As I go about my day, while out and about, I often offer metta phrases like, “May you be happy and peaceful. May you be safe and protected. May you live with ease and well-being.” Of course you can find your own phrases, but there are also classical phrases to use, and those phrases came to me twenty-plus years ago. For me, they’re comfortable, rhythmic, and have meaning. I can put intention behind them. I offer these phrases to whatever beings I cross paths with, and it’s been quite a transformative practice in that I’ve been able to cut through quite a bit of the projections and stories that the mind is holding with beings whose stories I don’t actually know.
For a few years, one of my favorite practices has been to practice while I was sitting in the back of an Uber or Lyft. My work had me traveling to different parts of the city and different parts of the county. I had sold my car, and I was walking, riding a bike, using public transportation, or, oftentimes, using an Uber or Lyft. I began to offer metta to those that were driving me to these places. What I noticed is that if I wasn’t actually staring at my phone, doomscrolling, and I was actually connected to the phrases, I could drop under the meaning of the words and into the intentions, and see the person that was actually there. Then I actually began to connect with that person as I was offering these metta phrases.
This led to conversations with strangers from Afghanistan, Poland, Russia, Nigeria, Cameroon, Somalia, Colombia, and many different Buddhist Asian countries. With those folks, I would notice a Buddhist statue or some other iconography or symbol of the dharma as I was saying the phrases. Sometimes I would ask about it, and they would tell me their name, tell me about this or that, and ask me about my curiosity about the practice. This often led to further conversation. Sometimes it led to coffee, tea, or lunch. It led to a few of the people becoming acquaintances, and it led to a couple of them actually becoming dear friends. I credit all of this to the presence of metta, clear intention, and the mind settling down while I was focused—while my intention and attention was on the person, the being, that was in front of me, and not on my distracted or rushing mind waiting to get somewhere. No scrolling around on my phone.
It was all quite a radical departure from quietly sitting in the back of the car, not connecting and not engaging another being. It was also a radical departure from letting the mind run wild with projections while walking around the city, fearful and anxious, with these other hundreds of thousands of strangers around me.
For me, what I call stealth metta truly presents us with this opportunity to plant the seeds of goodwill, lovingkindness, and friendliness that naturally grow and bloom into strong threads, or strong bonds, between our dharma practice and social transformation. And it colors how we engage in the world.
May you be happy. May you be peaceful. May you be safe and protected. May you live with ease and well-being. And may we all awaken and be free.
Excerpted from Devin Berry’s Dharma Talk, “Metta and Karuna: Two Heart Practices to Cultivate in Meditation and in Daily Life.” Watch the full talk here.
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