Metta and Courage  – Unfolding the Qualities of Love

Whenever we have a challenge, we need to bring out what’s contained in that one word, ‘love’. We have all these treasures within that we can draw from, qualities we need when things are uncertain or difficult…


Last year I wrote about de-constructing fear, and it occurred to me today that when we have a feeling of fearlessness, that it’s also composite. I can see it in myself when it arises, and so I thought it may be useful to write out a few things on what goes to make up fearlessness, or courage, so that I and others can take it up again when we need to.

The factors that go to make up courage, I would say, have a common root in love. Let’s look at this together.

In love, there is naturally patience, gentleness and strength, and mindfulness;

there is an appreciation for our circumstances, with what is right about it – gratitude for our friends and family, our education, and this whole extraordinary world…

When we pause and take this in, we can say that is a pure moment of love, simple, profound, and nourishing.

This yet love has even more to it.

I thought before of how fear is the feeling that we’re not up to something, together with imagining some bad outcomes. The opposite of this is feeling capable.I don’t have any doubt now that metta practice can open us to our innate resourcefulness.

There is a light of creative intelligence and joy in all of us, that often gets covered over and forgotten, and that’s where we can get stuck.When we don’t know our inner richness, we worry, and get agitated, and aggressive, which just veils the mind even more; we do things to numb out, and move still further from what we really need, which is a greater sense of our own capacity. Metta practice changes the course of all that.

At first, we may have only brief glimpses of our potential, but gradually these get longer, and at some point, we can feel enthusiasm welling up again from within.

What is it that has real meaning, and the most value in a life, if not meeting challenges? Accomplishments and enjoyments are all well and good, but going out to meet the needs of ourselves and others, now that’s where real, deeper human satisfaction is found.

Suppose you were going on a long journey – what would you need?Besides knowing where you wanted to go, you’d need provisions along the way. What we call ‘love’ is also something that enables us to sustain ourselves, day by day, as we go.

To look at our lives, our heritage, and this beautiful world of ours with a heart of love is, in a very real sense, to be fed by it. Compared to when we don’t have this quality awake in us, we can receive so much more. We can become spiritually well nourished. It’s true.

On our journey, we’ll also need a creative, adaptive intelligence, that is not just set on going one way, but that’s able to adjust along the way. Love empowers us to do this. We can feel it. When it rises up in us, we know, without any doubt, that we will find our way.

One more quality we’ll need, for sure, is confidence. Now confidence is a tricky one, because we can have some experience of it, and that can take us some distance, but if our confidence is just based on a memory, we may falter.

One of the great things about metta, loving kindness, is that it is a fresh stream of inspiration. When this quality is awakened and active in us, we know it by the joy we feel throughout each day, and by a quiet assuredness. In this way, metta brings peace as well.We know we will meet what life brings with the best we have in us.

They talk in Buddhism of the gift of fearlessness that we can offer ourselves and others. This is related to wisdom, or insight into the truth of our living. I’d say one aspect of this is pointing out the innate richness we all have to meet challenges.

When we know this for ourselves, they say it’s like when a person put their hand in their pocket and knows there’s a gem – we know we can make our way. We can also afford to be generous as we go. This is what we draw from.

One of the results, in time, of metta practice is that it brings a certain steadfastness of character, which I’m thinking of now as the quality of the Fourth Brahma Vihara, or Divine Abode. Where does this come from?

I can see how it comes from a commitment to our ideals, and a long familiarity and deep knowledge of our capacity to meet and transform challenging situations. If not for those two – having clear aims, and knowing absolutely that we can effect change, our heroes would have given up long ago…

As heroes here, those who didn’t give up, and who are shining examples of strength of character, I think of ML King, Nelson Mandela, The Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, and, in the political sphere, Cesar Chavez, Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky. They all demonstrate a calm, deep steadfastness of moral character, based on love and wisdom.

In each case, it’s true.Think about it. And it can be true for us as well, on our own personal scale.

When we are uncertain, what can we rely on?

In fact, we do have support from the spiritual dimension, and this is something I rely on. We also have the support of family and friends.Most of all though, we need to find those reasons for self confidence in ourselves, and assuredly, this is something we can do through love.

In all that needs to be responded to in my life, in the lives of my loved ones, and in this world, I’ll take my stand here.

From Living in Beauty – Buddhist Loving Kindness Practice