Hypothesis: loving-kindness and equanimity are the same thing in different uses

Loving-kindness, or metta, is described as a kind of openness, a gentle friendliness.

Equanimity is often described as a kind of allowance or acceptance. In Shinzen Young’s mindfulness system, non-equanimity is likened to electrical resistance or friction, and equanimity is likened to a releasing of that resistance.

In the traditional metta meditation, the meditator directs attention to herself and other people in sequence, each time repeating a set of phrases like “may {person} be well, may she be free from suffering”. The meditator tries to really generate the intention for that person to be well. If feelings of friendliness or love arise, the meditator tries to amplify those feelings.

In the traditional vipassana meditation, the meditator directs attention to the body, usually systematically scanning the attention from the top of the head to the feet, and then back up. As the meditator attends to each area of the body, she tries to detect whatever sensations are arising there, and to meet them with equanimity. That equanimity involves a kind of opening, allowance, friendliness.

My hypothesis is that the friendliness and love generated in metta, and the friendliness and acceptance applied in vipassana, are the same basic move, just applied differently. In vipassana the target is bare sensation — something very immediate and conceptually simple. In metta the target is the concept of some person — not so present, and much more complex. But in either case, the meditator takes an action towards the object. I’m hypothesizing it’s the same action.


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