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Opening the Heart: Three Stories

Practice

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Metta, or loving-kindness meditation, helps us to uncover and nurture the qualities of compassion and to bring balance into our lives.

This article appeared in the Winter 2001 issue of Spirituality & Health. The Buddha taught that the twin fruits of meditation are wisdom and compassion. They are like the wings of a bird: lacking one, the bird cannot fly. Mindfulness meditation focuses on arousing wisdom; Metta, or loving-kindness meditation, helps us to uncover and nurture the qualities of compassion and to bring balance into our lives. 1. My Awakening Through Ben During my second year of chaplaincy training, I sometimes listened to a guided Metta meditation tape during the long commute to the hospital and I began to notice that the quality of my day improved. Patients were more forthcoming with their problems, and I was able to open to their suffering without bursting into tears or distancing myself by erecting a glass wall between us. The bone-numbing exhaustion I normally felt after a twelve-hour day lessened. But I did not attempt to use Metta with patients until I met Ben. Ben had a brain tumor and was in the end stages of AIDS. A couple of days before my visit he suffered a seizure and temporarily lost his abilit …

The Rev. Madeline Ko-i Bastis, founder and director of Peaceful Dwelling Project (www.peacefuldwelling.org), is a Zen priest and the first Buddhist to be board-certified as a hospital chaplain. She has worked at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, NYU Medical Center, and in the AIDS Unit at Nassau County Medical Center.


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