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Befriending Our Shadows As a Path Towards Liberation, Part 1

by Danadasa (2022)

In the first stage of the metta bhavana meditation practice (cultivation of loving kindness), we are invited to cultivate loving kindness towards ourselves by repeating phrases to ourselves such as "may I be happy, may I be well". This instruction sounds like painting over one's present moment experience with "don't worry, be happy". How is this not spiritual bypassing? To understand how the metta bhavana is a path towards liberation, one must engage with this meditation as both a calming practice (samatha) and an insight practice (vipassana). Bringing vipassana to the fore involves turning towards that which we habitually ignore - the dark thoughts, the shame, the malice - and bringing curiosity, kindness and patience to the shadows that lie within.