Metta for my Grandmother, now that she has passed

The news of my Grandmother‘s passing wasn’t shocking. She’d been in a home for years, and I’d already known that she had been moved to hospice care. I’m happy she was finally able to let go. She was a real fighter, and her final years were full of confusion, delusion, and struggle.

I began doing metta practice for her. The phrases that typically express a wish that a living person is happy, healthy and free still work fairly well for someone who has passed on, but there were some modifications that seemed better suited to metta for the recently deceased.

To orient myself, I could add a thought like, “Wherever you are…” “Whether you have taken form or are formless…” before reciting the metta phrases. This allowed me not to assume too much. I don’t know the nature of one’s being after they have passed. I don’t want to create or posit a certain entity – but rather wish peace and freedom in a more abstract sense, however it may apply.

May you be happy. Happiness is a light, uplifting feeling. Happiness is joyful and free from sorrow and worry. All beings wish to be happy. Getting a sense of my Grandmother, freed from her old and worn body, but still embodying happiness, felt easy. The wish flows simply and brings a sense of lightness, and indeed, light.

May you be peaceful. Peace is another universal quality that benefits all beings, no matter their state. Peace, serenity, quiet, tranquility — these are all aspects of experience where one is undisturbed and at rest.

May you be clear and free from confusion. Typically, I’d use “…healthy” here, but now that the body has been abandoned, that brings some conflict to the mind. My Grandmother suffered a great deal of confusion in her later years, so now that she’s free from her body, I wish her a similar freedom from that confusion. Perhaps she’s free to experience phenomena with clear knowing, or clear comprehension, with a clarity she’s not known for years. Wishing this through metta allowed me to picture clarity and embody it more and more fully.

May you be free from suffering. Whatever experience you may be having, let it be free from fear, free from struggle, free from doubt, free from pain. Not knowing “where” she is, I wish her safety and well being. I picture her with loving connections to those who have gone before her.

May you have ease of being. Much like peacefulness, ease of being suggests positive feelings associated with the arising of phenomena, with little or no effort required to sustain a sense of well being, or function in whatever situation one finds oneself.

May you be free. May you be free from attachment, aversion, and becoming. May you be free from the bonds of samsara, at last. May all past karma be released, may all suffering and struggle come to an end.

Great concentration can be attained through Metta practice. Metta also establishes the mind in wholesome states of freedom, of letting go, of positivity and well being. Maybe, just maybe, there is some connection to the recipient of metta and some guidance that allows them to let go a little more as well, or makes their transition easier, or allows them to become completely free. It was a nice way to connect to my Grandmother, even though we were thousands of miles apart. I guess distance is no longer relevant, anyway.

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Being big enough

In my ongoing pursuit of understanding the first noble truth, I wanted to link to an article I just read in the very excellent Lion’s Roar web site. The article is entitled “Are We Really Meditating” and includes the following paragraph [emphasis mine]:

The Buddha, in his very first teaching, said, “There is suffering.” Sometimes we mistakenly interpret this to mean that we are doomed to suf­fer. I take the Buddha’s words as an invitation to practice nonviolence toward my inner and outer worlds. In this simple but powerful statement, the Buddha suggests that suffering is not some­thing we can fix, ignore, or get rid of. Rather, he is intimating that practice provides the ability to make ourselves big enough to include both the pain and beauty of the human condition—not only our own but also that of others.
Our ability to bear witness to suffering with­out pushing it away or getting overwhelmed is linked to liberation. What is experience before we shrink from it, try to subdue it, or manipulate it? This is thequestion for practitioners.

Typically, I think of accommodating suffering and experience as having to do with equanimity, but choosing to look at it as making oneself “big enough” is interesting to me. For one thing, it’s very simple. For another, it echoes the contrast between being small, tight, solid and being big, expansive, open and available.

In my worldly circumstances lately, I’ve been trying to better understand how practice can help with the stresses in my life. Something as simple as ‘being big enough to include the pain and beauty’ of life is a great answer to this question. I’ll have to sit with that tonight.