Day 23 ~ May Is For Metta 2015: Every Day Is A New Beginning

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“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.

Daily Practice: 

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.

Day 22 ~ May Is For Metta 2015: Planting Seeds Of Loving-kindness

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 “Hatred cannot coexist with loving-kindness,and

dissipates if supplanted with thoughts based on loving-kindness”. 

– Buddha

It is a natural aspect of life that we are troubled by difficult emotional states and often, we may find it difficult to deal with them.  However, even when the mind is troubled, it is within the capacity of each of us to arouse positive feelings.  The Buddha taught the practice of Metta meditation to develop the mental habit of loving-kindness and compassion for one’s self and others.

Loving-kindness is a practice which can bring about positive attitudinal changes.  It assists in developing a quality of loving acceptance.  This is a way of healing the mind and freeing it from pain and confusion.  Metta practice offers the immediate benefit of changing our habitual negative patterns present in the mind as well bringing about a positive outlook on life.

Sometimes the response to Metta is immediate; we begin to feel more loving-kindness and happiness right away.  Other times, we do the practice, and do it some more, and do not feel very different.  Still, even without feeling it, it is important to know that we are creating a positive change in our minds and our lives.  It is like planting a seed.  It takes time for the seed to develop and to begin to burst forth.  Think of Metta practice as planting seeds for the cultivation of loving-kindness and compassion in your life, your relationships and in the world.

One of the ways we can work with Metta is in response to things that happen in the world such as natural disasters, acts of violence or other tragedies that are happening in every moment.  Or, maybe there is someone we know personally who is suffering from a disease such as cancer or perhaps the loss of a loved one.  Regardless of the size or scope of the situation, what is happening is that we are becoming aware of suffering.  It is possible we may be unable to do something outwardly to help.  It is also possible we are having a strong or difficult reaction to this suffering.

Offering Metta in response to tragedy or to the awareness of another’s suffering is one of the great gifts of the practice.  We may or may not be able to do something outwardly, but inwardly we can generate loving-kindness and compassion for those in need.   So let’s take some time today in our practice to offer Metta to others around the world who are suffering.  Perhaps something you saw in the news today pulled at your heart-strings; this is a perfect opportunity to practice Metta.

Today, let’s work with the full practice and all 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.  Just take a few moments to breathe into your heart center and feel what is right for you today.

Daily Practice:  

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  in a time when you felt held in that way.  Then, begin your practice by offering the Metta phrases for yourself.

  • May I be happy.
  • May I be peaceful.
  • May I be free from 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.  Acknowledge that “just as I wish to be happy and free from suffering, so does this being wish to be happy and free from suffering.”  Then, move onto working with the phrases that feel best to you.

  • May you be happy.
  • May you be peaecful.
  • May you be free from suffering.
  • May you have ease of well-being.

If you become distracted at any point or difficult feelings arise, use the Switchback, returning your practice to yourself until a sense of calm returns.  Then, return your practice to where you left off.  When you are ready 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 into you, let every atom and cell of your being be filled with loving-kindness and compassion. Let this energy support you as you journey through the day.

Anytime you become aware of someone, somewhere in the world, or some group of people who are suffering, take a few moments to practice on the spot.  This is a gift to others and the world and to yourself as you are choosing to open your heart in a moment when it may feel like closing.  In offering loving-kindness and compassion, you are opening to receive it more deeply as well.  And, remember, each time that you practice Metta you are planting seeds of loving-kindness and compassion that can grow and flow where they are needed in the world.

At the beginning of our time, I offered that we would dedicate the merit of this practice to the people of Nepal and the the people of Baltimore as well as any other communities we feel to share our Metta with.  I invite you to take some time to do that day and additionally, for the benefit of all beings as in the words of Shantideva:

May the earth be wholesome everywhere
The world blessed with prosperity
May the poor and destitute find wealth
And the stooping animals be freed

May every being ailing with illness
Find relief at once from suffering
May all the sickness that afflict the living
Be instantly and permanently healed

May those who go in dread, have no more fear,
May captives be unchained and set free,
And may the weak now become strong,
May living beings help each other in kindness.

May travelers upon the road,
Find happiness no matter where they go,
And may they gain, without hardship,
The goals on which their hearts are set.

From the songs of birds and the sighing of trees,
From the shafts of light and from the sky itself,
May living beings, each and every one,
Perceive the constant sound of Dharma

– Shantideva

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 Metta practice?  Are you noticing a difference in how you feel or what you are experiencing?  If yes, what is that like?  If no, are you okay knowing you are planting seeds?  Do you think you may continue to practice Metta or daily meditation after the 31 days?  If so, what will that look like?  If not, what is stopping you?   Did you explore practicing on the spot?

May you be happy. May you be peaceful. May you be free of suffering. May you have ease of well-being.

Day 21 ~ May Is For Metta 2013: Walking Metta Meditation

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“In my room, the world is beyond my understanding; 

but when I walk I see that it consists of three or four hills and a cloud.”

– Walllace Stevens

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During our practice in 2010, one of our participants shared that she had incorporated her practice of Metta with walking meditation, which she usually did outside.  I have always found walking meditation to be very beneficial because it helps to develop a practice in a way that supports carrying it out into the world.  Living in New York City for a large part of my life, I found this practice very beneficial.  It was not possible to connect with the many people I saw everyday or even offer help to all of those I saw in need, but it was possible to offer loving-kindness and compassion.  I know this practice was something that helped me to have a much greater connection to the world around me as well as a deep sense of peace.

At the time of the Buddha, it was a traditional practice for the monks and nuns to practice the cultivation of loving-kindness meditation as they walked around.  As they went around town asking for food, they would radiate out loving-kindness and compassion to everyone they encountered on the streets.  Today, I encourage you to explore combining your Metta practice with walking meditation, either as a formal practice or just by going out for a walk.  In basic walking meditation, we hold our awareness on each step.  Stepping right, stepping left.  This is our anchor as the breath may be our anchor in other practices.  In working with Metta, be present with each step but continue to use the phrases as your anchor if your mind wanders or you become distracted.

This is a short video with Thich Nhat Hanh sharing about the practice of walking meditation and the importance of making peaceful, happy steps on the earth.  He quotes the Buddha as saying, “As you can make peaceful, happy steps on the earth, the earth can become the pureland.”  Take some time today to make peaceful, happy steps on the earth.

Daily Practice: 

Choose whether you want to do a sitting practice and then explore doing some Metta as you go for a walk.  Or, choose to incorporate your Metta practice with walking meditation.  You can choose to walk in a circle or perhaps find somewhere in nature where you can practice mindful walking.  Do your foundational practices.  Imagine yourself in the center of your circle of loving beings or just enveloped in the feeling of loving-kindness. 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 using the phrases that feel best to you. Try to take at least part of your practice out into the world, whether doing walking meditation, going for a walk or even while at the grocery store.  Explore extending Metta to people you see out in the world remembering that “just as you wish to be happy and peaceful, so does this being wish to have inner peace and joyfulness.”  Repeat the phrases:

  • May you be happy.
  • May you be peaceful.
  • May you be free of suffering.
  • May you have ease of well-being.

If you become distracted at any point or difficult feelings arise, use the Switchback, returning your practice to yourself until a sense of calm returns. Then, return your practice to where you left off.  When you are ready to complete your practice, return yourself to the 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.

When you feel complete with all of the categories you are practicing for today, dedicate the merit of your practice:

  • May all beings have happiness and it’s cause.
  • May all beings be free of suffering, joyous content and at ease.
  • May all beings be balanced in equanimity towards one and all.
  • May the merit of my practice be for my own benefit and for that of all sentient beings

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.   Did you explore combining Metta with walking meditation?  How did that feel?  How is your practice going?  Are you able to spend some time everyday in practice?  If yes, what are you noticing?  If not, what is stopping you?

May you all have a radiantly joyful day.

Namaste.

Day 20 ~ May Is For Metta 2015: Bringing Our Practice Together

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Ten Thousand flowers in spring, the moon 
in autumn,

A cool breeze in summer, snow in winter –

If your mind is not clouded by unnecessary things, 

this is the best season of your life.

~ Chinese Proverb

Today, we will continue our practice of Metta by working with all of the categories to experience the full practice of Metta.   If for some reason this feels too much, just choose a few to work with for today.  A question arose about the phrases, which I have been exploring and pondering during this year’s practice.   The question had to do with the difference between the Metta phrases and affirmations and wondering why not to use statements like, “I am happy, I am peaceful, I am free of suffering, etc.” rather than “May I be…”.   I am sure there are some complex answers to this question and yet, the simple one that has arisen is that rather than affirming, when we use the Metta phrases we are inviting those qualities to begin to arise.  We may not be that in this moment, but we are inviting the qualities of loving-kindness and compassion to arise within us and then offering that they arise for others in the same way.  It feels like there is some fertile ground for exploration and discussion of this topic, so feel free to comment on the post here or drop a note on our on Facebook page with your reflections on the phrases.

Also, I came across this explanation of what Metta “is not” on the Wildmind Buddhist Meditation website, which feels like it may be helpful:

  • Metta isn’t the same thing as feeling good, although when we feel metta we do feel more complete, and usually feel more joyful and happy.  But it’s possible to feel good and for that not to be metta. We can feel good, but be rather selfish and inconsiderate, for example.  Metta has a quality of caring about others.
  • Metta isn’t self-sacrifice.  A metta-full individual is not someone who always puts others before themselves.  Metta has a quality of appreciation, and we need to learn to appreciate ourselves as well as others.
  • Metta isn’t something unknown.  We all experience Metta.  Every time you feel pleasure in seeing someone do well, or are patient with someone who’s a bit difficult, or are considerate and ask someone what they think, you’re experiencing Metta.
  • Metta isn’t denying your experience.  To practice Metta doesn’t mean “being nice” in a false way.  It means that even if you don’t like someone, you can still have their welfare at heart.
  • Metta isn’t all or nothing.  Metta exists in degrees, and can be expressed in such simple ways as simple as politeness and courtesy.

As we work with the phrases, it is good to find ones that work for us and also, to explore the ones we struggle with.  It’s all about being open to our experience and what is arising in each moment within ourselves.  Really, the phrases are merely translating the energetic quality of loving-kindness and compassion into language and so if you find yourself struggling with a phrase, it may be helpful to return to a time when you felt that energy or imagine yourself again in your circle of loving beings.

Daily Practice: 

Once again, find a comfortable position.  Do your foundational practices.  Imagine yourself in the center of a circle of loving beings or just enveloped in the feeling of loving-kindness.  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: Benefactor, Beloved, Neutral Being, Difficult Person and All Beings.  Or, if you prefer, choose a few categories to work with today.  You may even want to offer Metta for more than one person in a particular category.  Be open to exploring what feels good to you, but also consider exploring the full practice today or tomorrow just to see how it feels to work with all of the categories. There is a wonderful opportunity to explore how we respond to others and the world as we work with the various categories and sometimes it is helpful to flow through the full practice to see where we experience openness and spaciousness and where our resistance resides.

During your practice, if you become distracted at any point or difficult feelings arise, use the switch back, returning your practice to yourself until a sense of calm returns.  Then, return your practice to the category where you left off. When you are ready to complete your practice, return yourself to the 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.

When you feel complete with all of the categories you are practicing for today, dedicate the merit of your practice:

  • May all beings have happiness and it’s cause.
  • May all beings be free of suffering, joyous content and at ease.
  • May all beings be balanced in equanimity towards one and all.
  • May the merit of my practice be for my own benefit and for that of all sentient beings

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.   Are you noticing openness or resistance to certain phrases?  Have you found phrases that feel good to you?  How does it feel to do a more expanded practice?  Are you able to make the time and space to practice?  Are you remembering to be gentle and loving with yourself?

May you all have a peaceful and loving day.

Namaste.

Beth

Day 19 ~ May Is For Metta 2015: Expanding Our Metta To All Beings

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Let thoughts of loving-kindness pervade the whole world, above and below, outwards and unbounded, free from any hatred or ill-will.  Whether standing or walking, sitting or lying down, during all one’s waking hours, tend this mind of goodwill, which is called the state of sublime abiding.

– The Buddha, Sutta Nipata

The Buddha taught that loving-kindness practice is central to happiness.  The practice of Metta is very positive and as we have touched on earlier, really means cultivating a deep “friendliness” toward ourselves, others and all beings.  Sometimes people think these feelings should arise naturally or spontaneously rather than being generated.  The Buddha shared that there is a need to cultivate these qualities.  He taught that achieving this state, know as sublime abiding, where heart and mind are one, does come from a heavenly state, however it is something we must invite into ourselves and our lives.  In a sense, by working with the energies and qualities of loving-kindness and compassion, we are activating that part of our divinity.

Today, we will continue our practice with groups of beings and the category of All Beings.  We will also add one or two of the individual categories to the practice before we bring the full practice together tomorrow.  

Daily Practice:  

As always, we begin by cultivating loving-kindness and compassion for ourselves.  Find a comfortable position.  Imagine yourself in the center of a circle of loving beings or enveloped in the feeling of loving-kindness.  Begin your practice by offering the Metta phrases for yourself:

  • May I be free from danger.
  • May I have mental happiness.
  • May I have physical happiness.
  • May I have ease of well-being.

When you feel ready, choose one category, either a Benefactor/Mentor or a Beloved to work with.  Envision holding this being in loving-kindness and compassion.  Say to yourself, “Just as I wish to be happy and peaceful, so does this being wish for joy and serenity.”  Begin to offer phrases for the person you have chosen:

  • May you be free from danger.
  • May you have mental happiness.
  • May you have physical happiness.
  • May you have ease of well-being.

When you feel ready, come back to your heart center and repeat a round of phrases for yourself.  Then, choose either a Neutral being or a Difficult person to work with.  Envision holding this being in loving-kindness and compassion.   Begin to offer phrases for this person, saying, “Just as I wish to be happy and peaceful, so does this being wish for joy and serenity.”   Repeat the phrases for this being:

  • May you be free from danger.
  • May you have mental happiness.
  • May you have physical happiness.
  • May you have ease of well-being.

Again, when you feel ready to move on, come back to your heart center for a few moments and repeat a round of phrases for yourself.  This time call on a group of All Beings, such as All Children, All Animals, All Men, or All Women.  Say to yourself, “Just as I wish to be happy and peaceful, so do All ______  wish for joy and serenity.”  Begin to offer loving-kindness to this group by offering the phrases:

  • May All _______ be free from danger.
  • May All _______ have mental happiness.
  • May All _______ have physical happiness.
  • May All _______ have ease of well-being.

As always, if your mind wanders, just notice and return to the phrases.  If you continue to struggle or difficult emotions arise, return your practice to your self until your feel more settled.  When you feel ready, once again offer the phrases for your group.  If working with a large group is too difficult, you can always choose a smaller group, like your family or a community you are a part of.  Sometimes it is more challenging to hold our focus and awareness on a larger group of beings, particularly spread out around the world.

When you feel ready to move on, center in your heart once again.  Connect with the loving-kindness within your self.  Say to yourself, “Just as I wish to be happy and peaceful, so do All Beings wish for joy and serenity.”  And, gently begin to repeat the phrases for All Beings:

  • May All Beings be free from danger.
  • May All Beings have mental happiness.
  • May All Beings have physical happiness.
  • May All Beings have ease of well-being.

If at any point you need to return the practice to yourself, or perhaps return to a smaller group, do so.   Being gentle and responsive to yourself is one of the gifts of Metta practice.  We notice our difficulty or resistance, but rather than ignoring it or trying to push through it, we return to our own heart and to cultivating loving-kindness for ourselves.  It can be helpful to reflect on or journal about what difficulties arise as they are indication of things we need to work on in ourselves.  When you feel complete with your practice, return yourself to your circle of loving beings or envision yourself enveloped in the loving-kindness and compassion that you have been cultivating.  Allow that feeling to sink in to you, let every atom and cell of your being to absorb the energy of loving-kindness.  Take a few moments to reflect on your practice.

Dedicate the merit of your practice for all beings.  Consider all of the beings you have practiced for today and offer the merit of your practice for their benefit.  Remember that as you offer up the merit of your practice, you are not giving it away or losing it but you are actually generating more merit through the act of giving.

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.  Did you have difficult feelings or emotions arise during your practice?  If so, spend some time writing about them.  What did you notice in practicing for various categories of individuals and groups?  Were some more difficult than others?  Were some easier?  How are you feeling about your practice overall?  Is there anything you’d like to change about it for the rest of our time together? This can be a good time to review your commitment to see if you’d like to make any changes.

May the road rise up to meet you,

May the wind be always at your back,

May the sun shine warm upon your face,

And the rain fall soft upon your fields,

And until we meet again,

May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.

– An Irish Blessing

 

Day 18 ~ May Is For Metta 2015: Offering Loving-Kindness For All Beings

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“How and why we love changes the qualities of our love.  Love with loving-kindness transforms the love into a nectar of wisdom.  Love with attachment transforms love into poison, into a state of afflicting emotions.  Therefore, we must recognize the characteristics of the love that is loving-kindness and how to generate it in ourselves.  Gampopa, one of the greatest masters of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism, wrote:

‘The object of the meditation on loving-kindness is all beings.  The way is wishing them to have happiness.  The formula is thinking about the kindness of beings, since generation of loving-kindness depends on the remembrance of the kindness of beings’.”

– Tulku Thondup

Having worked with the various individual categories, we are ready to move on to the category of All Beings.  The overall intention here is to offer our practice for the benefit of all beings without exception.  This expansion allows us an opportunity to move beyond separateness and creates a place for us to connect with all that is.  It is here that we plant the seeds for the foundation of a deeper spiritual awakening.  As we acknowledge the interconnectedness of all things through our practice, we begin to embody this awareness in all of our experiences.

Initially, it can be difficult to work with the vastness of All Beings. This category can include All Beings but can also be for specific groups of beings, such as all animals, all children, all of our sangha (spiritual community), etc.  Today, we will explore expanding our practice out from a single being to groups of beings and then to All Beings.  One of the difficulties that can emerge, in working with All Beings, in addition to the challenge of holding the image of a vast group, is that we can have mixed feeling about all beings.  We do so by focusing on finding that kindness in all beings which is contained in the very essence of our being, our Buddha nature.  As in all the categories, this one takes us below the surface to the deeper essence of our existence.

Daily Practice: 

As always, we begin by cultivating loving-kindness and compassion for ourselves.  Find a comfortable position.  Imagine yourself in the center of a circle of loving beings or enveloped in the feeling of loving-kindness. Begin your practice by offering the Metta phrases for yourself:

  • May I be free from danger.
  • May I have mental happiness.
  • May I have physical happiness.
  • May I have ease of well-being.

When you feel ready, choose a small group at first, perhaps your family, a group of friends or a smaller community you are part of.  Envision holding this group of beings in loving-kindness and compassion.  You might like to imagine they are in a circle receiving loving-kindness.  Begin to offer phrases for your group.  You can choose whether you would like to include yourself in the group:

  • May you/we be free from danger.
  • May you/we have mental happiness.
  • May you/we have physical happiness.
  • May you/we have ease of well-being.

When you feel ready to move on to the next group, come back to your heart center for a few moments and repeat a round of phrases for yourself.  Next, begin to offer loving-kindness to our virtual sangha, the May is for Metta community.  Know there are people all around the globe participating in various ways.  Some of these include the United States, Singapore, India, the Netherlands, Spain, Australia, Germany, Canada, France, Malaysia, South Africa, Greece, New Zealand, Ireland, Germany, Thailand, the United Kingdom, Mauritius, the United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong, Belgium, Korea and more.  Just imagine if you can that we are all sitting together in a circle or see us spread out like lights of loving-kindness all around the world.  Begin to offer the phrases for our group knowing that as you do we are shining the light of loving-kindness and compassion around the world.

  • May we be free from danger.
  • May we have mental happiness.
  • May we have physical happiness.
  • May we have ease of well-being.

As always, if your mind wanders, just notice and return to the phrases.  If you continue to struggle or difficult emotions arise, return your practice to your self until your feel more settled.  When you feel ready, once again offer the phrases for our group.  Remember to be gentle with yourself as we expand our practice out to larger groups of beings.  Sometimes it is more challenging to hold our focus and awareness on a larger group.  When you feel ready to move on, center yourself in your heart once again.  Connect with the loving-kindness within.  And begin to repeat the phrases for All Beings:

  • May all beings be free from danger.
  • May all beings have mental happiness.
  • May all beings have physical happiness.
  • May all beings have ease of well-being.

If at any point you need to, return the practice to yourself, or perhaps choose a smaller group, such as all animals or all children.  We will explore working with the category of All Beings in a variety of ways as we proceed with our practice, so be gentle as we begin.  When you feel complete with your practice, return yourself to your circle of loving beings or envision yourself enveloped in loving-kindness and compassion that you have been cultivating.  Allow that feeling to sink in to you, let every atom and cell of your being to absorb the energy of loving-kindness.

Take a few moments to dedicate the merit of your practice for all beings.  Consider all of the beings you have practiced for today and offer the merit of your practice for their benefit.  Know that as you offer up the merit of your practice, you are not giving it away or losing it but you are actually generating more merit through the act of giving.

Daily Journal Reflection:

What did you notice about expanding your Metta practice to multiple beings, groups and All Beings? Was it harder or easier than other categories?  Are you remembering to be gentle and loving with yourself?  Have you explored using Metta as difficult feeling arise as throughout your day?

May we have a day filled with peace, harmony and beauty.

Namaste.

Beth

Day 17 ~ May Is For Metta 2015: A Path To Oneness

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“I am larger and better than I thought,

I did not think I had so much goodness.”

– Walt Whitman

Today, we will continue our practice of Metta by working with all of the categories we have worked with so far or by choosing a few we feel to work with today.  It’s your practice, so it’s up to you.  As we proceed over the rest of our month-long practice of Metta we will explore working in various ways including the full practice.  Some days you may feel to do the full practice; others you may feel to do just a few of the categories.  There may be some days when you feel to return your practice solely to yourself to deepen your experience of loving-kindness and compassion.  We will continue to explore together and I encourage you to explore on your own as well.

The practice of Metta is about opening one’s heart and inviting loving-kindness and compassion to become a guiding force in life.  We cannot control what happens in the world, in our day-to-day experiences or in our relationships.  The only thing that we can do is create change in ourselves and in our attitude toward life.  Instead of responding from a place of reaction, we can arrive with tenderness and an open heart.  When we have uncomfortable feelings arise, we can embrace them with loving-kindness and compassion or we can just be with them.  Either way, we can do so in a way that is gentle and loving to ourselves.

Many of us have been taught to put up walls, sometimes fortresses, around ourselves as a mechanism for survival and protection.  Creating this type of container may have afforded us some basic protection when we had no other tools but it also limited our ability to experience love on a deeper level.  In practicing Metta, we begin by cultivating loving-kindness and compassion for ourselves.  As we do this, we begin to melt away some of those walls.  Then, we extend the energy of loving-kindness out to others and the world.  We recognize that all beings wish to be happy as we wish to be happy. We begin to not only sense, but also experience that we are all the same, that we are one.

As you practice today, I encourage you to allow yourself to feel that sense of connection and oneness.  Also, as you go about your day, if you encounter a person or situation which triggers you to put up walls or to feel you are separate or different, explore practicing Metta in that moment – first, for yourself and then, for the others involved. Remind yourself that just as you wish to be happy, all other beings wish to be happy.

Daily Practice:

Do your foundational practices.  Once again, find a comfortable position.  Imagine yourself in the center of a circle of loving beings or just enveloped in the feeling of loving-kindness. Begin your practice by offering the Metta phrases for yourself:

  • May I have mental happiness.
  • May I have physical happiness.
  • 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 we have worked with or the ones you have chosen for today using the phrases that feel best to you.  Here is a list of the categories we have worked with:

  • Self
  • Benefactor/Mentor
  • Beloved – Family Member or Good Friend
  • Neutral Being
  • Difficult Person

As you begin each category, acknowledge that just as you wish to be happy and peaceful, so does this being whom you are practicing for as do all beings.  Then, generate the feelings of loving-kindness for the person or being in that category.  Offer the phrases you have been working with:

  • May you have mental happiness.
  • May you have physical happiness.
  • May you be free of suffering.
  • May you have ease of well-being.

If you become distracted at any point or difficult feelings arise, use the Switchback, returning your practice to yourself until a sense of calm returns.  Then, return your practice to the category where you left off.  When you feel complete with a category, come back to your own heart center for a moment and reconnect with the energy of loving-kindness and compassion.  When you are ready, call on the image of the being or person you will offer Metta for in the next category of your practice.  Each time you complete a category, come back to your heart center for a few moments and then move onto the next category.

As I indicated, you can work with all of the categories above or just choose a few for today.  We will add the category of All Beings tomorrow.  Also, if you don’t feel to do all the categories as part of your sitting practice, you can work with them during the day as you are out and about in the world.  And remember, if you don’t have the time or space for a sitting practice right now, you can always do your whole Metta practice out in the world – Anytime, Anywhere!

When you are ready to complete your practice, return to your circle of loving beings or see yourself enveloped in the energy of loving-kindness and compassion that you have been cultivating.  Really allow that feeling to sink into you.  Let every atom and cell of your being absorb loving-kindness and compassion. Take a few moments to dedicate the merit of your practice for the benefit of your self, others and all beings.

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.  Are you noticing more openness or resistance to certain categories?  Have you found phrases that feel good to you?  How does it feel to do a more expanded practice?  Are you able to make the time and space to practice? Are you exploring Metta in your daily life?  Are you remembering to be gentle and loving with yourself?

May you all have happy and fun-filled day.

Namaste.

Beth

Day 16 of May Is For Metta 2015 ~ Loving-kindness For A Difficult Person

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“Hatred can never cease by hatred.

Hatred can only cease by love.

This is an eternal law.”

– Buddha

Today, we will continue our practice of Metta for the category of a Difficult person.  Consider someone who you have a deeper degree of difficulty with but not the most severe of challenges.  Perhaps, there is an ongoing situation, which you cannot change outwardly.  Maybe, yesterday or even today, you had an interaction that is causing you frustration, annoyance, or anger.  Perhaps you are holding a long-term resentment toward someone and your mind is not able to let go.   Metta offers an opportunity to work with what is arising both in the moment and what is an ongoing thread in our life experience.  We can utilize our practice to assist in transforming our attitude from the negative to the positive whenever we choose to.

If you find that you struggle sending loving-kindness to your Difficult person, you may wish to imagine them as vulnerable.  Perhaps as a helpless infant or someone who is on their death-bed.  Allow yourself to feel their fragility rather than their harshness, which is a trigger for you.  Allow yourself to feel this being’s humanness.  Depending on the person or situation, this may be hard to do, but remember that in some way they are suffering, too. There’s actually a very good chance that what makes this person “difficult” is coming from their own unresolved pain and suffering and somehow triggering those vulnerable places within you.  

In many spiritual traditions and healing practices, it is understood that the world is a mirror.  Your outer world is seen as a reflection of your inner world.  So, in a sense, if you did not have something that is connected to this “difficult” person, there would be no reason for you to have a reaction.  Just consider this.  On a very deep level (one that embraces the interconnectedness of all things) know that as you are willing to offer Metta to this difficult person, you are also offering to what we might call the shadow, the part of ourselves that we reject and don’t want to accept or see.  This might no always be the case, but it is something else to explore as you practice.  And, remember is you are struggling in any way, you can always return  your practice back to yourself!

Daily Practice:  

Do your foundational practices.  Get comfortable and settle into your breath.  Spend a few moments centering on your heart.  Imagine yourself sitting in your circle of loving beings.  Allow yourself to absorb the energy of loving-kindness and compassion into your heart and into every atom and cell of your being.  Begin to send Metta to yourself by using the phrases you have been working with:

  • May I be happy.
  • May I be peaceful.
  • May I be free from suffering.
  • May I have ease of well-being.

When you feel immersed in loving-kindness, bring an image of the Difficult person you will work with into your awareness.  Begin by saying to yourself, “Just as I wish to be peaceful and free from suffering, may you also be peaceful and free from suffering.”  Then, repeat the phrases while holding the image of the Difficult person in your mind:

  • May you be happy.
  • May you be peaceful.
  • May you be free from suffering.
  • May you have ease of well-being.

Accept the feelings that arise for you and let them move through.  You may feel anger, frustration, sadness or grief ~  just let it flow.  If at any point, the feelings become overwhelming, switch back to practicing for your self.  You may wish to ask yourself, “Who is the one suffering from this anger or sadness?”  You are the one who is holding onto this feeling, the other person has most likely moved on.  Begin to let these emotions go to ease your own heart.  When you feel ready, return your practice to the difficult person until you feel complete.

Finish your practice by returning to your heart center or circle of loving beings.  Offer a few rounds of phrases for your self for your willingness to be present and work with difficult feelings and resistance.  When you are complete with your practice, take a few moments to dedicate the merit for the benefit of all who are suffering, yourself and your Difficult person included.  Use the words that feel right to you.

Daily Journal Reflection:

What are you noticing about practicing Metta for a Difficult person?  Was it any different today?  Are you able to let go of difficult feelings that you are holding onto?  If so, how does that feel?  If not, why are you still holding on? How is practicing Metta affecting your daily life?

I thank all of you for participating with me in this journey of Metta.  Our virtual Sangha or community is worldwide; the loving-kindness and compassion we are generating is universal!

May you have a day filled with inner peace and calm.

Namaste.

Day 15 ~ May Is For Metta 2015: Loving-kindness For A Difficult Person

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“Metta is also called a paritta — a spiritual formula capable of safeguarding one’s well-being, protecting one against all dangers and rescuing one from mishaps and misfortunes.  When the monks could not stay and meditate in that beautiful forest provided with all facilities because the deities were hostile to them, they had to leave the place.  And when they were armed with the protection of the Metta Sutta, which they recited and meditated upon throughout their journey, by the time they reached the place, the deities were full of friendly feelings and already waiting for them.  Hostility had been turned into hospitality.”

–  Acharya Buddharakkhita

Today, we will move our practice of Metta to the category of a Difficult being, referred to in traditional Buddhist texts as the “Enemy”.  At the most basic level, the Difficult person is someone we find it difficult to like or feel kindly toward.  This is someone who we may have negative feelings toward or we find that they challenge us in some way.  There are varying degrees of difficulty and this is something we will explore as part of the practice.  This category offers us the opportunity to go to a deeper place within ourselves as we work to evoke and hold loving-kindness for someone who may have hurt us in some way, whom we have resistance towards and whose image stirs negativity in us.

When choosing a Difficult person, you can choose someone you have mildly difficult feelings about or a real “enemy” with whom you have experienced true problems.  It may be someone whom you find unpleasant, frightening, or annoying.  The Difficult person can include someone who is hostile toward you or someone toward whom you have hostility.  In the beginning, it is best to choose someone to work with who you find is only mildly difficult rather than someone who stirs up very strong emotions; this helps to expand your ability to generate loving-kindness.  Later, when you have practiced offering loving-kindness toward a mildly difficult person then you can expand your practice to increasingly difficult people.

Daily Practice: 

Do your foundational practices.  Get comfortable and settle into your breath.  Spend a few moments centering on your heart.  Imagine yourself sitting in a circle surrounded by loving beings.  By now you should have a clear sense of how to begin your practice.  If you need to, you can always return to Days 1 – 7 to deepen your foundation in loving-kindness practice for yourself.  Then, begin to send Metta to yourself by repeating the phrases.

  • May I be happy.
  • May I be peaceful.
  • May I be free from suffering.
  • May I have ease of well-being.

When you feel immersed in the energy of loving-kindness for yourself, bring an image of the Difficult person you will work with into your awareness.  Remind yourself that this person, although difficult, is also struggling to find his or her way in life and in the process, is causing you discomfort.  Begin by saying to yourself, “Just as I wish to be peaceful and free from suffering, may you also find inner peace and calm.”  Then, begin repeating the phrases while holding the image of the difficult person in your mind:

  • May you be happy.
  • May you be peaceful.
  • May you be free from suffering.
  • May you have ease of well-being.

It is natural for feelings of resistance, aversion, anger, guilt, and discomfort to arise.  Sometimes the phrases seem weak in comparison to these strong emotions.  If you are struggling with your own emotions, try to name the emotion you are feeling, such as sadness or anger.  Take a few moments to practice compassion for yourself using the phrases and when you begin to feel more settled, then return your practice to the Difficult person.  Use the Switchback as often as you need to maintain an overall feeling of loving-kindness and compassion.  If it feels too much to practice for a difficult person, trying moving to another category that we have worked with and then move back to the difficult person when you feel to.

Practice as long as you feel to or have committed to for today.  When you feel complete, return to your heart center.  Spend a few moments reflecting on your practice.  Notice how it felt to connect with and offer loving-kindness to a Difficult person.  Spend a few moments dedicating the merit of your practice for your own benefit and for that of all sentient beings.  Do this in a way that feels appropriate for you.

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 was your experience practicing Metta for a Difficult person?  Was it harder than the other categories?  Did you have difficulty choosing or holding a Difficult person in your awareness?  Are you using the Switchback when you need to?  Are you continuing to be gentle and loving with yourself in your practice?  And, in your daily life?  If so, how does that feel?  If not, what is getting in the way?

May you have a beautiful and peaceful day.

Namaste.

Beth

Day 14 ~ May Is For Metta 2015: Loving-kindness For Neutral Beings

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“Loving-kindness meditation accords with zen’s Bodhisattva vow, in confirming that our awakening is mutually grounded in the interdependence of all beings, rather than being a self-centered endeavor.  Loving-kindness is sometimes misconstrued as an attempt to conjure up good feelings, or to see ourselves as loving or kind.  However, its function is to invite the awakening of compassion and empathy, aspects of our being.”

Elizabeth Hamilton

Today, we will continue our practice of Metta for Neutral beings.   As the neutral person is not so “real’ to us, it is often harder to elicit feelings for this person.  For this reason, it can be helpful to work with the same neutral person for a few days.   Sometimes, people feel bored with this category, as there is not as much emotional charge as with a friend or enemy.  It may be harder to hold one’s attention on the neutral person.  Staying attentive can be a challenge in Metta as well as during meditation practice in general.  However, we are working to focus our awareness.  This practice offers a wonderful opportunity to stay present with our experience, bringing our attention and consciousness to a place where we may often be inattentive and unconscious.

Choose two or three Neutral beings to work with.  You may do this as part of a sitting practice and/or explore using Metta when you are out and about in the world.  When you are on the street, in the store, or at the gym, try choosing a Neutral person you see and silently say the phrases for this person.  Yesterday, one of our participants shared about offering Metta to the other drivers she passed on the road and noticed more peaceful and less frustrated she felt during her commute.  This practice is an opportunity to offer loving-kindness and support to someone without needing to take outward action.  It is an inner offering and it is a way we can bring more loving-kindness and compassion into the world.  And, it is a way we can shift our own experience from negative to positive, from judgement to acceptance and from frustration to inner peace.  

Daily Practice:  

Do your foundational practices. Begin to cultivate loving-kindness for yourself by connecting with your heart or imagining yourself in your circle of loving beings.  Offer Metta to yourself by using the phrases you have been working with:

  • May I be happy.
  • May I be peaceful.
  • May I be free of suffering.
  • May I have ease of well-being.

When you feel immersed in the energy of loving-kindness for yourself, bring the image of a Neutral person into your awareness.  Once you have called this person to mind, allow yourself to make a heart connection with this person.  Perhaps send some of the loving-kindness you have cultivated from your heart to their heart center.  Notice how it feels to offer loving-kindness to a Neutral being.  Say inwardly, “Just as I wish to be happy and free from suffering, may you be happy and free from suffering.”  Then, begin repeating the phrases for this Neutral person:

  • May you be happy.
  • May you be peaceful.
  • May you be free of suffering.
  • May you have ease of well-being.

Just notice what arises as you practice.  If your mind wanders or thoughts arise, bring your awareness back to the neutral person and continue repeating the phrases.  As always, if difficult emotions or distractions dominate your attention, return to your heart center, repeating the phrases for yourself until you feel clearer and calmer.  When  you feel to, return your practice to the neutral person.  Continue on to one or two other Neutral beings.  Remember you can also take your practice with you as you go about your day.

Practice as long as you feel to or have committed to for today.  When you feel complete, return to your heart center.  Spend a few moments reflecting on your practice.  Notice how it felt to connect with Neutral beings.  Part of our practice is experiencing the relationship that we have with all beings; this is part of being human, being alive and living on Earth at this time.  We share a common experience whether we know each other or not.  Metta offers an opportunity to acknowledge and honor our interconnectedness with all beings on a deeper and more conscious level.

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 has it been to practice Metta for Neutral beings?  Did you practice for someone as you went about your day?  Are you continuing to be gentle and loving with yourself?  Have you noticed any difference in your sense of connection to self, others and the world since you began your Metta practice?

May you have a joyful day.

Namaste. 

Beth

Day 13 ~ May Is For Metta 2015: Loving-kindness For A Neutral Being

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“My religion is very simple.  My religion is kindness.”

~ H.H. Dalai Lama

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Today, we will move our practice of Metta to the category of a Neutral being.  This category is the beginning of expanding our practice from our circle of connection to the broader field of all beings.  Here, with the Neutral person, we begin to practice for those we don’t have a personal relationship with, knowing that they, too, deserve happiness as all beings do.

In this stage, we cultivate loving-kindness for a Neutral being; this is someone we have no strong feelings towards.  This person is not a friend, nor are we in conflict with them.  We simply feel neutral towards them.  Most likely, the majority of people we encounter in life fall into this category.  As we walk along the streets or go shopping, we encounter so many people that there is a tendency to put our emotions in neutral and in a sense ignore those who are around us.  It is not always possible to have a real emotional relationship or connection with everyone we meet, particularly when we live in high population areas.  In this part of the practice, we learn to focus our attention on those beings that we tend to have no specific feelings for and may not even notice.

Living a large portion of my life in New York City, I learned to tune out a lot of what was going on around me.  In many ways, it was a necessary life skill to function on a daily basis and not feel overwhelmed by so much energy and activity.  It was also a great place to cultivate a practice of Metta as it afforded me the opportunity to connect inwardly and offer loving-kindness when I could not connect outwardly.  Practicing Metta offers a powerful way to create connection with what is going around us in a more energetic way, within the container of our own experience.

Working with the category of a Neutral person opens a doorway to relating more to the world and the people who are around us on a daily basis.  It helps to bring us into greater awareness in those spaces where we may tend to check out or become less conscious. This is one of the great gifts of this part of the practice.  On one level we are practicing offering loving-kindness for the neutral person; on another, we are accessing a place where we often move into “neutrality” and instead are becoming more conscious and awake.

Daily Practice: 

Do your foundational practices. Once again, we begin by cultivating loving-kindness and compassion for our own self as the foundation for offering it to others.  Get comfortable and settle into your breath.  Spend a few moments centering on your heart.  Imagine yourself sitting in a circle surrounded by loving beings.  They may be ones you actually know or those who you imagine are loving.  Allow yourself to feel enveloped in this love.  Begin to send Metta to yourself by using the phrases you have been working with:

  • May I be happy.
  • May I be peaceful.
  • May I be free of suffering.
  • May I have ease of well-being.

When you feel immersed in the energy of loving-kindness and compassion, invite the image of a Neutral being into your mind.  Pick someone you just happened to notice as you went about your day today or yesterday, perhaps the cashier at the supermarket, someone you passed on the street, or the person sitting across from you on the subway or bus.  The neutral person is not someone you like or dislike; you have no specific feelings for this person.  Once you have called this person to mind, begin by saying inwardly, “Just as I wish to be happy and free from suffering, may you be happy and free from suffering.”  Then, begin repeating the phrases for this Neutral person:

  • May you be happy.
  • May you be peaceful.
  • May you be free of suffering.
  • May you have ease of well-being.

Notice what arises as you practice.  If your mind wanders or thoughts arise, just bring your awareness back to the Neutral person and continue repeating the phrases.  As always, if difficult emotions dominate your attention, re-center yourself in loving-kindness and repeat the phrases for yourself until you feel clearer and calmer.  Then, return your practice to the Neutral person.

Practice as long as you feel to or have committed to for today.  When you feel complete, return to your heart center.  Spend a few moments reflecting on your practice.  Notice how it felt to connect with a Neutral person.  For some, this category is more difficult.  This category is one that can easily be applied to our daily life.  I hope you will explore working with it in your sitting practice and as you go about your day.

Take a few moments to dedicate the merit of your practice asking that it benefit your self, others and all beings without exception.

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 did it feel to practice Metta for a Neutral person?  Was it different from practicing for your self, a benefactor or a Beloved?  How is your practice going?  Are you able to continue making some time everyday to sit or practice in some way?  If not, what is stopping you?  What is your commitment to yourself right now in terms of making time to bring more loving-kindness into your life?   Take some time to reflect on your experience so far.  Jot down anything you have noticed and any insight you have gained.

Wishing you a day filled with peace, happiness and ease of well-being.

Namaste.

Beth

Day 12 ~ May Is For Metta 2015: Loving-kindness For Self, Benefactor & Beloved

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“The sojourn of the soul is a thrilling divine romance in which the lover, who in the beginning is conscious of nothing but emptiness…gradually attains an increasingly fuller and freer expression of love, and ultimately disappears and merges in the divine Beloved.”

~ Meher Baba

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With each moment that we practice Metta, we are deepening in our ability to experience and express love.  Now that we have experience practicing for three categories – Self, Benefactor and Beloved, we will begin to explore bringing the practice together.  As we continue to practice, we begin to deepen in our ability to connect with essence of loving-kindness and the divinity within all beings.  The words of Meher Baba really speak to this journey so beautifully.  Through our practice of Metta, we are entering into a relationship with our divine essence.

Daily Practice: 

Do your foundational practices.  Continue until you feel the energy of loving-kindness arising in yourself.  Take some time to offer the Metta phrases to yourself.

  • May I be happy.
  • May I be peaceful.
  • May I free of suffering.
  • May I have ease of well-being.

Then, when you feel ready, bring an image of a Benefactor, a mentor, teacher, grandparent, loving animal or place in nature, into your mind.  Begin to offer loving-kindness to this being.  Before you begin the phrases offer, “Just as I wish to be happy and free from suffering, may you be happy and free from suffering.”  Then, begin repeating the phrases for your Benefactor:

  • May you be happy.
  • May you be peaceful.
  • May you be free of suffering.
  • May you have ease of well-being.

Practice for a few minutes for the Benefactor and then move onto the category of the Beloved.  Invite an image of your Beloved, a close friend or family member into your mind.  Hold them in your heart and offer this, “Just as I wish to be happy and free from suffering, may you be happy and free from suffering.”  Then, begin to repeat the phrases for your Beloved:

  • May you be happy.
  • May you be peaceful.
  • May you be free of suffering.
  • May you have ease of well-being.

Remember, if you are struggling with the practice or having difficult feelings arise, you can always return the practice to yourself for a few moments.  Then, when you feel to go back to whichever category you were working with.  Just call that being back into your mind and heart and continue your practice.  Practice as long as you feel to or have committed to for today.  

Dedicate the merit of your practice offering that the benefit is for self, others and that of all beings without exception as we did yesterday:

  • May all beings have happiness and it’s cause.
  • May all beings be free of suffering, joyous content and at ease.
  • May all beings be balanced in equanimity towards one and all.
  • May the merit of my practice be for my own benefit and for that of all sentient beings.

Another way to do this is to say a prayer at the end of your practice in whatever manner or tradition feels best for you.

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 did it feel to work with a number of the categories?  What did you notice?  Are you remembering to return to yourself when you need to?  How are you feeling about your practice or exploration of Metta overall?

May your day be filled with sunshine and happiness.

Namaste.

Beth

Day 11 ~ May Is For Metta 2015: Offering Loving-kindness To A Beloved

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“The light of loving-kindness can be compared to that of the stars, the sun, or the moon.  It shines on all loving beings everywhere, encompassing them all without exception or bias.”

– Excerpt from Living With Your Heart Wide Open by Steve Flowers & Bob Stahl

As our journey with May Is For Metta continues today, just take a few moments to honor yourself for the efforts you are making to be more conscious and awake.  Know that you are strengthening the energies of loving-kindness and compassion in your self, others and the world with each moment you dedicate to practice, whether in formal practice or by bringing Metta into your daily life.  This is a transformational process of integrating the energy of the heart into our lives, our relationships and our world.  Imagine if each person would take this time as we are, what our world might be like.

Today, we will explore the category of Beloved a bit more deeply.  We touched on it yesterday with our Mother’s Day Metta practice.   A Beloved is simply a family member or close friend.  Beloveds are those we have built close relationship with; those whom we trust and feel positive towards.  Take a moment to select a few friends or family members;  feel into whom  you feel most called to do the practice for today.  Call up the image of each one, feel into your heart and say a round of phrases.  Which one feels most resonant right now?  This practice is helping you to choose but also helping you to experience more of what is in your heart and how to make choices that are in alignment with your heart.  Learning to let your heart be your guide is a part of moving into a new way of being.

Daily Practice: 

Do your foundational practices.  We begin as always by cultivating loving-kindness and compassion for ourselves as this is the foundation for offering it to others.  Get comfortable and settle into your breath.  Spend a few moments centering on your heart. Imagine yourself sitting in a circle surrounded by loving beings.  Say a few rounds of phrases for your self or spend longer as you feel to.

  • May I be safe.
  • May I be happy.
  • May I be peaceful.
  • May I be free from suffering.

When you feel centered in the energy of loving-kindness bring an image of the Beloved you have chosen clearly into your mind.  Let yourself feel what it feels like to be in the presence of that being.  Allow yourself to enjoy being with that person.  Begin by saying to yourself, “Just as I wish to be happy and free from suffering, may you be happy and free from suffering.”  Then begin repeating the phrases for your Beloved:

  • May he/she be safe.
  • May he/she be happy.
  • May he/she be peaceful.
  • May he/she be free from suffering.

Find the language for the phrases that works best for you.  You may wish to refer to this other being as YOU, talking to them directly, you may wish to use their NAME or you may wish to use the THIRD person, He or She.  Explore this a bit and see what works for you.

Often, offering Metta for the Beloved may feel easy for you.  Usually, we are deepening the already good feelings we have for this person.  However, sometimes difficult feelings may arise.  You may feel anxiety or worry for your Beloved friend or family member.  You may remember something upsetting that happened in relating with them and feel angry, annoyed or frustrated.  You may feel envious of some experience your Beloved is having, a happier relationship, a better job or a more carefree life.  Just know that these are natural feelings to have as a human being.

If you do have difficult emotions arising, just notice and gently return to the Metta phrases for your Beloved.  Know it is the nature of the mind to take us to these places in ourselves; it is the practice of meditation to return to the present moment and to the place we choose to place our attention.  Even when it’s challenging, this is the place of freedom, when we are in the moment and all of those thoughts, feelings and memories do not define us.  Use the phrases to bring yourself back to the moment and to offering loving-kindness to your Beloved one.

If at any point, difficult emotions continue to dominate your attention, return to repeating the phrases for yourself as this is an important part of practicing loving-kindness – we work with all of who we are, the parts we like and the parts we don’t like.  We are bringing to light those shadow parts that cause us so much pain and suffering.  In response, we are not rejecting ourselves or judging ourselves, but we are accepting and loving ourselves unconditionally.  This is one of the great gifts of Metta and one of the most powerful gifts we can offer to ourselves and to others.

Practice as long as you feel to or have committed to for today.  Take a few moments at the end to dedicate the merit of your practice for all beings. You can do this in any way that feels appropriate to you and we will explore this more later on in our practice.  Here is a simple way to dedicate the merit of your practice for all beings:

  • May all beings have happiness and it’s cause.
  • May all beings be free of suffering, joyous content and at ease.
  • May all beings be balanced in equanimity towards one and all.
  • May the merit of my practice be for my own benefit and for that of all sentient beings.

Daily Journal Reflections:

Take some time to reflect and journal about any experiences, feelings or awareness that arose during your practice or throughout the day today.  How did it feel to practice Metta for a Beloved?   Was it different from practicing for a Benefactor/Mentor?  How is your practice going?  Are you able to continue making some time everyday to sit or practice in some way?  If not, what is stopping you?  What is your commitment to yourself right now in terms of making time to bring more loving-kindness into your life?

Remember, practicing can be any way that works for you?  Five minutes will do if that’s all you have.  But keep in mind that research has shown that 15 minutes a day of Loving-kindness practice can create a positive shift in our overall attitude toward life.

May you experience a blessed and joyful day.

Namaste.

Beth

Day 10 ~ May Is For Metta 2015: Loving-kindness For Mother’s Day

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“All nature that we behold is the mother aspect of God, because in nature we find beauty, gentleness, and kindness. The flowers, birds, and the beauties of nature all speak of the Mother aspect of God-the creative motherly instinct of God. When we look at all the good things in nature, we feel a tenderness rise within us; we can see and feel God in nature.

The Divine Mother is so beautiful! But remember, in Her higher manifestation even that beauty is formless. She is in everything. Her divine, compassionate love is expressed in the raindrops. Her beauty is reflected in the colors of the rainbow. She offers fresh hope to mankind with the rose-tinted clouds at dawn.

Above all, be ever conscious of Her presence in your heart.” 

– Paramahansa Yogananda

It has turned out to be a beautiful addition to our practice that Mother’s Day falls in the midst of our May Is For Metta practice.  And, how fitting that today is the first day we move to the next category of Beloved.  A Beloved could be a family member or close friend.  Beloveds are those we have built close relationship with; those whom we trust and feel positive towards.  Going forward we will explore this category more but for today, our focus will be on offering Metta to the mothers in our lives.  This will include ourselves, a Benefactor/Mentor, and a Beloved.

We may tend to think of Mother’s Day as a personal holiday between us and our own Mother, however by expanding our focus we can use this day to shift our consciousness to the greater whole, to transform our relationships big and small, and to deepen in our experience of Mother energy not only in our own lives but in the world as well.  In honor of Mother’s Day today, we will celebrate the energy of the Divine Mother and Mother Earth as part of our practice.   

I encourage to explore the practice and to connect with your heart center to ask which mothers you feel to practice for today.  Perhaps it is your real mother or grandmother, perhaps a friend or teacher, or even a child. Think of those in your life whom you really feel embody mother energy.  And, don’t forget to include Mother Nature; she needs our love, too.  Let you heart be your guide and open to experience the heart of Metta as Buddha defined it.

We have been working to connect with and cultivate the energies of loving-kindness and compassion.   As most of us have experienced, it is a process to open ourselves to these qualities, to become receptive to love for ourselves.   Just as a mother so easily listens to her children, the feminine energy within us has the power to deepen our ability to listen, to be still and to go within.   On the simplest level, we can say that the heart is connected to the feminine energy within us and the mind to the masculine.   Our goal is to achieve wholeness, a marriage or union of these energies.  And yet, historically, especially in our culture, we have been more focused on systems of mind and logic rather than heart and intuition.   Through our practice today, we will honor the feminine energy within us, in others and in the world.

Daily Practice:

Do your foundational practices.  Take some extra time today to focus on deepening your receptivity to loving-kindness and compassion.  Honor the feminine energy with you and open to the wisdom of receptivity and the creation of sacred space within your heart.  This energy helps to open us to receive divine love into the core of our beings.  Offer yourself the time and space to really open your heart today, allowing stillness and love to blossom within you.  Use your whatever method you feel to generate the energy of loving-kindness.  When you feel deeply rooted in loving-kindness and the energy of heart, say a few rounds of 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 complete in practicing for yourself, move onto the Benefactor.  Let us honor Mother Earth as our Benefactor/Mentor for today.  She nurtures and sustains us in each and every moment.  Call an image of Mother Earth into your mind.  Begin to offer loving-kindness to her by enveloping her in the heart qualities you have been cultivating.  Begin by saying to yourself, “Just as I wish to be happy and free from suffering, may you be happy and free from suffering.”  Offer the phrases for Mother Earth:

  • May you be happy.
  • May you be peaceful.
  • May you be free of suffering.
  • May you have ease of well-being.

Spend as long as you feel to practicing Metta for Mother Earth.  When you feel ready to move on, let her image go and return to your heart center.  Again, spend a few moments allowing yourself to open your heart to receive love and deepen your experience of the sacred space within your being.

For the category of Beloveds, choose one or two mothers whom you would like to send loving-kindness and compassion to today.  It can be your own mother or grandmother, someone who is like a mother to you or a just a mother you wish to honor on this day.  You may practice for as many mothers as you feel to.  Call an image to mind of your Beloved.  Begin by saying to yourself, “Just as I wish to be happy and free from suffering, may you be happy and free from suffering.”  Begin to offer her loving-kindness and repeat the phrases for your beloved:

  • May you be happy.
  • May you be peaceful.
  • May you be free of suffering.
  • May you have ease of well-being.

When you feel complete, continue on to another mother if you feel to or return to your heart center.  Practice as long as you feel to or have committed to for today.  Spend a few moments reflecting on your practice.  Notice how it felt to connect with the energy of the Divine Mother and the feminine energies within your self, others and in the world.  And, finally dedicate the merit of your practice in the following way or as you called to:

  • May all beings have happiness and it’s cause.
  • May all beings be free of suffering, joyous content and at ease.
  • May all beings be balanced in equanimity towards one and all.
  • May the merit of my practice be for my own benefit and for that of all sentient beings.

Daily Journal Reflections:

Take some time to reflect and journal about any experiences, feelings or awareness that arose during your practice or throughout the day today.   Did you spend some extra time in your heart today?   How did it feel to practice for Mother Earth?  Did you explore working with more than one Beloved?  How did that feel?  Are you getting more comfortable spending time in your heart center? being still?

Today is a wonderful today to take your practice out into the world.  Spend some time offering Metta to those you see as you go about your day, perhaps the loved one or friends who you visit with today.

Wishing you a happy Divine Mother’s Day.

Namaste.

Beth

Day 9 ~ May Is For Metta 2015: Dedicating The Merit Of Our Practice

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May the earth be wholesome everywhere
The world blessed with prosperity
May the poor and destitute find wealth
And the stooping animals be freed

May every being ailing with illness
Find relief at once from suffering
May all the sickness that afflict the living
Be instantly and permanently healed

May those who go in dread, have no more fear,
May captives be unchained and set free,
And may the weak now become strong,
May living beings help each other in kindness.

May travelers upon the road,
Find happiness no matter where they go,
And may they gain, without hardship,
The goals on which their hearts are set.

From the songs of birds and the sighing of trees,
From the shafts of light and from the sky itself,
May living beings, each and every one,
Perceive the constant sound of Dharma

– Shantideva

It is customary in Buddhism and other traditions to dedicate the merit of our practice for the benefit of all beings.  We ask to accomplish the twofold benefit – that our practice is for our own benefit and that of all sentient beings.  All sentient beings can include humans, animals, plants, and beings in other realms.  Dedicating merit offers our practice for the support of others, asking that the loving-kindness and compassion we have cultivated may be beneficial to all and at the same time, it helps our mind to remain firm in our dedication to transformation.  The opening by Shantideva offers one a way to work with this.  Although there are traditional ways to dedicate merit, you can explore finding the words that work for you.

Over the last week we have seen much suffering in our world.  As we began our practice I shared that as we do May Is For Metta 2015, we are holding the intention of offering loving-kindness to the people of Nepal and the people of Baltimore as well as any other communities and individuals whom we may wish to support. Traditionally in Buddhism, merit is offered at the end of one’s practice.  May Is For Metta is adapted from the Buddhist practice of Metta and incorporates heart-centered practices from other traditions as well.  For many years now, I have had the practice of inviting an intention of benefit for myself and all those who are in need of support as I first begin my practice.  Then, at the end of my practice each day I take a few moments to dedicate the merit of my practice to any specific individuals, groups or locations in the world that I am feeling to offer it on this day and ultimately for all beings without exception.  You may wish to use the Shantideva prayer, you may wish to name those people or places you wish to support, or you may wish to simply wish to say something like this Metta prayer at the end of your practice:

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Here is another brief way to offer this; and as we have discussed with choosing the phrases, feel free to find the language that feels best for you:

  • May all beings have happiness and it’s cause.
  • May all beings be free of suffering, joyous content and at ease.
  • May all beings be balanced in equanimity towards one and all.
  • May the merit of my practice be for my own benefit and for that of all sentient beings.

For today’s practice, we will continue working with the category of Benefactor/Mentor and conclude with dedicating the merit of our practice.  Sometimes people have difficulty choosing whom to work with.  I had suggested a practice yesterday to explore by working with the heart, but also it is good to just be open.  The name Benefactor/Mentor connotes a certain type of person but we should not get caught up in the title.  Remember, we say choose a being because in addition to a human being, it can be an animal or something you love in nature, a tree, a river, or the mountains.  The essence of this category is that this being creates warmth in you and puts a smile on your face.

Sometimes, it is easier to practice for the Benefactor/Mentor than for ourselves; we may feel a sense of ease or pleasantness that arises as we practice for this being.  Still, there are days when our practice will be more difficult than others.  We may not feel connected to anyone; we may not be able to decide who to practice for or we may feel resistance to practicing altogether.  This is the time to return the focus of the practice to yourself.  It may even be a day when you need to just practice for yourself.  That’s okay.  As I shared yesterday, learning to respond to yourself with loving-kindness and compassion is at the heart of Metta.  Part of that is allowing yourself to be where you are and embracing yourself with gentleness and acceptance.

Daily Practice:

Do your foundational practices.  Begin by getting comfortable and settling in to your breath.  Spend a few moments centering on your heart, recalling a moment you felt immersed in unconditional love or see yourself in the center of your circle of loving beings.  Begin to send Metta to yourself by repeating the phrases you have been working with.  

  • May I be happy.
  • May I be peaceful.
  • May I be free of suffering.
  • May I have ease of well-being.

If you feel strongly to continue with the Benefactor/Mentor you were working with, do so.  If not, why not try to practice for an animal or something in nature that really nourishes and supports you, maybe even Mother Earth herself.

When you have chosen who or what being you will work with, invite an image to arise in your mind and let yourself feel what it feels like to be in the presence of that being.   Allow yourself to enjoy the feeling of connecting with your Benefactor/Mentor in whatever way feels good to you.  Remember, this being makes you feel warm inside.  Begin by saying to yourself, “Just as I wish to be happy and free from suffering, may you be happy and free from suffering.”  Then, begin repeating the phrases for your Benefactor/Mentor:

  • May you be happy.
  • May you be peaceful.
  • May you be free of suffering.
  • May you have ease of well-being.

If you notice your mind has wandered, return to the phrases and the image of your benefactor.   Continue practicing for your Benefactor/Mentor for as long as you feel to or have committed to for your practice.   Let the image of the Benefactor go and come back into your own heart center.  Repeat to yourself just once:

  • May I and all beings be happy.
  • May I and all beings be peaceful.
  • May I and all beings be free of suffering.
  • May I and all beings have ease of well-being.

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.  Did you explore working with the Benefactor/Mentor in a different way?  Are you remembering to return your practice to your self when you are having difficulty?  Are you being gentle and loving with yourself as you practice and in your daily life?  How do you feel about dedicating merit at the end of your practice?

Take a few moment as you finish to dedicate the merit of your practice in a way that feels best for you.  If you already have a way you do this, you can just continue with it.  May Is For Metta is meant to support or enhance your existing practices.  Or, if this is a new concept for you, take some time over the next week or so to explore various ways to dedicate merit until you find one that feels good for  you to continue with.  Also, be sure to check out the “Extra Credit” below for another idea on this…

May your day be filled with happiness, love and equanimity.

Namaste 

Beth

P.S. If you are enjoying the practice and would like to connect with others doing, come join our May Is For Metta Facebook group.  There’s lots of great sharing going on there!

Extra Credit:

This song written by American monk, Ven. Heng Sure carries the essence of dedicating merit as well as what the overall intention of our Metta practice is centered on.  Hope you’ll take a few moments and listen.  I’ve included the words below as well.

May every living being,
Our minds as one and radiant with light,
Share the fruits of peace
With hearts of goodness, luminous and bright.

If people hear and see,
How hands and hearts can find in giving, unity,
May their minds awake,
To Great Compassion, wisdom and to joy.

May kindness find reward,
May all who sorrow leave their grief and pain;
May this boundless light,
Break the darkness of their endless night.

Because our hearts are one,
This world of pain turns into Paradise,
May all become compassionate and wise,
May all become compassionate and wise.

Day 8 ~ May Is For Metta 2015: Loving-kindness For A Benefactor or Mentor

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“How and why we love change the qualities of our love.  Love with loving-kindness transforms love into the nectar of wisdom.  Love with attachment transforms the love into poison, into a state of afflicting emotions.  Therefore, we must recognize the characteristics of the love that is loving-kindness and learn how to generate it in ourselves.”

Tulku Thondup

It is taught that there are four essential ingredients in the practice of Metta. They are as follows: 

  • positive images
  • positive words
  • feelings of loving-kindness
  • trusting in love

Trust involves all of aspects as it includes trusting in the power of the images, words and the feelings of loving-kindness.  Trusting in love allows our loving-kindness meditation to be most effective.  And, as we have discussed this can sometimes go against our grain.  For some of us, trusting in love is not what we learned to do as a child or adult; and yet as we begin to open to trust by loving ourselves, our whole word changes.

Today, we will continue our practice working with the Benefactor/Mentor.  You may continue to practice with the same person you chose yesterday or you may explore working with another.  If you are not sure with whom to work, just call a few possibilities into your mind.  Imagine each being coming into your heart center, notice how you feel and try out the phrases on each one until you feel clear who you wish to work with for today.  Allow your heart to guide you.  This is a good way to learn the language of your heart.

Daily Practice:  

Do your foundational practices.  Begin by getting comfortable and settling in to your breath.  Spend a few moments centering on your heart or imagining yourself sitting in your circle of loving beings.  Really allow your self to feel enveloped in the energies of loving-kindness and compassion.  Remember, creating a strong foundation is an important part of the practice; be careful not to neglect this as you begin to offer Metta to others.  When you feel ready, begin to offer the Metta phrases you have been working with to yourself.

  • May I be safe.
  • May I be happy.
  • May I be peaceful.
  • May I be free from suffering.

Bring an image of the Benefactor/Mentor clearly into your mind and let yourself feel what it feels like to be in the presence of that being.  Really allow yourself to enjoy the feeling of being with that person.  This is someone who warms your heart just by thinking about them.  Say to yourself, “Just as I wish to be happy and free from suffering, may you be happy and free from suffering.”  Begin repeating the phrases for your Benefactor or Mentor:

  • May you be safe.
  • May you be happy.
  • May you be peaceful.
  • May you be free from suffering.

If you notice your mind has wandered, bring your attention back to the phrases and the image of your benefactor.  As I touched on yesterday, another option if you are having a lot of distraction or difficult feelings coming up is to switch your practice back to yourself for a few moments; then when you feel more centered, return your attention to the Benefactor/Mentor.  This is a way to become more loving with ourselves.  We listen, we become more attentive and we respond to ourselves when we are having difficulty.   And, we respond to ourselves with loving-kindness and compassion rather than harshness or criticism.  This is an opportunity for a paradigm shift.   

I encourage you to explore this practice of switching back and forth as you need to during your practice – do it as often as you feel to.  You can also explore turning your attention to yourself, your heart center or imagining your circle of loving beings throughout your day when you have trouble staying present in the moment or when you are have difficult feelings arise.  Those difficult moments during your day are the perfect opportunity to bring your Metta practice into your daily life.

Continue to practice for your Benefactor/Mentor for as long as you can or have committed to for your practice.   Then, return your awareness to the image of sitting in your circle of loving beings or being present in your heart center.  Allow that feeling to really sink into you, into every atom and cell of your being.  Let it surround and envelope you.  As you move out into your day, imagine yourself embodying loving-kindness and compassion with each step and each breath.

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 does it feel to practice for a Benefactor/Mentor?  Did you explore switching back to yourself?  How is your practice going?  Are you able to spend some time sitting everyday or have you decided to incorporate your practice in some other way?  What are you learning about yourself?  Are you being gentle and loving with your self as your practice or explore?

May you be happy.  
May you be peaceful.  
May you be free of suffering.  
May you have ease of well-being today and everyday.

Namaste.

Beth

 

Day 7 ~ May Is For Metta 2015: Extending Loving-kindness To A Benefactor or Mentor

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The Buddha shared that as an individual practices Metta and cultivates the energy of Loving-kindness within, there will be 11 benefits that are experienced:

  1. You will sleep easy.
  2. You will wake easily.
  3. You will have pleasant dreams.
  4. People will love you.
  5. Devas or celestial beings and animals will love you.
  6. Devas or celestial beings will protect you.
  7. External dangers will not harm you.
  8. Your face will be radiant.
  9. Your mind will be serene.
  10. You will die unconfused.
  11. You will be reborn in happy realms.

Today, we begin to extend the field ofour practice of Metta, Loving-kindness out beyond our own selves to another being.  Still, we continue to start our practice by cultivating loving-kindness and compassion for our own self, as this is always the foundation from which we begin to offer it to others.  Then, we continue by offering Metta to someone who has been a help to us in our life.   Traditionally, this category is referred to as the Benefactor or Mentor.  A Benefactor/Mentor is someone who has been generous and kind to us.  They have taught us, supported us and inspired us in some way.  When we think of them, we feel loved and supported; we have great gratitude for the fact that this being is a part of our lives.  Just thinking of this person generates a smile.   Some of the options to choose from include:  a beloved teacher, a mentor, a grandparent, a pet, a child or even something you love in nature.  

Often, in the beginning of Metta practice, it is suggested to work with a Benefactor/Mentor who is a living person as this can help to deepen our level of concentration.  Working with this category supports our expanding experience of loving-kindness in two ways.  One is that we begin to extend our practice out to another.  The other is that this being support us in deepening our own experience loving-kindness as that is what they bring to our lives.  We have only the most positive and loving feelings for this person.

“Kindness points to the core of what it means to be alive, which is to be connected.” – Sharon Salzberg

I have shared the above quote here as it is in working with our relationship with a Benefactor or Mentor that we begin to extend our loving-kindness outward and open up to expanding our sense of connection to all beings.  This is an essential part of the Metta practice.  We do it gradually by creating a foundation of loving-kindness within ourselves and then working with the various categories. 

Daily Practice:  

Do your foundational practices.  Begin by getting comfortable and settling in to your breath.  Spend a few moments centering on your heart, recalling a moment you felt immersed in unconditional love or seeing yourself in the center of your circle of loving beings.  By now, you have begun to develop a sense of how to connect with the energy of loving-kindness.  Allow your self to feel enveloped in this loving feeling.  Begin to send Metta to yourself by repeating the phrases you have been working with.  Remember, creating a strong foundation is an important part of the practice; be careful not to neglect this as you begin to offer Metta to others.  When you feel ready, begin to offer the Metta phrases you have been working with to yourself:

  • May I be safe.
  • May I be happy.
  • May I be peaceful.
  • May I be free from suffering.

Bring an image of the Benefactor/Mentor clearly into your mind and let yourself feel what it feels like to be in the presence of that being.  Really allow yourself to enjoy the feeling of being with that person, as if they were really sitting there with you in this very moment.  This is someone who warms your heart just by thinking about them.  Say to yourself, “Just as I wish to be happy and free from suffering, may you be happy and free from suffering.”  Begin repeating the phrases for your Benefactor or Mentor:

  • May you be safe.
  • May you be happy.
  • May you be peaceful.
  • May you be free from suffering.

If you notice your mind has wandered, bring your attention back to the phrases and the image of your benefactor. As I touched on yesterday, another option if you are having a lot of distraction or difficult feelings coming up is to switch your practice back to yourself for a few moments; then when you feel more centered, return your attention to the Benefactor/Mentor.  This is a way to become more loving with ourselves.  We listen, we become more attentive and we respond to ourselves when we are having difficulty.   And, we respond to ourselves with loving-kindness and compassion rather than harshness or criticism.  This is an opportunity for a paradigm shift.   

I encourage you to explore this practice of switching back and forth as you need to during your practice – do it as often as you feel to.  You can also explore turning your attention to yourself, your heart center or imagining your circle of loving beings throughout your day when you have trouble staying present in the moment or when you are have difficult feelings arise.  Those difficult moments during your day are the perfect opportunity to bring your practice of Loving-kindness into your daily life.

Continue to practice for your Benefactor/Mentor for as long as you can or have committed to for your practice time.   Then, return your awareness to the image of sitting in your circle of loving beings or being present in your heart center.  Allow that feeling to really sink into your whole being, into every atom and cell.  Let it surround and envelope you.  As you move out into your day, imagine yourself embodying loving-kindness and compassion with each step and each breath.

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 did it feel to begin to practice Metta for another being?  Did it seem easier or harder than practicing for your self?  How is your practice going?  Are there any obstacles you are becoming aware of?  Are you remembering to return your practice to yourself when you are having difficult emotions arise or have difficulty concentrating?  Are you able to bring your practice into your daily life in some way? 

May your day be filled with happiness, love and equanimity.

Namaste.

Beth

P.S. If you are interested in joining the May Is For Metta Facebook group for sharing and discussion, visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/mayisformetta and request to join.