Having a hard time because I’m thinking about what happened today when I was in meditation. I’m starting to understand the purpose of some of the “fluff”, if you will, in a few of the styles you see in Zen.
There are a few concepts I feel like I have to go into. They are new to me so I’m probably getting them wrong.
First, I’ve started thinking about time as divided into meditation and “post-meditation”. If you are not currently meditating, then you are obviously in the post-meditation state. (Unless, of course, you have never meditated).
The purpose of meditation was to prepare you for right now. But did it? What should happen so that next time you meditate it will better prepare you for your next post-meditation?
This kind of brings me to mettā.
I have had a hard time incorporating “thoughts of goodwill towards others” into my practice because it feels more like something to include in a prayer. Who is responsible for putting this goodwill into place if your thoughts aren’t aimed at something with power? Compared to teaching myself to be more aware of my own body and mind, thinking happy thoughts about people seems like a waste of time and effort.
But the concept of thinking about your life as alternating periods of meditation and post-meditation draws an arrow through time between positive thoughts in the meditation phase with positive action later on. Without understanding everyday life as post-meditative, there’s no arrow–no connection. Without a connection this gap in time makes me feel powerless and stupid during meditation, and I guess this is what makes some people choose to either not bother, or to pray (or otherwise delegate) instead.
Brains are terrible with short term memory–this is why we try to enact systems we can trust to make sure things get done. I’m talking about calendars and lists. (This is the way David Allen describes things in the GTD book. I’m starting to get why he mentions Zen in passing in the prologue.) So is meditation practice the system we can entrust our goodwill into, because otherwise our terrible brains will simply forget to be kind?
I know that this is wishy-washy. (It’s getting kind of dangerously close to total bullshit woo like “the secret”.) My point in posting this is to communicate that I’m finally starting to at least be capable of brainstorming about the subject of mettā at all.
This post is too long, so I’ll stop here and write about further concepts I’ve been starting to think about later. Including what I hope to gain from koan study, why I’m spending a single second doing anything besides koan study, and what actually inspired this post, which is a set of guided meditations for anapanasati, or “breathing mindfulness” which included a bit of mettā.
(I wonder what thoughts of goodwill my cats have for all the beings in the universe. Do cats understand the idea of even having mettā towards mice?)