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 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. There 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.
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.
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