“When you speak of meditation, you may think of the type of meditation that is popular these days, the sitting form of meditation. But that form is merely an aid, a support to develop a mental discipline of mindfulness and equanimity. The form should not be mistaken for the path.
The popular notion is that you need to set aside a special time or place to meditate. In actuality, if meditation is to help you acquire peace of mind as you function in life, then it must be dynamic activity, part and parcel of your daily experience. Meditation is here and now, moment-to-moment, amid the ups and downs of life, amid conflicts, disappointments and heartaches – amid success and stress.”– Dr. Thynn Thynn
As we begin with our second day of practice, it feels important to remember the message that Dr. Thynn Thynn brings. Whether we cultivate our practice on the meditation cushion or out in the world, our goal is to bring our experience, our inner wisdom and our Buddha nature to all of life. So practice anytime, anywhere, just practice.
Today, we will continue to develop our foundation in cultivating loving-kindness for ourselves. It is here, with our own self that we can begin to experience the deep love and compassion that we will then extend to others. Without this foundation, we are limited in what we can offer. Developing a deep sense of connection with our own inner self allows us to feel connected to everything and to experience a sense of wholeness. Offering loving-kindness and compassion to ourselves is the catalyst for offering it others and the world. It may seem that we are going slowly in entering into our Metta practice, however, cultivating the energy of loving-kindness is truly the essence of the practice. So, it is important to take time to generate this feeling. Once we know the feeling and we can generate the energy of loving-kindness, then we can work with it as a vehicle for practice.
Find a comfortable position either sitting on a chair or on the floor. We will work with walking and standing practices later on but if you feel called to practice in a more active way, do so. Allow your spine to be straight but not tense; shoulders or stomach relaxed with your hands on your knees or your lap. Eyes can be closed or open with a soft gaze on the floor in front of you. You may like to explore practicing with eyes open or closed; there is merit to both ways for various practices and it is good to find a way that is resonant for you.
Begin with a few deep breaths. It is important to allow the body and the mind to relax. Take a moment to scan the body for any areas of tension or discomfort. Allow the next few breaths to wash over those areas melting away any tensions. Also, scan the mind for any thoughts, worries or business of the day, and send that all out with the next few breaths, just letting it all drift away like a cloud passing by in the sky, you notice it and then it just drifts away.
Bring your breath and awareness to the heart center in the center of your chest. Notice how it feels to be present in the heart. This is the center of love, compassion, gentleness and mercy for your self and for others. As we begin, we connect with our own heart. Sometime we notice a sense of openness or spaciousness as we enter the heart space. Sometimes we notice our resistance or a sense of constriction. Just notice what arises as you connect with your heart center without judgment or the need to change anything in this moment. Love and accept where you are and honor that you are taking time to make this connection with your self.
Now, imagine yourself sitting in the center of a circle of loving beings. They may be people in your life – loved ones, animals, friends or those you feel embody love such as Mother Theresa, Buddha, Jesus, Quan Yin, etc. I include my Grandma Clara, my childhood dog Babas, my cat Percy, my mentor Bill, my Sufi teacher Ayesha, the Dalai Lama, Mother Theresa, Hilda Charlton, Buddha and others who embody love and compassion. Sometimes it can be easier to work with people who are living but this is for you to explore. Be sure that the feeling that arises from these beings is one of unconditional love. If there is someone whom you have mixed feelings about, perhaps a family member or friend, you can work with this later in our practice, but you may not want to include them in your circle now. This circle is your circle of unconditional love and compassion and only those beings that generate those feelings should be included. Are you willing to create this for yourself? This is a powerful tool to work with in your practice and to bring into your daily life. So take some time to consider who will be in your circle for now; this is something you can change as your practice develops.
Once you have your circle created, just imagine sitting in the center; you are receiving love from all those surrounding you. Allow the love in your heart, mind, body and spirit to expand as you receive the unconditional love of all the beings in your circle. Deeply breathe this into your heart center, letting it flow into every atom and cell of your being. As you breathe out, allow love and compassion to fill your circle so that you are infused with it both inwardly and outwardly. Feel all the love that is in you and all of the loving, supportive energy around you. Spend as long as you wish to sitting in your circle receiving loving-kindness. When you feel ready, let the imagery of your circle go for now, knowing you can always call on it when you feel to.
Notice you how feel? Were there any shifts or changes since you began your practice? How did it feel to open to receiving loving-kindness and compassion from your circle of loving beings? Did you feel resistance or constriction? Did you feel a sense of openness or spaciousness? Remember, this is all about awareness and noticing what arises. As we continue to practice, we will explore ways to work with what is arising.
Journal Notes: Did you practice today? If so, how did it feel? If not, what happened? How does it feel to be cultivating loving-kindness and compassion for your self? Did you notice any ways your resist loving yourself? Do you have a clear sense of how you will practice, place, length of time, etc.? Although not a requirement, it can be helpful to have a clear commitment to yourself.
Tomorrow, we will begin to incorporate the Metta phrases into our practice. Today, really allow yourself to embody the feeling and energy of loving-kindness as you do your practice and perhaps, as you go about your day. At least once, try to call your circle of loving beings into your active life, perhaps at work, or while running an errand, etc. Allow yourself to carry loving-kindness into your life.
Everyone is invited to share thoughts and reflections as their practice unfolds. May you have a beautiful and loving day!