Finally I get my head into metta bhavana – loving kindness – waving magic wands at the stranger and the enemy to give them magic levels of happiness, having conversations with all 4 people rather than imagining picture or video scenarios. It was a step in the right direction, exercising a muscle long since forgotten, just at a time in my life I really want it.
Compassion practice though was like a bowling ball in the face. It’s the one quality I want to focus on more than any other at this stage in my life and boy did Alistair deliver. Visualising sitting opposite someone I know overcome with suffering, with a great expanse of sky above, the practice involved seeing their suffering leaking like a dark, oily smoke from their belly. I then breathe it in, only to exhale it as harmless white smoke which then easily dissipates. I in turn breathe in the healing white light which is around us and breathe it out over them, for them to breathe in. On the very first try I was overcome with emotion. Not so easy the next 3, the recipients (as with loving kindness) after someone I love being myself, a stranger and an enemy, but the point was made (and feeling at that intensity was exhausting). An intensely powerful tool to connect to the world around me with – one of the Buddha’s Four Illimitables – mindstates you can’t have too much of. People come; they go. Things also come and go, as does status – cultivating such mindstates however can be a gift to have at all times and they benefit both me and the world around me.
It’s a profound step down the path from now to my end, with a building block for what I want to underpin that time now in my hands.