The Times, Libby Purves, Monday 3 July 2017
Network Rail staff and Transport Police are taking a Samaritans’ suicide prevention course. One member of staff, who was initially sceptical, brought himself to approach a woman who as it turned out, was planning to jump.
Resistance, in the guise of scepticism, is often self doubt. When we follow the fourth Reiki principle, work hard on yourself, training courses can be a springboard for self-development as well as helping others. It needn’t be a situation as serious as a potential suicide. Just letting someone feel they are not alone can help ease a burden.
Kindness has been defined as the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate. It is also linked with the Buddhist principle of Compassion. When I say this principle, I think of the Metta Bhavana, Loving Kindness meditation. The meditation takes you through five stages. With the first stage you start with yourself.
May I be well, May I be happy, may I be free from suffering, may I progress.
Then the meditation moves on to a good friend, then someone neutral then someone you dislike. For each stage we wish the person well using the phrase above. In the final stage we extend Metta, loving kindness, to all four people (including ourselves) equally and at the same time.
If you want to try this for yourself, there are guided meditations on Free Buddhist Audio.
Parmanada in his book Change Your Mind, offers the best written description I have seen. I take just the opening words for each stage. Please see the Kindle or print version for a more detailed explanation.
Stage One: As we have seen, the ability to feel Metta towards others is based on, or is dependent on, the ability to feel metta towards ourselves. This is therefore where the practice begins. In this stage we try to cultivate a sense of metta towards ourselves. Sometimes this can feel quite awkward – if we have been brought up to feel that caring for ourselves is selfish.
Stage Two: Now we bring to mind a good friend, someone whose company we enjoy. It is said that it is best to choose someone who is about your own age, who is still living, and of the same sex.
Stage Three: In this stage we bring to mind a different person, this time someone that we could call a ‘neutral’ person, someone we have no strong feelings towards, one way or the other. It might be someone we work with but have never really got to know, or it might be someone we often see in our locality; it doesn’t matter too much. What we are trying to encourage here is an expansion of our normal emotional range, a broadening of our emotional awareness to include those who do not have a direct impact on our lives.
Stage Four: We now make a move into enemy territory, that is to say, we bring to mind a person who would normally provoke in us rather unfriendly feelings. We bring to mind an enemy, or at least someone we find difficult or irritating. This is a very interesting stage of the meditation to teach, as it tends to provoke strong reactions from people.
Stage Five: In the final stage of the meditation we really let ourselves go. We try to apply whatever feelings of metta we have unearthed to all manner of other people, wherever they may be – or, indeed, to all manner of living beings, human and non-human. First of all we bring together the four people we have already included in the meditation, with the thought ‘May I feel equal metta for all these people.’
The purpose of Metta Bhavana is to cultivate compassion for ourselves. Once we experience self-compassion and learn to accept ourselves as we are, it is easier to extend loving kindness to others.
Many years ago I regularly attended a meditation group at the College of Psychic Studies led by Julian Willmore in partnership with his guide and teacher Linpur. One particular phrase in the meditation always resonated with me.
“Have compassion for who you are, have compassion for who you have been and have compassion for who you will be”
As we travel through life, we metamorphose through many stages of existence. As we grow or experience setbacks, we can sometimes feel like different people. It can also include forgiving our many selves as well as forgiving others. With the fifth Reiki principle, we can be reminded to show kindness to our many selves, as well as all living beings.