We can take loving-kindness practice off the cushion and into our daily lives; into our interactions with friends, family, and even with strangers. In short, what we’re talking about is in developing a quality of awareness that is kind and compassionate it leads to us acting in a more kind way naturally. As with anything else, like playing an instrument or a sport, practice helps us to become better at what we do.
Here are some easy ways to weave Metta actions into your day:
- Smile more, at everyone.
- In the check-out line, mentally extend wishes to the person in front of you: "May you be at peace, may you be well, may you feel loved."
- Hold the door for the next person, and smile as they pass through.
- The next time you find yourself witnessing a frustrated or angry person–maybe a parent exasperated by their child at the grocery store, a rude store clerk, an icy bus driver, a couple in an arduous conflict–resist the urge to judge. Know that you don’t really know what is going on with them, and instead wish them ease and relief. Or try this technique Pema Chodron teaches: as you are out in the world and noticing others, mentally acknowledge them and silently say, "Just like me, they just want to be happy."
- When buying your coffee or lunch put down your cell phone and be present with the person serving you. Smile when you say 'thank you'.
- Take a deep breath before you speak to someone you disagree with, find a way to speak with patience and kindness.
- When you hear a siren on the street, or see an emergency vehicle racing along, wish wellness and ease to all the people awaiting the arrival of help, and to those bringing the help as well.
Of course there will be times when this practice is difficult, or you are just so caught up in your routine that you forget. It's natural to mess up, to still lose your temper, feel angry, harbor a grudge, focus on your dislikes, and fail to be kind. Even the greatest masters, like Pema Chodron, explain that we have to practice every day. We are always in training and mistakes are part of the process of learning any skill. The good news is, that since Metta is actually the practice of compassion, messing up just gives you another opportunity to develop a greater kindness towards yourself (more material to practice with!).
And, I have found from my own experience, that while it takes dedication to stay committed to this work initially, in time, it does eventually become natural, just as with learning any other skill.