“Rahula, practice loving-kindness to overcome anger. Loving-kindness has the capacity to bring happiness to others without demanding anything in return. Practice compassion to overcome cruelty. Compassion has the capacity to remove the suffering of others without expecting anything in return. Practice sympathetic joy to overcome hatred. Sympathetic joy arises when one rejoices over the happiness of others and wishes others well-being and success. Practice non-attachment to overcome prejudice. Non-attachment is the way of looking at all things openly and equally. This is because that is. Myself and others are not separate. Do not reject one thing only to chase after another. I call these the four immeasurables. Practice them and you will become a refreshing source of vitality and happiness for others.”
– Buddha speaking to his son, Rahula
Everyday is a new beginning. If for some reason you have lost momentum with your practice or even if you have dropped off, just remember that you can begin again. You can continue right where you left off or move on; you can even start over again if that feels right to you. This exploration is about cultivating loving-kindness and compassion. It is also about developing a daily meditation practice in a way that supports you where you are today.
During meditation, we use an anchor such as the breath or the phrases to bring us back to the present moment; we do this whenever we realize our mind has wandered. In the same way, when we realize we have gotten off track or missed a day or two or three of our practice, we simply return to it. We do this with gentleness and with love. We just notice we have gotten distracted and we return to the practice. Although our natural habitual tendency might be to move into self-judgment or harshness, we can choose to embrace our practice of loving-kindness by just noticing where we are and then gently and lovingly returning to our center.
Meditation offers us the opportunity to return to our center and to begin anew in every moment. Metta teaches us to be loving and compassionate with ourselves in our practice and in our daily life. Extend this gift of loving-kindness to yourself in the moment and explore what’s possible.
Today, we will work with the full practice, choosing one person for each of the categories. If for any reason this feels too much or is an obstacle to your practice, then just choose a few categories to work with. Begin your practice by setting an intention in a way that feels right for you. Recognize that you are practicing, not just for yourself and that the cultivation of loving-kindness is beneficial for all beings and for the world.
Do your foundational practices. Find a quiet place and a comfortable position. Imagine yourself in your circle of loving beings or enveloped in the feeling of loving-kindness. Imagine a time when you felt held in that way. Begin your practice by offering the Metta phrases for yourself.
- May I be happy.
- May I be peaceful.
- May I be free of suffering.
- May I have ease of well-being.
When you feel ready, move on to practicing for all of the categories or the ones you have chosen for today: Benefactor, Beloved, Neutral Being, Difficult Person and All Beings. Remember to come back to your heart center for a few moments between each category. Offer the phrases for each being you have chosen to work with today:
- May you be happy.
- May you be peaceful.
- May you be free from suffering.
- May you have ease of well-being.
As you become distracted or difficult feelings arise, use the Switchback, returning the practice to yourself until a sense of calm returns. When you feel ready, return the practice to where you left off. To complete your practice, return yourself to your circle of loving beings or envision yourself enveloped in the energy of loving-kindness and compassion that you have been cultivating. Really allow that feeling to sink in to you, let every atom and cell of your being be filled with loving-kindness and compassion
Daily Journal Reflection:
Take some time to reflect and journal about any experiences, feelings or awareness that arose during your practice or throughout the day today. How are you feeling about your practice? Can you approach your practice with gentleness and compassion rather than harshness or judgment? How does it feel to be cultivating a daily practice or exploring expanding in loving-kindness? Are you able to connect with your heart center more easily? If so, how does that feel? If not, what is getting in your way? Are you being gentle and loving with yourself in regards to your practice? in your life?
May you have a peaceful and happy day.