The Four Immeasurables of a Beautiful Mind

How do we know if we are progressing in our mental health care practice?


For physical health, there are certain clear objective metrics like weight loss or gain, Body Mass Index (BMI), distance run, weightlifting capacity and so on.


The metrics for mental health are not objective, and hence they are called ‘the immeasurables’. From the perspective of Buddhist meditation teachings, these are the four subjective metrics that you can experience as improving as the mind becomes a more beautiful place:


Loving-kindness (Metta): This is the cultivation of a genuine sense of friendliness, goodwill, and kindness towards all beings, including oneself. A willingness to wish happiness and well-being for everyone, without any discrimination or exceptions.


Compassion (Karuna): This is an increase in the feeling of empathy and a strong desire to alleviate the suffering of other sentient beings. It is an enhanced aspiration to understand and help those who are experiencing pain, distress, or difficulties.


Sympathetic Joy (Mudita): Sympathetic joy is seeing an improvement in your ability to rejoice in the happiness and success of others without jealousy or envy. A deeper felt sense of appreciating the positive experiences and achievements of others as if they were your own.


Equanimity (Upekkha): Equanimity is said to be the highest welfare. It is seeing a noticeably increased capacity to maintain a balanced and even-minded approach to all experiences, whether pleasant or unpleasant. This does not mean that you stop feeling or become indifferent to life. To the contrary, you feel everything even deeper and rest in the understanding that all experiences are impermanent, they are bound to change, so why get worked up about it? You feel a diminishment of attachment or aversion and remain calm and composed.


So often, our friendliness, compassion, joy and contentment are narrowed down to a select few or dependent on some situation or person meeting or exceeding our expectations. If my capacity to have a beautiful mind is so conditional, and this fragile mind can get triggered so easily, it is no wonder that my mind gets disturbed so easily! When we live like this, in a way, we are living like beggars. This practice, in the yogic tradition, is called Raja Yoga, or the royal path. Our inner kingdom is always impeccable and fit for royalty.


A beautiful practice to exercise and enhance these qualities is to consider three people in your life in turn:


  1.     Someone that you have a great affinity for
  2.     Someone who you do not know well
  3.     Someone who you are currently jamming up with


Bring each of them to your attention, one by one, as if they are right in front of you, eye-to-eye, and express:


You are my friend. I only wish you well. I mean you know harm.

I see you. I truly see you. I feel what you are going through.

I wish you the very best of health, happiness, peace, and success in every way.

I set you free from any of my expectations. You are no longer responsible in any way for my happiness.


When we meet next, we will look at why the mind becomes disturbed.




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