Welcome to May is for Metta 2014! Today is the first day of our annual 31-Day Exploration Of Loving-kindness here on The Heart Of Awakening Blog. Each day will offer an exploration, guided meditation practice and journaling reflection in Metta, Loving-kindness meditation.
The intention of May Is For Metta is to support:
- Cultivating greater loving-kindness and compassion in ourselves, others and the world
- Developing or deepening in a daily meditation practice
- Reflecting and expanding our self-awareness through contemplative practice, sharing in community, and journaling exercises
If you are new to May Is For Metta and would like to learn a bit more about it, you can explore the following:
Over the course of the next 31 days, we will be exploring cultivating greater loving-kindness and compassion in our lives, our relationships and our world. Our vehicle will be the Buddhist practice of Metta (Loving-kindness) Meditation. We will begin gradually with the focus on cultivating loving-kindness for ourselves. In the Buddhist tradition, it is understood that in order to have the ability to offer loving-kindness and compassion to others, we must have a foundation of loving-kindness towards ourselves.
For many Westerners, this is something that can go against our grain. We may have been taught to love others first or even that loving ourselves is selfish. This is something we will be exploring during our journey together. For now, I encourage you to just be open and notice what arises as you enter into the container of May Is For Metta. There will be lots of support to work with our resistance and to shift our patterns towards greater loving-kindness and compassion for ourselves.
There will also be lots of support around creating a daily meditation practice. Take some time to decide where you will do your practice and when. It can be helpful to have a set place to practice that is clear and quiet. You may wish to designate a meditation area in your home or office for this exploration. However, do not let this be an obstacle. As Mindfulness Meditation Teacher & Author Jon Kabat-Zinn says in his popular book title, “Wherever you go, there you are.” So, wherever you can find the time and space to practice can the perfect place to start. Also, this is something you can explore during the practice period.
Meditating first thing in the morning can be a great way to start the day if you can create room to do so. If not, just find a time that works for you. For instance, if lunchtime is the only time you have, perhaps going outside is a good way to practice this time of year. Be open and creative in finding a time and space that feels good to you whether it is in your home or elsewhere. Last year, one of our participants shared that after struggling for a while to find a place to practice at home where there were many obstacles, she started doing her May Is For Metta practice in her car right as she arrived at work.
Consistency can be helpful in terms of where you practice, when you practice and for how long; this is something we will explore in the coming month, but feel free to be creative in your process – this is your journey! Consider May Is For Metta as an opportunity to explore different aspects of meditation practice and to develop a structure that supports you where you are and where you would like to be on your path of transformation.
As we begin, find a comfortable position for your body. This can be on a chair or on the floor. If you are on a chair, it is good to sit with your spine straight and feet flat on the floor. Sometimes, it helps to put a pillow behind your back for support or to sit at the leading edge of the chair rather than leaning back. If you are on the floor, sit cross-legged or in lotus posture. Make sure to have a cushion or blanket to sit on and adjust your leg position so that you feel comfortable.
Once you come into your sitting position, check that your spine is straight, but not tense; shoulders and stomach relaxed. Your hands can rest on your knees or your lap. Allow your chin to tuck slightly toward your chest. Let the eyes close, or if you prefer, leave your eyes open, gazing softly at the floor in front of you.
Begin with a few deep breaths, breathing in for a count of five and out for a count of five. It is helpful 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 busyness of the day.
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 yourself and for others. As we begin, we connect with the energy of our own heart. When the Buddha spoke of Metta he used the example of a mother’s love for a child; he taught that we need to love all beings as a mother loves her child. The essence of Metta practice is generating the feeling of loving-kindness and compassion to create that foundation for ourselves and then share it with others and the world. We will explore a few ways to cultivate this feeling.
To begin, take a few moments to recall a time when you felt loved totally held in unconditional love and compassion. Sometimes calling on the memory of a moment with a grandparent, good friend or even a loving pet is a way to generate this feeling. There may be a certain place such as a childhood home or place in nature, which brings on this feeling for you. Imagine yourself in that moment and let that feeling, that quality of loving-kindness and compassion fill your whole being, every atom and cell.
This is the quality of Metta, or Loving-kindness; this is where our practice begins. Allow yourself to simply spend some time just being with this feeling. If your mind wanders or distractions arise, just remember to come back to the quality, the feeling or the image of the moment you have called on to generate it. Breathe that feeling right into the center of your chest, into your heart center. Allow yourself to spend some time being present in the heart, with the quality of loving-kindness.
This is your practice for today. We are beginning by keeping it simple and exploring the essence of Metta, the feeling of loving-kindness. If the chance arises and you remember, try to connect with this feeling of loving-kindness as you go about your day. Bring your breath and awareness to your heart center whenever you feel to. Simply notice how it feels to connect in this new way.
Today is the day to invite loving-kindness and compassion into your life in a more conscious way. Although not required, it can be helpful to create a journal for this practice period and to spend a few minutes in the evening to reflect on your daily practice and exploration.
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. What did you notice? Did you find time to practice today? If yes, how did it feel? If no, what stopped you? Did you decide on a place to practice? What will help you to practice tomorrow? How did it feel to connect with your heart center and the feeling of loving-kindness? Are there any obstacles to your practice that you are aware of?
Feel free to ask questions or share your experiences and reflections in the comments below or on The Heart Of Awakening Facebook page.
An important message from your host & facilitator, Beth Terrence:
This practice is about loving-kindness and compassion. For many of us, our tendency is to be harsh and critical with ourselves. When we begin a new practice, we set high standards and when we don’t meet them, we tend to beat ourselves up emotionally. This is an excellent opportunity to change that pattern, to approach change and growth from a place of gentleness and self-love rather than harshness and self-hate.
As Zen teacher, Cheri Huber, says, “If you had a person in your life treating you the way you treat yourself, you would have gotten rid of them a long time ago…”. So, however your practice unfolds, remember to be gentle and loving with yourself. This time is a gift you are giving to yourself to support your personal journey of transformation and healing. Let’s allow it to be a space to transform our harshness into gentleness and our self-hate into self-love. This is truly the heart of our practice.
If you are interested in additional support to develop or deepen your meditation practice or work on cultivating greater loving-kindness for yourself, consider one of the optional levels:
Level I: Blog Posts + Daily Audio Message/Guided Meditation Practice ~ $31
Level II: Blog Posts + Daily Audios + One-On-One session by phone or skype with facilitator Beth Terrence ~ $108