A message from your coach - Uma
The benefactor section of the meditation usually involves a mentor or someone you have learnt most from although they are not always necessarily older than you.
Whoever you choose for this section is someone you have gratitude for, a role model. This might be a mentor, a teacher (maybe a spiritual teacher), a parent or a respected leader in your community.
If you don’t have someone that fits the role of benefactor, you could radiate metta to an individual who has enriched your life, even if you don’t know them personally.
When you arrive at the section for friends, there is no requirement for you to hold back love where it already exists. Some new practitioners may think there is some benefit in resisting radiating loving-kindness and other positive qualities with those they love and hold dearest to them.
Instead of taking this approach, it is prudent to always give a boost to the other subjects of your meditation to this same level.
This way, you are ‘topping up’ metta by working for equality for each of the practices, increasing the flow of positive qualities to all beings instead of robbing one to pay another.
These are often people we view as those who serve a function rather than individuals who are well rounded and have similar needs to our own.
They could be people with whom you work but have little meaningful interaction with or people to whom you pay little attention. It is therefore unusual for specific individuals to occupy this section for a long time.
If you do experience a natural progression where the person no longer seems neutral to you, then choose another person for your next sitting.
In life, you sometimes encounter individuals who, no matter what you do, act with animosity and unkindness towards you. Indeed, some people are entirely unaware of how their actions cause others pain or suffering.
Rest assured, these people are not happy; they may be angry, sad, frightened or hurt themselves. You can not change them directly, but during meditation, you can alter your approach through the qualities that you develop in your practice.
That’s not to say that you are to excuse bad behaviour! Acknowledging that they too suffer, can help you to gain insight into why they act and behave in the way that they do.
You do not have power over how other people decide to behave. All you can do is to make sure that your behaviours are skilful and wholesome. Then your actions will create results that are positive or neutral, and this is how karma works.