Take Your Metta To Work Week
An Exploration in Bringing Loving-kindness Practice to the World of Work
“At a certain point we must, without self-hatred, stand at a crossroads, hear the little voice that says “You can go in a new direction,” heed that voice and make a choice to end suffering.
Fortunately, we are at the crossroads in each moment, and the gentle urging is always within us.
The choice is clear. You can muddle along through life following the voices of conditioning and self-hate as they lead you to more feeling bad, or you can step free from them and be your own person. You can live from center.” – Cheri Huber
Metta meditation is a loving-kindness practice that supports our return to center and that center is our own heart. Each time we come back to our hearts and to the essence of loving-kindness and compassion, we are transforming ourselves. We are choosing to be in the present moment rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. We are choosing to live from a heart-centered place, accepting and embracing all of who we are with a genuine “friendliness”. Moving into this place of greater self-acceptance through gentleness and love is one of the greatest gifts we can ourselves.
Many Tibetan Buddhist teachers, including the Dalai Lama, observe a dynamic in our culture that is not present in Eastern cultures. Many Americans and others Westerners tend to have a natural lack of loving-kindness and friendliness towards themselves that seems to be inherent in people in other cultures. In addition to this natural lack of loving-kindness is a tendency toward self-criticism, harshness and even self-hate. This is a major reason why beginning a practice can be so difficult. As we begin to sit in meditation, we come face to face with our own inner voices and a critic who tells us we simply can’t do this and additionally, are not worthy of receiving loving-kindness or compassion. This can be incredibly difficult and challenging, enough so that it often keeps us from getting to our practice. However, when we are able and willing to be present with these inner voices and difficult feelings, we can begin to transform the patterns and beliefs which keep us stuck in pain and suffering.
Work is a place where our inner critics can tend to rule our realities. We can have huge demands put on us by our organization, our supervisors and the nature of our work itself. However, for many people, it is our own inner voices or inner critics that hold us to the highest and frequently, unreasonable standards. This is a place where we can perpetuate a cycle of self-hatred and continue to create suffering for ourselves. It is also one of the main reasons why bringing Metta meditation to work can be so transformative. At the very moment when we would habitually move into a place of harshness or self-criticism, we shift. Instead, we move into a place of loving-kindness and compassion toward ourselves. This is one of most powerful changes we can create in our lives; it is truly a paradigm shift.
Today, as we complete Take Your Metta To Work Week, we will return the main focus of our practice to ourselves. If this is the only piece you continue to work with after this week, know it is incredibly beneficial. Creating a strong foundation of loving-kindness towards ourselves is the heart of Metta practice. It is the basis of what we offer to others and the world. If we can shift our conditioned responses toward ourselves by responding with loving-kindness and compassion, then we are able to become more effective in responding to others with openness and understanding. This helps to transform all of our relationships, including those at work and in our world.
Daily Practice: Do your foundational practices. Find a comfortable position. Imagine yourself in the center of a circle of loving beings or enveloped in the feeling of loving-kindness. Allow your self to connect deeply with your own heart center. Be sure to take sometime today to really deepen in knowing your own heart space. Sometimes, in addition to the circle, it can be helpful to imagine a time your felt held in unconditional love, such as by a grandparent, pet or child. Spend some time today bathing yourself in the energy and quality of loving-kindness and compassion. You can do this as a sitting practice or continue to explore it as you go about your day. Whenever you feel to, offer 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.
Remember to come back to your heart and do your foundational practices several times throughout the day, especially when you are experiencing stress or difficult emotions. If there is a moment when you recognize you are being harsh with yourself or your inner critic is very active, this is a perfect time to move into your Metta practice.
For your final day, choose what other categories you would like to practice for. One of the aspects of Metta is that you can create your own practice each day. Once you begin with your foundational practices and offer Metta for yourself, you can choose to work with any or all of the other categories. These include Benefactor, Beloved, Neutral, Difficult and All Beings. All Beings can include all beings, or various groups of beings, such as all women, all children or all animals. For our practice, we have been working with our organization as this category. You may wish to complete your exploration of bringing Metta to work by offering Metta for your organization, knowing you are a part of it. Explore what feels like a good way for you to practice today.
At some point toward the end of the day or evening, consider all of the beings you have practiced for during Take Your Metta To Work Week. Ask that this practice benefit them as well as all beings. Ask that your organization and all organizations benefit from this practice and become more heart-centered. Do this in a way that feels appropriate for you. It can be incorporated into your own practice of meditation, prayer or reflection.
Journal Notes: How did it feel to bring your Metta practice to work for a whole week? Was it helpful to have a meditation practice that you could incorporate into your workday? Do you feel this is something you would like to continue? Are you more aware of your inner voices or inner critic? Are you able to respond to these voices with loving-kindness? Take some time to reflect on your experiences of this week. Did you notice feeling any different at work as you practiced? Were there any changes in your attitude or interactions at work?
Take a few moments to honor yourself for your willingness and efforts to be more conscious and heart-centered at work and in the world.
May your day be happy and peaceful.