Chapter Two
Meditation on Friendliness


May beings all live happily and safe
And may their hearts rejoice within themselves.8

From the Buddha's Discourse on Loving Kindness (Karaniya Metta Sutta).

The early records of the Buddha's life show him teaching a wide variety of spiritual practices.  He introduced many of his friends and disciples to meditation, along with thousands of the other people that he met.  When teaching, he would always vary his instructions according to the temperament and spiritual needs of each individual person.  But out of all the different methods he taught, there were two that he particularly emphasized.  One was the Mindfulness of Breathing.  The other was known as the Metta Bhavana,9 `the development of friendliness'.
This quality, friendliness, is at least as important for our development as concentration.  For many of us, it may be even more important.  Certainly the Buddha's own first step towards Enlightenment was taken in a spirit of friendliness - in his desire that people should find true happiness.  There is probably no worthwhile human development without that spirit.
We would naturally expect to find happiness and friendliness in a Buddha's wisdom, not unfriendliness and aversion.  A hate-filled person can never become very wise.  We know from our own experience that when we are in a grumpy, irritable mood, our understanding is at its most narrow and limited.  And we know that it is easier to feel friendly towards others when we are in a healthy state of mind ourselves. By meditating on metta, or loving-kindness, we can cultivate healthier states of mind whenever we wish.
where friendship begins
People are often struck by the way this meditation starts: right at the beginning, the meditator develops loving-kindness towards himself or herself.  The implied message seems to be `If you really want to befriend others, you must first learn to befriend yourself.' There is some very deep practical wisdom in this simple idea.
But right there, a problem may arise.  Many people find it extraordinarily difficult to love themselves - they are unappreciative of their own virtues.  This is quite common.  It can be interesting to ask a friend what they think their good qualities are - some people seem strangely uncomfortable with the idea.  I have a number of friends who appreciate the merits of other people very much, but who will only very reluctantly accept that there is anything good in themselves!
No doubt this sometimes arises out of politeness or modesty - real or false - but more often it seems to stem from a genuine lack of self confidence.  And, unfortunately, this tendency seems to have become ingrained in our (Western, Christian-based) culture - it’s almost as though we aren't supposed to like ourselves.  Consequently many people nowadays have a poor self-image.  Some even feel they must keep up a pretence of self-confidence in order to be accepted by others, which can make life extremely complicated.
self-confidence is fundamental to growth
This is a very great pity, because self confidence, faith in one's own potential, is absolutely fundamental to growth - no one can develop unless they actually believe that they can do it, or at least believe in themselves to some extent.  It is clear that the majority of people need to appreciate themselves far more than they do.  The Metta Bhavana is especially valuable for our psychologically difficult times - it enhances our appreciation of ourselves, our potential, and our world.
valuing human life
The Metta Bhavana meditation begins by nourishing self-confidence, but this does not imply arrogance or a merely selfish self-confidence.  It is the ability to appreciate one's own existence as a part of the wider context of human life, with all the promise that human life offers.  We see that it is a wonderful and precious thing to be a human being - though most people encounter many difficulties in their lives, each of us also has much that we may rejoice in.

The [human body] is called precious, because it is similar
to the Wish-Fulfilling Gem, as difficult to obtain, and very useful.
This human body  has the power to reject evil and to
accomplish good, to cross the ocean of samsara, to follow the path
towards Enlightenment, and to obtain the perfect Buddhahood.  Therefore
it is superior to other forms of life such as gods and serpent demons,
and it is even better than the Wish-Fulfilling Gem.  It is called `precious'
because of the difficulty of obtaining this human body and because
of its great usefulness.
Yet, though difficult to obtain and very useful, it easily
breaks down, because there are many causes of death, and without waiting
it passes on to the future.
Therefore, because of the difficulty of its attainment,
of the easiness of its breaking down, and of its great usefulness,
we should think of the body as a boat and by its means escape from
the ocean of samsara.10

Gampopa (Tibet, 10th Century CE)

By samsara or `conditioned existence' Gampopa broadly means the restrictive states of mind that condition cyclic, repetitive ways of living.  He is actually saying that life gives us the opportunity to develop positive, creative states of mind - and that this is the best use of it.  It is an inspiring vision of human potential.  If we cultivated such a view of the significance of our life we would have little difficulty in liking ourselves.  No doubt we would also have a truer sense of the value of others' lives - and therefore feel a more heartfelt friendliness for them.
the stages of the metta bhavana meditation
This is a good point at which to introduce the Metta Bhavana meditation itself.  If you would like to try it now, read through the brief description of the stages first, and make sure you are comfortably seated.
(Note: Because of its nature, far more words have been needed to describe this meditation practice fully than the Mindfulness of Breathing.  So if you just want to try the practice out, all you need to read is the brief description that follows.)
the five stages in brief
Prepare for the meditation by sitting quietly for a minute or so - settle down, collect your thoughts, and get in contact with whatever you happen to feel at this moment.  Then
(1) concentrate your attention on yourself
Experience your body, your emotions, and recollect your life generally.  Now - and this is important - how does it feel when you do that? Be aware of any emotional responses that you have, like joy or sadness.  Just feel them - you may or may not be able to describe them in words, but don't even try! Just experience whatever is there.
Develop a response of friendliness and kindness towards yourself, wishing yourself happiness.  If it helps, you could say to yourself `May I be well and happy.' (Don't just repeat the words, though - feel their meaning.) Keep your attention as constantly as you can on that friendly response, and patiently bring it back when it wanders.  After a few minutes
(2) call to mind a good friend
Concentrate your attention on a good friend (you may have a visual image of them, a feeling, a general impression, or even a scene from some past event).  At this stage, don't choose someone for whom you might have `parental' feelings (they shouldn't be too much older or younger than you are), or sexual feelings.  Experience your response to your friend - just as they are - and try to generate strong feelings of friendliness towards them.  Establish and deepen the friendly feelings as much as you can.  After a few minutes of the good friend stage
(3) think of a `neutral' person
Think of a `neutral' person.  A `neutral' person is someone for whom you don't have any particular liking or dislike.  Again, notice how you feel when you bring them to mind.  The feeling will probably not be very distinct, but stay with what's there and look for a more friendly, interested response.  Wish them happiness - and work particularly to maintain your attention, because with a `neutral' person it is naturally less easy to keep interested.  So keep it up - continue developing the metta for several more minutes.  Then
(4) turn your attention to a difficult person
Turn your attention to a difficult person.  This `difficult person' is someone you are not getting on with at the moment.  Anyone whom you dislike, or who dislikes you, is an appropriate choice.  Once again, experience how you actually respond to them in the meditation.  Don't let assumptions about how you think they will make you feel get in the way of your actual response.  Try to cultivate a fresh response, based on understanding and well-wishing.  Without making any false compromises, try to let go any feelings of animosity that you may harbour.  Keep your attention on that well-wishing response.  Then
(5a) concentrate on all four people
Concentrate on all four people - that’s yourself, your friend, the neutral person, and the difficult person - and develop metta equally towards each of them, so that you feel no less friendliness for any one of them.  If you like, imagine them all sitting around you.  Spend a minute or so doing this (don't forget yourself!) and then
(5b) allow your metta to expand outwards
Allow your metta to expand outwards - eventually expanding it out to include the whole world.  Start with the people nearest you, perhaps in the same room or the same building.  Then imagine everyone in the locality, then everyone in the town, city, or geographical area in which you happen to be.  Keep expanding the metta outwards like this in ever-widening circles - include everyone in the country, the continent, the other continents, the whole earth, the whole universe.  Think about all those people, all the experiences they are undergoing right now, even as you are meditating.  Include all animals, all sentient beings.  Try to think of them all with an equally strong love and kindness.
metta bhavana - the five stages in more detail
Here are the stages of the Metta Bhavana meditation in more detail.
preparation -
tuning in
Start by sitting in a comfortable position.  Also, try to sit as physically still as possible - that will help tune you in to how you are feeling.
tuning in with mindfulness
This `tuning in' is an important preliminary to the Metta Bhavana.  It can also be done at any time outside meditation.
Tune in to your present experience.  Whatever you are feeling, experience it just as it is - experience the pleasantness, or the unpleasantness, or just the nothingness! If there are painful feelings, don't pretend they don't exist - but on the other hand, try not to get angry or despondent because of them.  Just experience, disinterestedly, what is there.  Do the same with pleasant feelings, too - recognize them, experience them, enjoy them - but try not to get too involved (by fantasizing, for example).
This way of tuning in to experience is called mindfulness (it's the same `reflexive' awareness that was mentioned in the context of the Mindfulness of Breathing meditation).  If you practise with mindfulness, you will be able to stay tuned in for longer periods.  At least a little of this ability is necessary as a foundation for the Metta Bhavana meditation.  Once something of a foundation is there, you can start building on it, with more creative and aware emotions.
if you don't feel anything
If you don't feel anything at all, you need to re-establish contact with your senses.  Sit very still, and simply `listen', receptively, to the overall experience, even though there may seem to be nothing there.  Keep your attention within your body, concentrating mostly on your overall posture experience the relaxation or tension in your muscles and the general flow of physical energy.  Be aware of your breathing, too.  When you give attention to your body like this, you gradually re-establish contact with the senses, and from that basis you will eventually begin to experience your feelings - either pleasurable or painful.
Don't worry if it is all rather weak.  Feeling is often quite subtle - it doesn't have to be overpoweringly strong before it can be worked with.  One can build up the metta very effectively when feeling is `low level', yet steady.
developing metta -
stages of the meditation
Continue developing awareness of feeling in this more `receptive' way as you add the following, more `active', aspect of the practice.  Using your imagination, develop a response of kindness and friendliness - first of all towards yourself.
(1) yourself
Human experience is rarely all pleasure or all pain - it is usually bitter-sweet.  When the feeling that you get, as you tune into your experience, is pleasant and enjoyable, it may be quite easy to cultivate kindness and friendliness.  But when the basic feeling is painful or neutral, you need to avoid, as far as possible, reacting with emotions like indifference, ill will, frustration, or self pity, because these can all become obstacles to metta.
Instead, just continue experiencing, and patiently understanding, exactly how you are at the moment.  Continue to practise mindfulness, understanding that your feelings are temporary and can change.  The pain we create by our own reactions to pain is often far worse than the pain itself.  Mindfulness is a creative response that can create a new trend in our consciousness - one that can even, eventually, grow into pleasure.
Patience can be a `way in' to a more definite response of loving-kindness.  This response may be weak at first, but there are ways of strengthening it once you get started.
For example, it may help to say to yourself `May I be happy and well', or another phrase that, for you, evokes a friendly emotion.  Don't just repeat the words automatically but consider their meaning, and allow yourself to respond to them.  Another approach is to recollect a time when you were very happy, and recapture, in imagination, what it was like.  That could start a positive emotion flowing.  Or you can consider the potential which you have - and which, with a little more self-respect and confidence, you could actually realize.  You can explore and use any method that you find helpful in creating metta.
Metta Bhavana employs the principle that thoughts and feelings are made stronger the more we concentrate on them.  So once you have contacted a feeling of friendliness through the `evoking' approach described above, you should focus upon it, putting all your energy behind it.  As you do this, the metta will gradually deepen and become more established.  Don't get caught up in fantasy or distraction - first use your thought and imagination to contact the metta, and then dwell on it wholeheartedly.  The `dwelling', or focusing, is the main part of the practice, the part that goes deep - everything else is preparation.
If it helps, you can give the focusing a `direction' by using a mental image - one teacher I know, for example, introduces this practice by describing a flower opening.  Perhaps you could imagine a bright summer's day.  Or you could visualize your body being filled with a beautiful light, or a cooling liquid, representing the love and kindness that you are generating.  An image can often evoke metta where words or thoughts alone can have little effect.
By the end of this first stage you are likely to feel more happy and contented with yourself.  But moods come and go - if nothing much seems to have happened, don't be deterred.  After four or five minutes, go on to the second stage anyway - don’t linger in the first stage hoping that `something will happen'.  Bear in mind the fact that you have only just begun to meditate - for that reason alone, the first stage will normally be rather cooler in feeling than the others; you still need to `warm up'.  And in the Metta Bhavana generally, it is best to tackle each stage as it comes, without judging your performance in any particular stage.  (The only really objective way to assess the effects of meditation is to see if there have been significant improvements in your life over a period of time.)
(2) a good friend
Now develop metta towards a good friend - somebody you already like and have friendly feelings towards.  Choose your friend quickly, so that you don't lose your concentration in between stages.  (This advice holds good, by the way, for each stage.)
Concentrate on your friend.  Your imagined impression of them may be visual, or a thought-impression, or perhaps something else - but in whatever way you imagine them, stay as steadily as you can with that impression, and return to it every time you notice that your mind has wandered.
In developing metta towards your friend, you can use the same principles as in the first stage.  As before, you can say `May he (or she) be happy, may he (or she) be well,' or use any other method that deepens, and refines, your desire for their happiness.  But be emotionally truthful - even though this is a friend of yours, you may not always feel the way you are `supposed' to feel towards them.  To develop metta, you need to experience how you are actually responding to them now, in this particular meditation session.  If, perhaps to your surprise, you find difficulty developing metta towards them, the experience will be just as valuable - perhaps more so - because you have to adjust to the circumstances and create something new.  You can expect to learn a lot about yourself - and your friendships - from discoveries like this.
(3) a `neutral' person
Now, in the third stage, develop metta towards a `neutral' person.  This is somebody for whom you have no particular feelings at the moment; you neither like them nor dislike them.  They may be someone you hardly know, perhaps someone you often see but never speak to, yet have an impression of.  What about the postman, for example? Otherwise it could be somebody you know very well, but for some reason you have never been interested in them.
Just as before, develop metta in response to the way you actually feel about them, at that very moment.  Of course, the most likely difficulty with the neutral person is that you feel very little.  The way to find more feeling is to concentrate on them as continuously as you can.  This strategy acts in the same way as the `tuning in' mentioned earlier.  It will eventually reveal subtler feelings of pleasure or pain, to which you will feel more able to respond.
The `neutral person' stage is designed as a challenge to our emotional sensitivity.  Since we don't feel anything for this person not even dislike - there doesn't seem to be any basis from which to develop the emotion.  We feel that we must create a mental connection with them, and this forces us to expand or `stretch' our capacity to feel and to imagine.  This should have a very good effect on our relations with others.  After all, there's a whole world full of `neutral' people out there.
(4) a difficult person
This `stretching' of our emotional capacity is continued in the fourth stage.  Anyone you dislike, or who dislikes you, is an appropriate choice for a `difficult' person.  Or you could pick somebody you are not getting on with at the moment, with whom there is some misunderstanding or habitual non-communication.
If it seems appropriate you may choose an out-and-out enemy - someone you really hate - but perhaps at first it is wise not to make things too difficult for yourself.  If your negative feelings towards this person are very strong, you may end up completely distracted, perhaps even making the relationship worse.  Remember that the whole point of the exercise is to generate loving-kindness! Choose the people for each stage primarily as a means to that end, rather than as a way of `working something out' with them.
As in the previous stages, remain aware of the actual feeling that you have for them.  Whenever you get distracted, keep returning to that impression of them in your mind.  Reflect that even though you find this person difficult to get along with at present, things can change.  Remember that the way they experience their life is certain to be different from the way you perceive it.  Thinking in this way, wish that they may become happy and well.  You could try reflecting that if they were actually happy, they would be different from the way they seem at the moment - perhaps they would even be more likable!
(5a) all four persons
In the fifth stage, imagine each of the four people in the practice - yourself, your good friend, the neutral person, and the difficult person - all together.  Remaining with the feeling of metta which you have been building up, work to equalize it between all four persons.  Try to feel metta equally strongly towards your good friend and your neutral person, towards both yourself and your difficult person, towards your difficult person and your friend.
This requires quite a close awareness of how you feel about each - all together - and so needs plenty of practice.  It may therefore be helpful occasionally to spend some extra time tuning in to this stage, comparing how you feel in relation to each person.
A simpler approach to this part of the meditation is to let your metta flow equally towards each person without too much analysis or comparison.  Simply imagine that the metta is equal towards all.  This is a good method when you are first learning the Metta Bhavana, or when time is limited.
(5b) all beings throughout the universe
Having equalized it, our development of metta is at its fullest and strongest.  In the final stage we send it out to the rest of the world, far beyond ourselves and our three companions.  There are various ways of doing this - you can use your imagination freely - but here is the usual method:
Begin by developing loving kindness towards yourself and anyone else in the room that you are in.  Then start expanding the friendliness to include everyone in the house, building, or wherever you happen to be.  Then include the area round about, and then the whole town or city.  Next imagine the county or state, the country, and expand your friendliness to include the whole continent.  Then include the other continents too, until your wish is for everyone in the world without exception to be happy, well, and free from suffering.
Whatever beings there are - human, animal, or whatever - try to imagine their lives and wish them happiness.  Moreover, don't stop even with our own world, for there are likely to be other life forms in the universe too - this is the Buddhist tradition - so wish them well too.  Finally, develop the metta not only towards all present life throughout the universe, but also towards whatever living beings there might be in the future.  So, using your imagination, expand the emotion of metta beyond all conceivable limits.

Tune into your experience.


a good friend.

a neutral person.

a difficult person.

each person equally.

all beings everywhere.


Sit comfortably and still.

Stage 1

Develop friendliness towards

Stage 2

Develop friendliness towards

Stage 3

Develop friendliness towards

Stage 4

Develop friendliness towards

Stage 5a

Develop friendliness towards

Stage 5b

Extend friendliness to

meditation and other people

If, in the state of Dhyana  we practise realizing the
good qualities of other people, there will come a feeling of great
compassion for all sentient life.  In this connection we will have
vision and recollections of our parents, our close kinsmen, our intimate
friends, and our hearts will be filled with inexpressible joy and
gratitude.  Then there will develop similar visions of compassion for
our common acquaintances, even for our enemies, and for all sentient
beings in the five realms of existence.  When we rise from the practice
of dhyana after these experiences, our hearts will be full of joy
and happiness and we will greet whoever we meet with kind and peaceful



putting metta into practice
A person's inner attitude is naturally expressed outwardly in their actions.  To the extent that we feel metta, that feeling will be shown in an appreciation of others' points of view, in caring for their welfare - and, above all, in friendly actions.  In Buddhism, friendship is regarded as a spiritual practice.  The Buddha went so far as to say that, for his disciples, friendship is the whole of the spiritual life.  Friendship offers many opportunities for overcoming negative emotions - and developing positive emotions.
Many people think of the spiritual life exclusively in terms of purification, in terms of getting rid of sins and faults.  Of course by practising Buddhism one becomes increasingly free from such obstacles.  But it is far more useful to view one's development in terms of creating positive qualities.  If you try to develop positive qualities, negative emotions tend to dissolve naturally - but if you think always in terms of `getting out of negative patterns', that point of view may actually encourage more negative patterns!
befriending others
The Metta Bhavana meditation gives us a unique way of developing positive emotion.  It is only in meditation that we have the opportunity to experience our response to someone deeply, without the complications which can arise when they are actually present.  Often `real' interactions with people give us no time to experience our feelings - sometimes we react to them almost before we know what we feel.  But in meditation we have the mental space to reflect, consider, and work with the reactions.  It is an extremely effective way of getting to know oneself more deeply.
But friendliness cannot exist in a vacuum - it also needs to be expressed.  As well as meditating, we should make efforts to befriend others, treating each communication that we have with another person as a possible opportunity for friendship.
Friendship doesn't mean always agreeing, or pretending that emotional difficulties don't exist.  Our relationship to a friend is not superficial.  We are prepared to be ourselves, ready to be truthful with them - not just truthful with the facts, but emotionally truthful too.  When we are with a friend, we will usually try to be more aware of the emotions we are experiencing and expressing.
we're driven by emotion
Our emotions drive us.  Look at all the people that you know, and consider the extent to which they are governed by moods and emotions.  You can often see that all the clear, reasoned explanations that people give for their actions are only a part of the truth.  Emotions are extremely powerful forces, often complicated and difficult to work with.  We certainly don't seem to have much control over them.  Sometimes we are in a good emotional state, sometimes not - and that, very often, is simply the way our life goes.
responses to others
We can change this somewhat passive state of affairs, but we must be ready to acknowledge what we most invest in emotionally.  Notice, for example, how often our emotions are responses to other people.  Our lives are very closely bound up with others' lives: we live with other people, work with them, read about them, know about them - it’s no wonder that people are constantly in our thoughts and in our dreams.
You may be a little reluctant to admit how strongly your responses to people affect you.  But the fact that a certain person `makes us feel' inspired or relaxed (or jealous, or irritated, or whatever) often matters deeply to us.  These responses can be almost entirely habitual.  We all have pre-existing tendencies to excitement, boredom, or fear, that can very easily be triggered by some external factor.
notice the changes in the weather
Emotional influences keep building up and dispersing again.  They are sometimes as changeable as the weather.  Moods affect the content of our thoughts, our level of energy, and our creative ability.  If we are to develop and become more emotionally mature we need to become more conscious of this emotional `weather'.  Yet the weather can be so changeable and uncertain - perhaps stormy - that we may well feel disinclined to take any risks.
We may also have a sense of alienation, of being cut off from emotions.  Our society is so complex, and we have so many different, strong, experiences, that people often lose touch with their feelings about things.  We may not think that we have much feeling, because we don't experience it very consciously.  But, nevertheless, it's there somewhere.
emotional truth
The way into a deeper engagement with your emotions begins when you acknowledge pleasure and pain, the most basic of all feelings.  These strong, simple signals are often ignored or hastily covered up; it's important to own them.  They are the points where emotions originate.  You need to acknowledge pleasure and pain in the moment when you are feeling it.  Make it a constant practice to ask yourself whether you like this experience or not, whether you feel anything or not.  And if you can feel something, is it a pleasant feeling or is it a painful feeling?
This emotional truthfulness - or mindfulness, to use the word we used earlier - is a very good habit to get into.  If you are truthful with yourself about what you feel, then you will become more clear-minded and self-confident - you will not be pretending that you are enjoying something when you are not, or convincing yourself that some experience will be unpleasant when you know that you will enjoy it.  If you don't pretend, you give yourself more freedom of choice in your emotional reactions.  Awareness gives you power to act, more leverage over your conditioned responses.
we let negative emotions happen
If you practise emotional truthfulness, you will begin to see that people never simply get angry, or jealous, or possessive, or secretive, or grumpy, or insecure.  Such emotions don't arise without causes - they happen in response to certain situations.  At some point, we allow the emotions to happen.  A negative emotion is a habit that we have somehow got ourselves into (perhaps recently, perhaps long ago in our childhood).  It is a habitual response that we release when certain triggers are pressed.
Of all triggers, pleasure and pain are the most powerful, hence the importance of acknowledging them.  We naturally want pleasure and don't want pain - it’s the basic human conditioning.  But if we are unaware of how we are reacting emotionally, we may do almost anything - to anyone - in order to get the pleasures that we want and avoid the pains we don't want.  In this way, our unawareness causes us to exploit one another in an infinite variety of ways.
transforming the ideal of metta into a reality
A friendly mind will never knowingly exploit another person.  As well as being a positive emotion, metta is an ethical quality that is based on the desire not to impose our will on others.  It is definitely a desire, a quality of the heart - it’s not a mere idea about love, or an unattainable, over - idealistic notion of `loving everyone'.  It is something that one actually feels, a tangible feeling that can influence one's whole attitude to life.  Essentially, metta arises out of the realization that everyone wants simply to be happy - whatever they seem to be doing, however good or evil they seem to be.  All beings are seeking happiness, even if they might often seek it in the wrong quarter.  Metta is therefore a strong desire for people to become truly happy.
This desire has to be genuine, of course.  It must be based on emotional truthfulness.  It is no use simply going around smiling all the time (though there's nothing wrong, in itself, with doing that - maybe it will help!).  What we need, and what other people need of us too, is metta which comes from the inside.  People can be suspicious of those they regard as nave, or as `do-gooders'.  Perhaps they were once hurt or let down by someone they trusted.  But perhaps we, too, can sometimes doubt the value of our development of metta.  Perhaps the deliberate attempt to change ourselves can seem unnatural, as though it were just a badge pinned on to our otherwise unchanged persona.
Real, deep change takes a long time, so your efforts may well seem superficial at first.  They will be superficial - but don't let that be a cause for self-doubt.  The process of spiritual change is happening outside our conscious control.  It is like a rock being gradually worn down by drops of water: by practising the meditation regularly we are gradually opening up to a new understanding of things.  Somewhere, we are questioning our habitual attitudes towards others, and this is where the deep changes, the changes that matter, are taking place.
For example, you may have your own feeling - perhaps not a very clear feeling - about what constitutes happiness.  But you cannot assume that you know what someone else needs in order to be happy.  If you really wanted someone to be happy, that would have to be on their terms, not yours.  But you may discover that you have a subtle vested interest in the other person's happiness - yet surely, ideally, you should simply want them to be happy, whether you will get something out of their happiness or not.  This sort of enquiry will probably reveal inner conflicts as paradoxical as a Zen koan.  But if you stay with the questions, you will eventually be transformed from within.  So keep practising!