I return to the Metta prayer regularly: May I be free from danger. May I have physical happiness. May I have mental happiness. May I have easy of well-being. There are many different variations of it. The practice is to first offer it to yourself, than to a benefactor, others close to you working outward from your circle of people to your enemies and the world. While quite simple, it becomes extremely challenging when you spend a half-hour or more offering (or trying to offer) it to those difficult relationships.
I thought of it this morning while browsing through a book by Anthony de Mello, Wellsprings. The back blurb describes the book as “spiritual exercises that blend the ancient traditions of the East with the psychological and philosophical perspectives of the West.”
I offer the exercise THE BENEDICTION, from Wellsprings today.
Today I choose to pray for others
But how shall I impart to them
the gift of peace and love
if my own heart is still unloving
and I have no peace of mind myself?
So I start with my heart:
I hold before the Lord
each feeling of resentment, anger, bitterneww
that may still be lurking there,
asking that his grace
will make it yield to love someday
if not right now.
Then I seek peace:
I list the worries that disturb my peace of mind
and imagine that I place them in God’s hands
in the hope that this will bring me respite from anxiety
at least during this time of prayer.
Then I seek the depth that silence brings,
for prayer that springs from silence
is powerful and effective.
So I listen to the sounds around me
or become aware of the feelings and sensations in my body
or my breathing in and out.
First I pray for people whom I love.
Over each of them I say a blessing:
“May you be safe from harm and evil,”
imaging that my words create
a protective shield of grace around them.
Then I move on to people I dislike
and people who dislike me.
Over each of them I say this prayer:
“May you and I be friends some day,”
imaging some future scene
where this comes to pass.
I think of anxious people whom I know,
people who are depressed.
To each of them I say:
“May you find peace and joy,”
imaging that my wish for them becomes reality.
I think of people who are handicapped,
people who are in pain, and say:
“May you find strength and courage,”
imaging that my words unleash resources
within each of them.
I think of lonely people:
people lacking love
or separated from their loved ones,
and to each of them I say:
“May God’s abiding company be yours.”
I think of older people who
with the passing of each day,
must face the reality of approaching death,
and to each of them I say:
“May you find the grace to joyfully let go of live.”
I think of the young and recite this prayer:
“May the promise of your youth be met and your life be fruitful.”
Finally I say to the people I live with:
“May my contact with you be a grace for both of us.”
I come back to my heart now to rest awhile
in the silence that I find there
and in the loving feeling
that has come alive in me
as a consequence of my prayer for others.