and lightning sleeps quietly in the corner.
Flood waters recede into memory.
Snow becomes a yielding cushion to aid us
As we make our way to higher ground.

Hope is born again in the faces of children
It rides on the shoulders of our aged as they walk into their sunsets.
Hope spreads around the earth. Brightening all things,
Even hate which crouches breeding in dark corridors.

In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.
At first it is too soft. Then only half heard.
We listen carefully as it gathers strength.
We hear a sweetness.
The word is Peace.
It is loud now. It is louder.
Louder than the explosion of bombs.

We tremble at the sound. We are thrilled by its presence.
It is what we have hungered for.
Not just the absence of war. But true Peace.
A harmony of spirit, a comfort of courtesies.
Security for our beloveds and their beloveds.

We clap hands and welcome the Peace of Christmas.
We beckon this good season to wait a while with us.
We, Baptist and Buddhist, Methodist and Muslim, say come.
Peace.
Come and fill us and our world with your majesty.
We, the Jew and the Jainist, the Catholic and the Confucian,
Implore you, to stay a while with us.
So we may learn by your shimmering light
How to look beyond complexion and see community.

It is Christmas time, a halting of hate time.

On this platform of peace, we can create a language
To translate ourselves to ourselves and to each other.

At this Holy Instant, we celebrate the Birth of Jesus Christ
Into the great religions of the world.
We jubilate the precious advent of trust.
We shout with glorious tongues at the coming of hope.
All the earth’s tribes loosen their voices
To celebrate the promise of Peace.

We, Angels and Mortals, Believers and Non-Believers,
Look heavenward and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at our world and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at each other, then into ourselves
And we say without shyness or apology or hesitation.

Peace, My Brother.
Peace, My Sister.
Peace, My Soul.

― Maya Angelou (2005)

As Jack Kornfield says, “Trust love. Trust the heart.” Let’s practice his version of Metta:

Close your eyes and sit in a comfortable position. Focus on sensations of warmth and pulsation in the heart.

Visualize or sense the presence of someone beloved. Connect with how much you love this person (or pet) and how deeply they love you.

Imagine this dear one sending you the classic phrases of loving kindness:

May you be peaceful and happy.

May you be healthy in body and mind.

From inner and outer harm, may you be safe.

From all suffering, may you be free.

Gently soften your heart to receive these Metta phrases. (REPEAT)

With an exhalation, return to sense warmth and pulsation in the heart.

Now visualize or sense the presence of another beloved one. Connect with how much you love this person (or pet) and how deeply they love you.

Imagine this other dear one sending you the classic phrases of Metta.

May you be peaceful and happy.

May you be healthy in body and mind.

From inner and outer harm, may you be safe.

From all suffering, may you be free.

Gently soften your heart to receive these Metta phrases. (REPEAT)

With an exhalation, return to sense warmth and pulsation in the heart.

Now, with gratitude for their presence in your life, send Metta to both loved ones:

May you be peaceful and happy.

May you be healthy in body and mind.

From inner and outer harm, may you be safe.

From all suffering, may you be free.

With an exhalation, return to sense warmth and pulsation in the heart.

Now, seeing yourself through the eyes of those who love you, direct Metta prayers towards yourself:

May I be peaceful and happy.

May I be healthy in body and mind.

From inner and outer harm, may I be safe.

From all suffering, may I be free.

Connect with your innate goodness, which you share with all living beings.

Bring to mind someone whom you do not know well, someone who is neutral, whom you neither love nor hate—perhaps a person you don’t know at all, a passerby on the street or somebody waiting with you in a line. With the understanding that the desire for happiness and love is universal, begin offering the neutral person loving-kindness.

May you be peaceful and happy.

May you be healthy in body and mind.

From inner and outer harm, may you be safe.

From all suffering, may you be free.

Release the image of the neutral person and bring attention back to your breath and body. Then include difficult people in your life and in the world. Choose someone whom you resent, or you have cut out of your heart. Remember that all beings wish to be met with love and kindness. Even those who are annoying, unskillful, violent, confused, and mean wish to be happy.

With the intention to free yourself from hatred, fear and ill will, direct Metta phrases towards a person who is a source of difficulty in your mind or heart.  

May you be peaceful and happy.

May you be healthy in body and mind.

From inner and outer harm, may you be safe.

From all suffering, may you be free.

Now expand the field of loving-kindness to include everyone in our sangha. Gradually expand positive thoughts to all those in the city of Houston, the state of Texas, the whole United States, the hemisphere, and the entire world.

Send loving-kindness to the north and south, east, and west. Radiate an open heart to all beings in existence—those above and below, the seen and unseen, those being born and those who are dying.

May all beings be peaceful and happy.

May all beings be healthy.

From inner and outer harm, may all beings be safe.

From all suffering, may all beings be free.

After a few moments of sending loving-kindness out to all beings everywhere, let go of the phrases and bring attention back to the breath and body. Be aware of the sensations and emotions that are present. With an exhalation, return to sense warmth and pulsation in the heart. Slowly, at your own rhythm, open your eyes and connect with the circle of kindred spirits in our sangha.