I went to listen to the talk given by Sharon Salzberg at IDP. From the talk, I can see how the insight meditation can work. Here I want to talk a little of my personal take of it. For any practice, different people can have their personal interpretation of it, and the interpretation evolves as the practice matures. So please don’t be bound by my interpretation.
As Sharon said (forgive me if my quotation is not accurate), everyone has this original capacity for compassion. That capacity is always there, and we all have experience of it. But very often we block ourselves away from that capacity. So Insight Meditation, to me, is to practice being familiar with that capacity, and being able to manifest it or access it in daily life.
We all have the moments in our lives that we genuinely wish our parents or loved ones to be happy. And we swore to ourselves to work hard to make them happy. So these are things that we recognize as precious things in life. This, of course, is Buddhism’s teaching that life is precious. So with Insight Meditation, it is good to remind ourselves of these precious things.
Insight Meditation starts from wishing for yourself to be happy. Surely we need to wish for ourselves to be happy. If everyone can truly wish for his/her happiness, we won’t have so many problems. On the other hand, it is bizarre that people don’t want their own happiness. So there must be some conditioning. Then how should we resolve the conditioning?
By working with different people (friends, difficult people, strangers, community, all sentient being), we practice evoking that capacity in various situations and being familiar with various emotions associated with each. Then it will be easier to us to access them in daily life. There are many forces in life that tend to break us away from our source and cause the illusionary self to be generated. By being intimate with our source (e.g. that capacity for compassion), we are more able to withstand those forces in life and stick to what we consider as precious in life.
Metta is used to help focus the mind and not let the mind be scattered. This is similar to other techniques used in other lineages of Buddhism.
So I can see how Insight Meditation can be helpful for practice. Buddha taught many different paths for different people. Some people might be akin to a certain path. I can see how many people can be drawn to Insight Meditation.
Note: I only listed compassion here for convenience. All together Sharon listed four qualities of that original capacity.