Featured Articles

Full Catastrophe Tuesday: People Stress and Communication

When we practice metta for someone, can it have an effect ON that person?

I spent the weekend reflecting on and practicing lovingkindness meditation (metta) at the IDP Immersion weekend, and this question came up.

My initial impulse was to say no -- it's all a personal mental exploration. But is that really true?

When we practice metta, we practice softening and opening our hearts and we wish for happiness or peace or wellbeing for others (and for ourselves, and for others AND ourselves), and a transformation happens. We realize that all beings just want to be happy, safe, healthy, and at ease. So it could be that the next time we see a person who we practiced metta for in our meditation, we approach them with a softer heart, with a deeper understanding of our shared humanity. That could  change how we interact.

This made me think of this section on "People Stress" in Jon Kabat-Zinn's book, Full Catastrophe Living:

The word "communication" suggests a flow of energy through a common bond. As with communion, it implies a union, a joining or sharing. So to communicate is to unite, to have a meeting or union of minds. This does not necessarily mean agreement. It does mean seeing the situation as a whole and understanding the other person's view as well as one's own....

When we are totally absorbed in our own feelings and our own view and agenda, it is virtually impossible to have a genuine communication.... When we react by feeling personally threatened, it is easy to draw battle lines and have the relationship degenerate into "us" against "them." This makes the possibility of communication very difficult.... But when both sides in a relationship expand the domain of their thinking and are willing to consider the other side's point of view and keep in mind the system as a whole, then extraordinary new possibilities emerge as imaginary but all-too-limiting boundaries in the mind dissolve....

Even when one party takes responsibility for thinking of the whole system and the other does not, the whole system is altered and new possibilities for conflict resolution and understanding may emerge. (p 370)

When one person changes their patterns of communication, it affects everyone. So why shouldn't metta reach beyond our own mind?


(Image from Wikimedia Commons.)

Vote for this article to appear in the Recommended list.


Thanks for connecting the dots!

Very interesting to consider "genuine communication" and "a deeper understanding of our humanity" in the context of metta contemplation, and the connection between "softening and opening our hearts" and a "union of minds".

It prompts me to see metta contemplation as a kind of prerequisite for keeping relationships of all levels harmonious. By consciously and regularly experiencing an intention of wishing well for others (and ourselves), we then have a frame of reference going into our interactions, and possibly (though not necessarily) impacting others. 

Thanks so much for helping to clarify some of the wonderful connections and implications of this kind of meditation and our communications!

Site developed by the IDP and Genalo Designs.