In Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers,” he explores what makes people achieve great success. He attributes some of it to the “10,000-hour rule.” If you do anything for 10,000 hours, you will become pretty darn good at it.
He gives the examples of the Beatles playing more than 1,200 live performances in Germany between 1960-1964 or Bill Gates, after he gained access to a computer when he was 13, programming more than 10,000 hours by the time he finished high school.
Basically, the old adage “practice makes perfect” holds true.
If you want to succeed at something in five years, for example, you would have to practice about 5.5 hours a day, 365 days a year for five years.
After my husband was diagnosed with cancer in 2014, we both became interested in practicing meditation as a way to de-stress and become more mindful. We started using an app called “Headspace” that guides you in meditation and keeps track of the hours you meditate. We started in five-minute sessions and worked our way up to 10, 20 and even 30 minutes. The hours slowly started to accumulate. My husband continues his daily practice of meditation. It has led me to explore other Buddhist traditions and meditative practices.
This is how I learned about the Buddhist practice of Metta, or loving-kindness meditation. It is a meditative practice that cultivates love — unconditional love — love not just for your friends and family, but everyone. Including people you don’t know, people you don’t like, even your enemies.
Love should be natural so why practice or cultivate love? Nelson Mandela has said “no one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin or his background, or his religion. … People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than the opposite.”
Of course, loving people who like or love us can be easy and natural. However, loving our enemies or people we don’t like, don’t know, don’t understand, or are different can be very difficult. This is where practice comes in.
Metta practice begins with generating a feeling of loving kindness toward yourself (not always easy). After cultivating a strong feeling of unconditional love for yourself, you then generate a feeling of love and kindness to someone you love, then a dear friend, then a neutral person (of whom you have neither a strong like or dislike).
Then it starts to get tricky.
Next in the practice, you generate feelings of unconditional love to a person with whom you dislike, have difficulties or are hostile. That’s hard work. That needs practice.
There are many variations of methods to practice Metta (different words, prayers or mantras) but the end result is to cultivate loving kindness to all beings, unconditionally.
Martin Luther King Jr. articulated the importance of this idea in his sermon “Loving Your Enemies”:
“Returning hate for hate multiples hate. … Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” In a world of hate and intolerance, it seems as important as ever to practice love.
The Catholic Trappist monk Thomas Merton saw meditation and contemplative prayer as a way for a person to obtain union with God and with his or her true self. I see Metta practice in this way. Practicing love helps emanate love from yourself around the word. Try it!
Love starts here, within each of us.
Begin your 10,000 hours now.
Mel Corroto has been the director of Andrews House since October 2012. She has lived and been part of the Delaware community since 1997.