Sometimes people have trouble wishing a person well when that person has done or said something they disapprove of, or that was downright wrong, because it seems like they’re “rewarding” that person. But not cultivating lovingkindness to a person you find difficult is, to use an old expression) cutting off your nose to spite your face. Our lovingkindness helps us to be happier.
It’s worth remembering that the lovingkindness we send people isn’t a “reward for good behavior”. It may help them indirectly or directly, or it may not help them at all, but we always benefit. Our lovingkindness may benefit the other person because we’re no longer as angry with or disapproving of them, and that, from their point of view, is probably a welcome thing. But often it’s mainly we who experience the benefits.
Rather than experiencing the stress and irritation of resisting something that can’t be resisted (you can’t make the other person be who you want them to be, no matter how much you grit your teeth or glare daggers at them) we experience the freedom of non-reaction and the pleasure of love and empathy.
Sometimes the other person isn’t even in contact with you. But you still benefit. Sometimes the other person isn’t even a person! The other day I was meditating, and I was sending lovingkindness to my little robot vacuum cleaner (it’s a Roomba, and it’s like a disc-shaped beetle that lumbers around the floor eating dust and dirt). It was busy doing its thing upstairs, directly over my head. It was making a lot of rumbling and bumping noises, and would sometimes whine when it got stuck under furniture and was trying to free itself. It’s not even sentient (as far as I know) but I felt happy sending it my lovingkindness. There was no irritation or tension around the noise at all. In fact the noise helped remind me it existed, and so the Roomba’s bumping into the furniture and walls became the support for my meditation practice rather than something that undermined it. The Roomba has not idea I was cultivating lovingkindness toward it, but I benefited.
18/100 I often find that sending lovingkindness thoughts to someone I have difficulty with, or can conceive of as an enemy is the most helpful part of the practice. It clears my mind of a lot of negative emotions. I haven’t tried it with a non-sentient object, but I can imagine how it could work!
5 minutes of anapanasati.