Posted by: Upāsaka | 08/05/2014

Working with Aversion

The traditional way that many have been taught formal metta meditation is to begin with oneself and then move out to other individuals or groups from those for whom we have much affection to those for whom we have some degree of aversion. As such, most of the teachers from whom I have learned the technique have stressed that we should only move on to the so-called enemy once we have stabilized our meditation on the neutral person.

Although I understand the reasoning here it seems to me that this advice is best followed when one is cloistered on retreat. In daily life, however, where one is likely to meet with an enemy the stakes seem simply too high to allow that interaction to occur without first having tried to soften one’s heart and to have made an attempt to empathize with the humanity of one’s enemy.

As a result I have, lately, taken up the enemy of the moment as my object of meditation lately when appropriate (i.e., I find myself thinking about them repeatedly). I have done this for years but never in such a deliberate way nor for the length of a sit and I really do feel that it has the power to transform potentially catastrophic confrontations into civil discussions.

On a final note, one practice that I like to conclude these sessions with is the dedication of merit especially to those difficult person. When I have tried it I have always felt strange and almost as if I am betraying all the beings to whom I usually dedicate the merit (proof of my faith in the practice I suppose). Obviously if I’m feeling this way I haven’t overcome my aversion but to me that’s not the point of practicing this way: it seems to me to be more important to hold an intention of well wishing for the difficult person which pays no mind to personal preference and petty pride. And, by offering a gift of merit I feel that I am overcoming, in some small way, the hold that aversion has on me.

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