Making Progress

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Problems interrupting meditation

It's easy to explain the set of exercises for generating compassion, but it's hard to do them.

It's easy to explain the set of exercises for generating compassion, but it's hard to do them, because set patterns in the mind are being disturbed. You might find that, rather than extending the strong feeling you have for your best friend, your relationship with that person weakens, your attitude turns to "so what." If friends were and will be enemies, then friends are useless! You might lose all sense of friendship, rather than extending it.

Give up keeping the friend-class so rigid; feel the impact of the changeability of relationships. Through this, you strengthen the knowledge that relationships do not exist merely through their own force but have to be cultivated. Keep working at the meditation, so that the greater friends do not become like the lesser, but the lesser become like the greater.

Or you may have problems listing friends in any order, best to least. They may switch order over the course of year, or they may change just because you are paying attention to them in meditation. In that case, give up trying to order them, and just proceed randomly with whoever appears to your mind, but don't rush to the most difficult.

Or you might stray off to neutral people before going through all your friends. In that case, correct yourself. By returning to friends, the meditation will have more impact, because it is easier to equate two friends than it is to equate a friend and a neutral person. You need to get used to the experience of extending a sense of truly intimate closeness beyond usual boundaries, so that this experience can assist with categories of indifferent and cold people.

Or you might find that you use your meditation time to relive events in a relationship. This blocks the exercise. It is said that when cultivating a certain virtue, the practice of another one is actually a distraction. Identify the distraction as a distraction, but don't get uptight about it. If you dwell on a particular relationship, you might gain a few interesting insights, but you will not make progress in the greater quest. Keep pen and paper next to your place of meditation, and when these enticing thoughts appear, write them down to think about later.

Or you may get sidetracked by wondering why someone is lower down the list than they had been in the past. Don't worry about it; just continue. A balance has to be kept—you don't want to race through the meditation such that feeling is not evoked, and yet you don't want to spend time mulling over details of a situation.
Or you may be faced with too many people. It's not so difficult to think that ten or fifteen people all want happiness and don't want suffering, but a hundred thousand? Numbers shouldn't bother us. With more and more practice, numbers make no difference.