Confession: I live in Los Angeles and I ride the bus.
I don’t do it by choice, I don’t have a car. But I’ve used my ride to work as a daily opportunity to meditate. It’s a 27 minute trip. I sit down, close my eyes, place my hands on my knees and focus on my breath. Indeed, it’s bumpy, sometimes smelly, always noisy. Most mornings, I hear people talking on the phone in Spanish, Tamil or Kannada. But in any event, if I can catch my mind wandering, then I can always tug it gently back to the breath. On some days that ‘tug’ is more of a strong ‘yank’.
Over the past month, I’ve changed the focus of my meditation from the breath to loving kindness. I guess I just wanted to be more of a metta-kind-of-guy. I mean, wouldn’t you want to work next to someone who was always radiating metta?
I’ve had friends for whom loving kindness was the best practice ever. For me (and others too), it’s been a practice that takes some time. When I was younger, I didn’t feel much benefit when I tried it. Still, some of my teachers have been real proponents of metta meditation (“Every morning for an hour, starting at 5:30am!”) and that alone convinced me to fold it into my own practice. I memorized two sutras (this one and this one), and incorporated them into my (sometimes) daily routine. I usually do this meditation just before I go to bed. I’ll admit that on many nights, I tuck myself in and then it goes like this: “May I be happy, peaceful and… zzZZzz…”
Now that I do loving kindness on the bus, this meditation has taken a less traditional structure. I start my meditation focusing metta on myself, and then I focus sequentially on each passenger (and the driver too). I’ve found true benefits. On the bus, I’m always making quiet judgments (“Please don’t sit next to me!”). Metta meditation is the exact opposite (“May you have a great life! May you have no troubles! May you overcome all obstacles!”). How pleasant to use positive thinking to confront negativity at the very moment (or even before) it arises! Bus meditation also has its unique challenges. People are getting on and off all the time, and it’s hard to give each of them their fair share of loving kindness. It can feel like doing mental acrobatics as five people all step off the bus at once!
Finally when it’s my turn to hop off, I stand on the corner and wish loving kindness to the whole bus. May you be kind, peaceful and free from suffering.
May all beings be happy, peaceful and free from suffering!