Last night in my little virtual Zen community, we did something called Metta practice. ‘Metta’ is a Pali word that means something like ‘Loving Kindness’ and our meditation is comprised of four phrases:
1. May this body be at ease
2. May this heart be open
3. May this mind be boundless
4. May you awaken in the maturity of the way with All Beings
The way this is done is you start with yourself, and then you repeat this while focusing on someone you care about; then on someone or some group you don’t really know (or a stranger); and finally, for someone with whom you have difficulties.
Anyway, one of our teachers stayed at a monastery when she was younger and they actually had her spend weeks *just* on doing Metta meditation for HERSELF.
Starting with the first one — May this body be at ease.
So last night we did this — we did Metta meditation focusing ONLY on the first Metta phrase, and only for ourselves.
Because that is the starting place.
And it was extraordinary.
No exaggeration when I say that I don’t think my body has ever been ‘at ease’ for more than a few minutes at a time. My anxiety, sadness, fear and loathing have kept me tight, clenched and lizard-brained for almost 48 years. Layers upon layers of trauma, abuse, instability, poverty, abandonment, and mental health struggles mean I’ve never felt safe — even now, as an adult, when I’m safe and secure and surrounded by love — I am so conditioned to be anxious and afraid that I cannot be at ease.
Last night, as I repeated the phrase “May this body be at ease,” I suddenly imagined holding myself as a baby. Then I imagined I was the baby, and I was secure and warm and had no care in the world. I was swaddled and felt my head against my own chest, breathing gently and slowly, unafraid and immersed in comfort and love.
I felt safe and secure in a way I never, EVER have felt in my life. I wept involuntarily.
And then I realized how silly it was that I could expect myself to be fulfilled and happy; to make a positive contribution in the world; to nurture and love and create from a place of universal beauty while living in a body that is never at ease.
Anyway, I wanted to share this because it helped me immensely.