When I first met Narayan around 1985 she was an ethereal presence, an angel always dressed in white. And she sat beside my teacher Christina Feldman on my third Women’s Retreat at Insight Meditation Society and on every one thereafter. It might have been a year or two before she told us how she came to meditation at a young age or maybe she told us right away. She was obsessed with candles. In her teen-age room, hour after hour she would stare at a candle. She called it meditation. Her family called it crazy. She became a symbol of strength for me, nothing could stop her being anything – my image of womanhood had to shift because she wouldn’t.
She still dresses in white. And sits beside Christina and sits on her own as she has always sat, on her own. She owned the space. Lightly. Whitely. Gently following the stream of her steadfast delight. Gently following the precepts she acknowledged as her own. Gently bringing us back to the basics, the simple, the essential. Always soft, never pushed or rehearsed or defended.
Here’s what she says about love.
The word “metta” is defined as loving kindness or unlimited friendliness.
The practice of metta is the encouragement of the qualities of friendship – affection, acceptance, trust, warmth, loyalty, a sense of humor, non abandonment, and sympathy; extending those to oneself and others as well as towards experiences and situations. It also means “to be near to” or close to all things.
Metta has the characteristic of unconditionality; it is the practice of making room for all beings and experiences in our lives, including political beings and experiences. Metta practice adds the element of kindness to whatever is happening in the here and now.
We add lovingkindness to the mess of things, not planning that things be a certain way at a later date and not waiting until inner and outer conditions are perfect. The practice of metta is not the effort to convince ourselves of something that we don’t actually believe, or to deny that we feel the way we do, such convincing and denial tend to make things much worse!
With the intention of metta, we are enlarging our capacity to be kind, even when it seems impossible. Metta practice encourages confidence in our inherent goodness of heart.