Stage 3 – Cultivating metta towards a “neutral person”
In this stage of the meditation practice we cultivate metta, or lovingkindness, towards someone we have no strong feelings towards. This person is not a friend, nor are we in conflict with them. We simply feel neutral towards them.
Most people in our lives fall into this category. If we walk along a city street or go onto a crowded store we encounter so many people that we put our emotions into neutral, and virtually ignore other people.
Life is simply too full of other people for us to have a real emotional relationship with all those we meet, and often people we’ve never met don’t seem real to us because we’ve never connected with them.
So in this practice we learn to take more seriously the wellbeing and the sufferings of those beings we habitually ignore and those that we habitually fail to connect with.
Stage Zero is the initial stage of meditation, before the stages proper, in which we set up conditions that help the meditation practice to go well.
In stage zero first set up your posture, and deepen your awareness of your body, taking your awareness into every muscle and relaxing as best you can. If you’re not sure about meditation posture then check out our posture workshop.
having developed greater awareness of the body, next become aware of your emotions taking your awareness to your heart, accepting whatever emotions you find there, and then beginning to wish yourself well. You can use any of the methods for cultivating lovingkindness that we outlined in earlier sections.
Once you have spent maybe 5 to 10 minutes wishing yourself well, move on to stage two.
In the second stage of the practice, think of a good friend, and wish them well. Decide in advance who you’re going to pick, otherwise you might waste time in indecision during the practice.
Next, call to mind someone you have little or no emotional connection with. Perhaps this is someone you see working in a store, or that you pass on the street.
It doesn’t matter if there is some feeling — the main thing is that you neither really like nor really dislike this person.
Once you’ve called this person to mind, wish them well, using words or phrases, or your imagination.
You can listen to an MP3 guided meditation that will lead you through the first three stages of the practice by clicking on the player below: