A-  |  A  |  A+  

Is Metta Less Peaceful?

 

Question

I practiced one-pointed concentration for a long time. As I switch to the way you teach metta-insight, it’s harder to find the peace I once felt. Am I doing something wrong?

 

Answer

No, not at all. One-pointed concentration is sometimes called “samatha” (or tranquility) practice. It can create wonderful feelings of peacefulness by pushing distractions aside (for a while).

Metta-insight or “easing awake” is a wisdom practice designed to see how the mind-heart operates. You cannot control the mind and observe it at the same time. Wisdom-based practices do not try to control the mind even for the sake of generating peacefulness. Rather they encourage you to see how attention moves. So you observe fluctuating states rather than try to create calm ones.

Metta-insight is slower to come to peacefulness. But when it gets there, it is more unshakable.

 

Elaboration

Paradoxically, one of the by-products of concentration practice can be irritability. The peacefulness it produces can be so wonderful that you can get attached to it and annoyed with anything or anyone who breaks your concentration and disturbs your peace.

Wisdom practices do not try to push anything aside or try to get any place in particular. Rather they encourage seeing how the mind operates (including irritability, grasping, and spacing out). The more curious you become about how it works, the less disturbing distractions are. They are less of a problem and more of an opportunity to mindfully observe what’s going on.

A by-product of wisdom practice is that you begin to feel more settled. But it doesn’t come as quickly as with concentration practices because you aren’t artificially creating it. The paradox here is that when you no longer care if something disturbs you, then nothing disturbs you – it’s just energy passing through. The equanimity that emerges is not a state you created. It’s not something you did. It is just there. And it is much more stable.