Recently, I finished the novel, ‘The Celestine prophecy’ by James Redfield. A dear friend of mine recommended it, and once I began the book, I couldn’t put it down. The book is written in first person about the spiritual seeker who goes on this journey to discover nine key insights written about in an ancient manuscript found in Peru. In the vein of ‘The Alchemist’, it is not about knowing what the insights are, but direct experience of them that transforms our narrator. As I started to talk to other friends about the book, I discovered that this book was huge when it was published. But that was in the mid 90s when I was about 15! No wonder I had missed this book.
Rather than telling you about the insights, I can say this: much of what James Redfield writes about is very relatable right now. He writes about energy flow in the universe and how we can connect to the source of this energy, and how the interplay of energies works in relationships.
What I found so interesting is how much this connects to the practice of metta. When we begin metta, it is very much about sending well-wishes to our benefactors, ourselves and close ones. And then we slowly expand our circle to include neutral people in our lives and then the difficult people in our lives who are harder for us to send metta to. The ultimate metta goal, if there is one, is to be able to wish all beings well, to send wishes for happiness, peace, love and friendship to everyone unconditionally. And to notice as we do so, that we too are receiving the gifts of metta. Several buddhist texts talk about the benefits to the person practicing metta. Theravadan Buddhist monk Bhante Gunaratana outlines the ways meditation can benefit our mind and our body in this Tricycle article. The list includes peaceful sleep and a radiant and joyful complexion! In a talk given by Ajahn Achalo on Insight timer, he talks about the confidence that practicing metta can bring us!
The practice of metta changed the course of my practice and my life; it is definitely for me the centering practice. When I am off balance, I know it is a sign to return to metta. And as a math teacher, it provides a wonderful opportunity for me to practice going beyond each student’s strengths and weaknesses to wishing every student well, no matter their ability or their personality.
Interestingly, what I have also found is that the more I practice metta, or stay connected to love and friendliness, the more energy there is to give others. It feels more natural to respond to desires and needs of others without draining myself out. Obviously I am not an enlightened being and I have my own issues, but these too are more manageable with practicing metta and karuna (compassion) towards myself and my family.
I also found it interesting that the writer talks about how more and more beings are drawn to this path; I certainly found that when I was at Kripalu a couple of weeks ago, there were so many many more people coming for retreats than there were about 15 years ago when I went to Kripalu for the first time! The sangha that I have been part of locally for the last decade or so has also grown tremendously in the recent years!
If you haven’t read this book or it has been a while, I hope you will go to your local library and grab a copy. I leave you with this poem Love of God, by Dante that directly resonates with this topic:
The love of God, unutterable and perfect,
flows into a pure soul the way that light
rushes into a transparent object.
The more love that it finds, the more it gives
itself; so that, as we grow clear and open,
the more complete the joy of heaven is.
And the more souls who resonate together,
the greater the intensity of their love,
and, mirror-like, each soul reflects the other.
-English version by Stephen Mitchell.