By Anahita Sanjana
Use the Buddhist practice of Metta to transform your relationship with the difficult people in your life, says Anahita Sanjana
A long time ago, Gautam the Buddha, lived in a forest with a large group of monks who were his students. One day following the Master’s instructions, some monks sat out to meditate in a part of the forest indicated to them by the Buddha. This part of the forest happened to be haunted by tree spirits. The tree spirits howled and shrieked while the monks meditated. So petrified were the monks that they fled to the Buddha, vowing never to go to that patch in the forest ever again.
The Master smiled and asked, “If I give you armour to protect you from the tree spirits, will you return to that place?”
“Yes, Master,” the monks replied, intrigued. The Buddha then proceeded to teach the monks a meditation called ‘Metta’, the Pali (language spoken by the Buddha) word for rain. The monks returned to the patch in the forest and started practising Metta. So powerful was this practice that the tree spirits were completely transformed and thereafter befriended the monks, protecting them from wild animals and other unsavoury inhabitants of the forest!
My first encounter with Metta was when I overheard a middle-aged American man at a friend’s house saying how his life had completely changed with the practice of Metta. On his advice, I purchased a book on Metta and started practising it. At that time there was one person in my life who I used to be in constant conflict with. I was amazed to see that as I practised Metta my relationship with her started changing, though I was doing nothing externally to make this happen! Thereafter, I started teaching my young school students this beautiful practice. Every now and then they would give me the feedback that when they had a fight with a friend of theirs, just by practising Metta their differences got reconciled! Sounds too good to be true? Let me explain what this mysterious practice is all about.
Sit in any comfortable position with your spine upright. Bring your awareness to your breath for a couple of minutes and then touch the centre of your chest with the fingertips of your right hand. Then with eyes closed let your attention go down to a spot an inch behind where your fingers are touching. This is called your heart space. Pull all the threads of your awareness into that spot and pay attention as if you are trying to hear something almost inaudible or see something almost invisible in that region. You may or may not see or hear b ut the important thing is it will help you to focus and after a few breaths, a smiling peace will flood your mind. Then once you find the smile in your heart relax your face into a happy half smile. Now bring an image of yourself either as you are now or a childhood picture of yourself; any image of yourself that you find endearing. Then silently focusing on that image in your heart send phrases of metta or loving kindness:
May I be well
May I be happy
May I be peaceful
May I be free
Repeat these phrases several times until you actually feel a tenderness and goodwill towards yourself. Now bring an image of the person you are in conflict with into your heart space. Try to understand your unforgiveness towards the person.
“Everything that appears to be terrible is something that in its deepest being needs love.”
Read the above paragraph through once more. Once you have internalised it concentrate on the image of this difficult person in your heart space and start by silently saying, “I want to forgive you… I want to forgive you….I want to forgive you….” Repeat this until it spontaneously becomes “I do forgive you….I do forgive you.” Then see that person smiling in your heart and send Metta to both yourself and to the person.
May we both be well,
May we both be happy,
May we both be peaceful,
May we both be free
Repeat these phrases over and over again until you feel a freedom and a lightness in your entire being. This is the practice of Metta!
Coming back to the story of the Buddha and his monks, the tree spirits represent the difficult people in our lives who continue to upset us if we allow them to but these same people are transformed like the tree spirits if we change our inner response to them through the practice of Metta. Sounds incredible, doesn’t it? Try it out for yourself. It takes no more than five minutes a day. See what happens to the difficult person in your life in just 21 days. You just could be on the brink of discovering a white magic of your own!
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