From the “Preparing mindfully for 24hr Metta” series
Mindfulness is a critical technique in the cultivation of metta. What is mindfulness? In his book, “Awakening with Metta”, Ven Mahinda defines mindfulness as “being present, with clear awareness of our body, feelings and state of mind”.
Here are salient excerpts from the book:
Mindfulness is a powerful tool in coping with negative situations as well as bringing clarity, calmness and appreciation to positive situations.
It goes hand in hand with metta because as we practise metta more and more, we will become naturally more aware of our own wellbeing as well as that of others. Likewise, as we practise mindfulness more, we will be more sensitive to our own and other’s happiness.
We can start to practise mindfulness with our own body. By observing our breathing, in and out, we will begin to notice when we are tired or when we are angry because the pattern of our breathing changes.
We also observe our posture so that we will start to notice how incorrect posture also affects our wellbeing.
Next, we need to be mindful of our feelings. In our practice of metta we first have to be able to observe the feeling of calmness and quietness within. Then we have to feel it radiate out. Observe the quality of the feeling. Is it soft and gentle? Does it flow steadily and smoothly? Are there times when it feels as if there is something blocking? When practising mindfulness, we just observe and know what the feeling is like, without having aversion to any unpleasant feeling or clinging on to any pleasant feeling.
It is also important to be mindful of our state of mind. Sometimes we try to apply metta when we get affected by negative emotions such as anger, jealousy, confusion or depression, but we find it difficult because we are so caught up in that emotion. That is why the effective cultivation of metta requires mindfulness. Mindfulness helps you to focus on the present.
Once you are mindful, clearly aware of the emotion itself, you have already stepped out of that state. This is how mindfulness provides the space to overcome negative emotions and instead cultivate positive ones.
On a daily basis we are afflicted by three main negative states of mind: (1) craving or desire, (2) anger or aversion, and (3) delusion.
Mindfulness in particular will help to reduce craving and desire. Metta will reduce our anger and aversion. And by practising both metta and mindfulness, we will develop the clarity and wisdom to overcome delusion.