I was almost thrown off the tracks on the 125th Street train platform in Harlem, New York City. It was a brisk winter Sunday evening. A friend and I were coming home from Generation Meditation, a Sangha of young adults at the New York Insight Meditation Center. That night our teacher Sebene Selassie taught us about Metta-the sanskrit word for love and kindness.
In the Metta practice, you imagine yourself giving love and kindness.
You usually imagine sending this energy to someone who supports you, someone you feel neutral about, someone you struggle with, yourself, and ends with sending love out to all beings without exception.
My friend and I chatted as we waited for the Uptown A train to arrive through the tunnel. She said something funny as she tended to do on our Sunday train ride home together. As I laughed, my attention landed on a woman coming down the stairs with half her face covered with a white plastic mask (like Jason from Friday the 13th). The woman locked her eyes with mine and shouted
“you fucking laughing at me.”
She walked over to me and got so close to my face that I could smell her breath.
“I’ll throw you in the fucking tracks,” she said.
I looked to my left and assessed that with the distance from where I was standing and the tracks, and the strength of this woman’s rage, it seemed probable that she could push me into the tracks.
At that moment I looked into her eyes and saw all her suffering. How unloved she had been her whole life. I felt nothing but absolute love for her. We stared into each other for about 10 seconds. Enough. Without effort (naturally arising) I poured love and kindness into her. There was a slight twitch in her eyes as we stayed locked in for a few more seconds. Then she walked away.
When I turned back to my friend she was shaking.
“Oh my god, are you ok!? That was fucking terrifying,” she exclaimed.
I was the opposite of terrified. I was flowing in love.
I told my friend I knew that woman wasn’t going to hurt me because Metta was present. It was as if the vibration of love could not contain the violence.
At the end of the world love is the only thing that will be waiting for us. When we have exhausted the wars and the blaming and the separation, love will be the only thing to save us.
Anger is like a virus with a momentum that bounces from human to human.
If I would’ve returned violence to that woman, it would’ve bounced back. On and on. Violence survives centuries. Therefore, when I say love is the answer, I’m not talking about an unrealistic bypassing of anger or a fantasy of superficial love, I am talking about hardcore deep raw love enough to divert the intense momentum of violence. Enough to end wars.
On those old train tracks, I remembered the power of love and the power of practice. We must practice what we wish to see in the world and love is the most radical practice of them all.
May we be filled with love and kindness.
May we be well.
May we be peaceful and at ease.
May we be happy.