Metta, not Meta

December 25, 2022

"Love your crooked neighbour, with your crooked heart"

- W.H. Auden

I first heard the word 'metta' during my first ten day Vipassana course in India. On the tenth day the teacher asked us to 'project our lovingkindness to the world' - I'm sorry what? Do I even have loving kindness to share it with others? And how does it even work? It all sounded very 'manifesty', something I stay away from.

As my practice grew my suspicions weakened. Some of them still remain, but that's a feature of the rational mind, and I'm sure the practice will take care of them. Five years after that first course in India,I've personally experienced the power of metta. It is far from wishful thinking. In fact, it is the force that can unite and heal us. So what is metta?

Metta is a pali word and the most common translation is "Loving Kindness".  Joseph Goldstein, a Vipassana teacher from the USA, explains metta as follows: 

This kind of love has many qualities that distinguishes it from other more usual experiences of love mixed with a desire or attachment. Born of great generosity, metta is caring and kindness that does not seek self-benefit. It does not look for anything in return or by way of exchange: "I will love you if you love me," or "I will love you if you behave in a certain way." Because loving-kindness is never associated with anything harmful, it always arises from a purity of heart. 

Metta practice is an important part of mindfulness meditation. It is recommended that after every sit, when the mind is tranquil, one practices metta meditation. Sharing their peace and happiness with all beings of the world - “May I be happy; may all beings be happy,” 

The metta practice needs to be intentional and deeply felt. Reciting the metta phrases such as "May I be happy," and "May all being be happy" must come from a calm and generous mind. It starts with sending loving energy inward, then outward to all beings. The goal of the practice is to help establish the intention for our happiness and for the happiness of others. 

As one continues to practice, their metta starts to shine. The face radiates with joy and the aura becomes magnetic. I've been fortunate to have met some 'mettaful' beings. They are the kindest, joyful, and most compassionate human beings. They inspire me, and I'm perpetually smiling in their company. If you've not met them, you might've seen them, Dalai Lama would be one such person. 

That's metta, to treat everyone like an old friend. Imagine if we all can love and listen to everyone, as if they're old friends. Metta can help us get there, to have a mind filled with loving-kindness for all beings. 

Metta is this force of love that unites all beings. It brings us together with ourselves and with others.

Sharon Salzberg

Meta (NASDAQ: META), is the tech corporation behind successful social media products like Facebook and Instagram. But when I say Meta in this post, I'm referring to all social media products - Twitter, YouTube, TikTok, etc. 

Meta is often credited with bringing humankind together, but nothing could be further from the truth. The rise of Brexit, Trump, and Covid 19 conspiracy theories have exposed the dark side of social media. Meta is divisive, it fans the flames of anger, and profits from our fears. 

The term 'doomscrolling', became popular during the pandemic. It is the act of compulsively browsing through social media filled with apocalyptic news.

"Because when we are enraged, we are engaged, and the longer we are engaged the more money the platform can make from us.

- Radical Attention by Julia Bell

The business models of these sites are jacking up our anger every day. Remember the words their algorithms promote – attack, bad, blame.

- Stolen Focus by Johann Hari

Metta on the other hand is an antidote to fear - the Buddha first taught the metta meditation to overcome fear. While meta's algorithms intensify our fears, hatred, and greed, meta helps us nurture compassion and loving kindness for all beings. 

Loving-friendliness is a natural faculty concealed beneath our greed, hatred, and delusion.

Bhante Gunaratana

It isn't easy to fight the 'meta machinery', and it isn’t possible for most of us to quit social media. That said, we can be more mindful of our manners on Meta, and aware of how the content we're consuming is making us feel and react. Hand in hand with this, we can intentionally work towards nurturing and radiating metta for a joyful and love-filled 2023.

May peace and bliss flow through you, and shine all around you in the years to come.

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