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Excerpted from Handbook for the Heart by Richard Carlson and Benjamin Shield (editors). Copyright 1998 by Richard Carlson and Benjamin Shield. Excerpted by permission of Time Warner and Time Warner Bookmark.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.  HTML and web pages copyright by SpiritSite.com.
 


"With the collapse of those boundaries, the effortless, natural love for all beings wells up. That's the moment we look for. That's the moment when we are so alive."

Richard Carlson and Benjamin Shield (editors)
Handbook for the Heart
, Part 4

When the pilot got on the PA system and said, "We have five minutes before we land," Sylvia realized that in five minutes she might be dead. She resumed her loving-kindness practice and found there was no way in the world she could limit herself to opening her heart to just her immediate family. The only thing she could do at that moment, when she might have only five minutes to live, was to open her heart to all beings everywhere. This was without any contrivance or force or pretentiousness.

Metta is not a fabricated decision like "Now I am a very spiritual person and therefore I will love all beings"; nor does it mean that if we're really seething with rage or filled with fear, we're somehow going to overlay a nice little veneer and pretend and be smiling all the time. It's not that at all. Metta is the moment Sylvia had when the sense of "us and them" crumbled. it was born of the understanding that she might soon be dead -- so why bother upholding all those boundaries and barriers? With the collapse of those boundaries, the effortless, natural love for all beings wells up. That's the moment we look for. That's the moment when we are so alive.

Our practice shows us our own strength. Very early on, one of my teachers said something wonderful to me: "The Buddha's enlightenment solved the Buddha's problems; now you solve yours." Our practice shows us that "I do have the wisdom, I do have the strength, I do have the loving capacity, in real-time, real-life situations, to look at things in a different way." That's what our practice gives us.

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