Metta to the Moon and Back
Welcome back to another Living Metta experiment taking metta off the meditation cushion and out into the world. Or, this past month, out of this world.
Regular readers may remember an earlier article, The Spaciousness of Metta, which explored generating metta for beings living among us that we do not traditionally consider sentient as they come from inner space (bacteria) and outer space (extraterrestrials).
You’d probably have to be living on the Moon not to have heard some kind of mention of the 50-year anniversary of the first Moon landing on 16 July 1969 and its many reflections in recent documentaries, films, and books.
I marked the occasion by reading Oliver Morton’s excellent new book The Moon: A History of the Future (The Economist 2019). The book contained many aha! moments for me, the biggest of which was a 2007 experiment by Scottish artist Katie Patterson entitled E.M.E. (Earth-Moon-Earth). Katie transposed Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata into Morse code and transmitted it to the Moon to see what would bounce back to Earth. Rather than returning faithfully echoed or completely scrambled, the Moon “composed” a new response.
Until I heard this lunar lullaby, it never occurred to me to consider an astral body as sentient. Stretching my understanding of sentience found me wondering that perhaps the generation of metta wasn’t just a nice spiritual concept of “sending” loving-kindness like I might send an encouraging text message to a struggling friend? Perhaps a loving intention takes on a life of its own once sent and germinates into something new depending on the receiver? Something somewhere between composition and amplification and reciprocation?
In 2001, British sculptor Anish Kapoor unveiled the first of what would become a series of installations called Sky Mirrors. The concave, polished stainless steel dish is six meters in diameter and literally turns the surrounding world on its head. The first one in the British city of Nottingham spawned others in the coastal town of Brighton, London, New York, Dallas, Saint Petersburg in Russia, and Tilburg in the Netherlands. I’ve visited the Nottingham and London mirrors, and understood them on a visceral level that I couldn’t articulate until I listened to E.M.E. for the first time last month.
I mulled the notion of being a Sky Mirror in human form, transmitting metta out into space for all to receive. It didn’t feel that different until I felt inspired to book a session at Float Planet to spend an hour in as close to zero gravity as it’s possible for an earthbound human to be: floating in 25 centimeters of salt water, surrounded by total darkness and stillness.
American composer John Cage’s description of the creative process also articulates combining sensory deprivation with meditation better than I can:
When you start working, everybody is in your studio—the past, your friends, enemies, the art world, and above all, your own ideas—all are there. But as you continue painting, they start leaving, one by one, and you are left completely alone. Then, if you’re lucky, even you leave.
Perhaps readers will remember the 2013 movie Gravity, in which Sandra Bullock plays a lone female astronaut stranded in space after the mid-orbit destruction of a space shuttle returning to Earth. It received very divided reviews: some adored it, while others considered it a horror film! I suspect it’s probably one of the best litmus tests of whether viewers are introverts or extraverts.
Being an introvert myself, I never had a sense of being alone or lonely watching it. Then, a couple of years ago, I met someone at a party who was part of the puppeteering team that kept Sandra looking gravity-free during filming: apparently, she was anything but alone on set with dozens of invisible acrobats manipulating her movements. It tickled my meditator’s imagination that what looked like freefall on screen was only possible with lots of unseen support.
And so I floated happily for an hour in 500kg of Epsom salts, generating metta for absolutely all there is . . . and the amplification effect was magical. Paradoxically, generating metta in actual nothingness found me feeling more connected with everything-ness.
Like the 1969 astronauts and Sandra’s fictional character returning to Earth’s gravity, I planted my wet, salty feet back on the ground after my float wondering, now what?
I experimented with generating metta to infinity and beyond for a few weeks, and a new gentleness and acceptance of all creation emerged.
However, the Dharma had a new surprise ahead for this would-be metta-naut.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been as fascinated by psychic channeling as space travel. Not so much to communicate with the dead (strictly speaking that is mediumship), but to connect with universal consciousness.
There are as many different techniques and motives for channeling as there are for meditation. One of my personal favourites is Edgar Cayce, also known as The Sleeping Prophet, who spent some 40 years “receiving” holistic health information for the benefit of all.
A few weeks after my float session, I listened to an interview with psychic channel Rachel Pfotenhauer, in which she described a new voice emerging during a session. When she asked who it belonged to, the answer surprised her: I am Earth and I have something to say. In other words, rather than receiving information to help those on Earth (as Edgar Cayce had), Rachel became the Earth.
As the interview continued, Rachel-as-Earth responded to how she felt about world events. The most encouraging passage was Earth asking more humans to “tune into” her as Rachel does, and estimating that it would only take seven million humans doing so to create a positive energetic tipping point for the whole.
And so, my fellow would-be metta-nauts, I ask you to consider raising the roof on any limitations we’ve placed on sentience by generating metta for, from, and as Earth itself. Like E.M.E., like Sky Mirrors, like psychic channels, who knows what the response might be?
In other words, it only takes the subtlest of metta-morphoses for one new, small step to become one giant leap for all-that-is.
May all that is be peaceful.
May all that is be happy.
May all that is be free.
Related features on Buddhistdoor Global
The Bulletproof Buddhist Actor
The Active Buddhist: George Takei
Sowing the Seeds of Metta to Dissolve Fears of the Unknown
A Small and Precious Miracle
Buddhistdoor View—Why Buddhism is Not All About the Search for Happiness