Back when I was really into Buddhism and actively considering taking vows, one lesson stuck in my mind: you should wish everyone you meet in the public peace and contentment. Not actively say it to everyone, that would be invasive and weird, but walk down the street and holding that wish and intention for everyone you see. It was suggested as a practice for developing metta, but as a general idea, it fits too.

I’ve grown away from Buddhism[1], but lately that lesson has stuck in my mind. When I read the vitriol online on any issue, the snap judgements sneering with poser snobbery, it exhausts me rather than invigorates me. This lesson, holding metta for everyone, isn’t just good practice, it’s less tiresome. It hasn’t given me energy through my day, but it costs me less, which amounts to the same in the end.

I think before, I thought the practice of metta meant a lowering of boundaries, limits I wasn’t willing to change as I was unskilled in how to manage violations of them. The message usually came from monks and established practitioners who were much more skilled than I; it felt like being told to use Vim by old school hackers when I could barely write a for loop. Age has shown me that holding an actively charitable point of view towards others isn’t a lowering of my walls, it’s leaving an open gate. I can still protect it if needed, but why presume everyone approaching is an enemy?

I’m thinking of this as I ride the red line to do some errands and enjoy some lunch in Boston, and experiencing the wide array of people riding with me. I wish them all contentment and peace, I hope they all get what they need to find the same, and the ride isn’t nearly as overwhelming as in years past. I can handle the sensory stress and press of bodies, because I have more energy for it. I’m not a bodhisattva, but I’m picking up a trick from them, and I don’t think they’d mind.

[1] The theology it was taught to me in was a struggle at times. Reading Stephen Batchelor’s work was the final nail in the coffin.