In the last seven minutes of meditation, after the first day of a weekend retreat, fifty people are positioning themselves on their cushions in preparation for metta practice. I settle in without beginner’s mind, ready to recite, “May I be well, may I be safe, may I be happy, may I be peaceful and at ease…” and to wish that through the merit of my practice all beings may be free from suffering… but really, only wishing that I could be free from my own suffering, from the loveless suffering of being trapped inside me.
But then the meditation teacher instructs me to hold an image of myself as a child in my heart first. And all that is left is this: a toddler sitting in a field of tall grass and dandelions, with fat cheeks and tiny fingers, tossing her pigtails out of her face, squinting and gazing up into the blue sky, her smooth red bottom lip hanging open slightly, glistening in the sunlight. This, and my modern day me, crying silently on a cushion in a room of fifty people, thinking, Who wouldn’t wish this beautiful child safety and well being? May she always be this happy, and luminous, and free. May she always be this way. May all beings always be this way.