Being flexible in your approach

Ways of cultivating metta

flower bud

I tend to use memories, creative imagination, or the body memory method to contact a sense of well-being, and then switch to saying the traditional phrase: “May I be well, may I be happy, may I be free from suffering”.

This might just be a personal preference, and because it works for me it won’t necessarily be the most appropriate method for you. Try out several methods and see which work for you and which don’t.

Not all methods work with everyone — try them and see.

Something I’ve noticed over the years I’ve been teaching is that many people who are learning meditation ask me questions beginning something like, “Are you allowed to…?”

This reveals a curious assumption that there is some kind of enforcement mechanism for meditation techniques — perhaps some kind of “Meditation Police” who will drag you kicking and screaming from your meditation cushion if you use some kind of unauthorized technique. Of course there is no such police force and no one knows what’s going on behind your gently closed eyelids as you’re meditating.

The important thing to ask yourself is: Does it work? Does this help me to develop greater patience and kindness towards myself and others. Does this help me to experience my emotions? If the answer is “yes” then do it, even if it’s some wild and wacky meditation technique of your own devising. If on the other hand the answer is “no” then you may want to persist for a while (after all, it may be that there are positive results and you’re not seeing them, or the results are unfolding relatively slowly), but in the long term there’s just no point in continuing to use a technique that doesn’t work for you — even if that technique is “officially” the “approved” method.

Anyway, despite that, do give any one method a good try before discarding it, and beware of restlessly moving from method to method without really giving any of them a chance to work. Sometimes we can get caught up in thinking that there’s some “ideal” method that will produce instant results, and so we keep digging lots of shallow wells, never finding any water. And sometimes we just have restless and impatient minds.

And remember that with any method, your focus should be on your emotions. How is the technique or method you’re using in the practice affecting the quality of your emotional relationship with yourself and others.