From Frank, in response to the previous post:
“Hello Lynn. There is (one hopes) no harm that comes from putting oneself into a Metta frame of mind in these circumstances. One would also hope that the adoption of Metta ‘jumps across’ to other people involved, thereby creating greater patience and less angst with the situation. However, sometimes I find the Metta response too passive and not helpful to those who sometimes need our support and solace. I wonder what your thoughts are on that? With Metta, Frank”
Hi Frank – I’m including all subscribers to this blog in my response to your questions, because I’m pretty sure you’re not the only one with this concern.
First, I’m unclear about how radiating metta to others could harm us or others. If you have something specific in mind, please tell us. Second, the question of metta “jumping across” from the sender to the receiver is an expectation most likely to be frustrated. Genuine metta may or may not be felt by the other party. We can only be sure that we are generating a wholesome mind state, and that our own heart can be more peaceful and our words or presence may be gentler and more loving as a consequence. This may or may not be felt by another person; we can’t make it happen. If the other person is receptive, we could tell them we are sending metta (or wishes of good will) their way, much as someone might say, “I’ll be praying for you” – which message is, by the way, not always welcomed by the recipient.
This brings us to your main question. Is metta a passive state or an active one? As we talk about this in future posts, it will become more clear, but let’s start by saying it is in no way a passive state! Metta is an open mind-state, energetic and sensitive to not only our own heart/mind, but to all that’s around us. All of the brahmaviharas, when practiced correctly, make us feel more connected to others, more open and more receptive; you could say they are “listening” states. We listen for wisdom from our own hearts and clues as to what another person might need.
Whether it’s metta (good will), karuna (compassion), mudita (sympathetic joy), or upekkha (equanimity), the sign of practicing correctly is the dropping of our own defenses, our worries and anxieties, and a clearer, better connection to another person or persons. When we try to help others from a base of our own upset mind state, we may just make matters worse. If we can maintain the clarity of metta, it will be more obvious to us if there is a helpful action to take. In my experience, listening is the most important activity. If we give others our time and loving, undemanding attention, they will often tell us (or show us) what they need.