This is the last in my flurry of metta series and is what prompted me to post all the series.
I have tried to do the metta bhavana today and my heart feels like a lump of stone. I try to imagine it softening and opening up like a lotus flower and it just isn’t working. Part of my brain sits there and says it is a muscle, it does not have capabilities of this sort and as it is a muscle you do not want it opening and softening. I then have a mini argument with myself about how it is a metaphor, a poetic image and surely I can cope with that.
Arguments with my brain aside I am not sure why I am so resistant at the moment. I think part of it is that I have fallen into a depression and it is hard to get out of that. It is difficult to be anything other than mildly self obsessed when it comes to depression. The first stage of metta bhavana is developing kindness towards oneself. And of course when you have depression this is the hardest thing in the world to do. Your brain is not in the place to accept loving kindness of any sort. Well, mine certainly isn’t.
I seem to fight the metta, even as I am trying to open myself to it. My brain sits there and shouts nonsense as I am trying to develop a still and kind mind. During my class last night I tried opening to my brain and asking it what was wrong and what it wanted. Turning to myself and trying to be open through kindness.
I was not prepared for the barrage which opened out to me, of all that was wrong. As well as being in a depressive phase I am also in a great deal of pain due to a bad knee, but other joints are also hurting a lot. I am worried that my hypermobility, which up to now has just been a pain and left me prone to dislocating my hip, is becoming worse and taking a bigger hold in my life. Of course, I don’t know and I could just be worrying about nothing, but of course that is part of depression, catastrophic thinking.
Of course I said there and listened to myself, it is hard to do otherwise in a room full of people meditating. But it did not make for a peaceful session of metta bhavana.
I am being brutally honest here, and I think that is important. I had a family weekend this week and my aunt said she really enjoyed my writing about my running and the struggles I was having (on another, now defunct, blog). She said that many people struggle, but no-one talks about it. And so I thought I would be more open on this blog about my journey with Buddhism, and all that it entails. It is not easy, I struggle a great deal. I am not sure if this is my personality type, because of my depression, or if actually everyone struggles and it is just not shared much. I was rather disheartened when an order member came to my meditation class and said how once he had heard the precepts he found it easy to align his life to it and who wouldn’t? I do. I struggle a great deal. Of course the precepts are wonderful things and it would be great if we could live our life according to them, but I find it hard going.
Not on a basic level – obviously I don’t go around stealing, obviously I don’t go around with the aim of being a nasty person to everyone, but I am so aware of my imperfections. I suspect this is an aspect of the depression, most other people wouldn’t expect themselves to be perfect – for goodness sake the Buddha only managed to follow them when he was enlightened! These are guides to live your life by, to continually aspire to, rather than rules where you will be beaten if you don’t follow them.
But none the less I do find it difficult and the metta bhavana for me, at the moment, is a constant struggle.