You know when you’re sitting on a subway and there’s someone sitting directly opposite? It’s kind of awkward — all that trying not to make eye contact, and those embarrassing moments when we get caught looking at them…
There’s something of this sometimes in the metta bhavana (development of lovingkindness) meditation practice. It’s not so bad with the friend, since you’re used to making eye contact with them, but even there is can feel a bit odd to be mentally “sitting opposite” them for ten minutes or so. It’s just not very natural, is it? It’s rather stilted.
For quite a while now, I’ve been doing the lovingkindness practice in a different way. For one thing I’ve been imagining the other person not as being statically opposite me, but as going about their daily business. I might visualize my friend working on his computer, or practicing the piano, or doing some gardening. The “neutral person” I might see working at their counter in the post office…
It’s not that I have one ongoing movie, by the way. It’s more a series of fragmented images. That seems to be enough.
So that’s step one.
Step two is that I see myself as an invisible presence. I’m that person’s guardian angel, wishing them well.
I sometimes will imagine that I’m laying a hand on them in a loving touch, and sending my love into their body as I say “May you be well; may you be happy; may you be at peace.” Sometimes I’ll imagine that there’s light streaming from my body to theirs as I repeat the phrases. Sometimes I’ll just see the person “doing their thing” and repeat the phrases.
Usually I’ll smile.
I think I got the idea from the Wim Wenders film, Wings of Desire (Himmel ÃƒÅ“ber Berlin) where invisible angels patrol the city of Berlin, touching people and feeling their pain, although in the movie this is rather depressing and you don’t get the impression that they actually alleviate much suffering.
But I like the idea. We all are familiar with the idea of guardian angels, but we usually think in terms of having one. I think it’s even lovelier to think in terms of being one.