Tag Archives: Breath

Mindfulness Mondays: Listening To Your Body

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“We may ignore or deride the messages of the body but its rebellion demands to be heeded because its language is the authentic expression of our true selves and of the strength of our vitality.”

Alice Miller

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How to practice, where to practice, when to practice? These are all great questions that come up about meditation! And, ones that can sometimes become an obstacle to actually practicing, especially for those new to meditation or just returning to a practice.  I’ll be sharing a few posts on this topic over the next month or so.

Today’s practice involves a bit of an exploration of posture and how to explore mindfulness through the body.  This question of posture is one that comes up often in my meditation groups. And, it’s important to know there is not one answer!  Depending on the style of meditation practice, certain specific postures can seen as beneficial.  Sitting cross-legged on the floor or in lotus posture is a common suggestion; however, this is not comfortable for everyone.

It is very important to listen to your body.  For most of us, as we move through our day, we tend to sit on chairs most often.   So taking time to explore how to practice meditation in this way can help us to bring mindfulness into our daily life.  It can also help us to begin to listen to and in a sense “befriend” our bodies.  This might not seem to be what we think meditation is all about – but being present with our bodies is a way of knowing ourselves more deeply and can be an anchor for many mindfulness and meditation practices.

I invite you to be curious!

Here’s a simple practice to explore:

Sit at the leading edge of chair so that your feet are flat on the floor.  Feel the support of mother earth beneath your feet.  Allow you spine to be straight but not tense; shoulders and stomach relaxed.  Place your hand on your knees or your lap.  If you are comfortable, gently close your eyes or have a soft gaze on the floor a few feet in front of you. 

If you feel tense, take a few deep breaths — breathing in for a count of five and out for a count of five.  If possible, begin to let some of the tension in your body go. Then, let your breath fall back to its own natural rhythm.

Begin to open up to observe your whole body; and then begin to notice any specific sensations you may be feeling.  Perhaps feeling your body on the chair, your feet on the floor, or the feeling of your clothing against you skin.  Noticing if the air is moving or still, are you feeling hot or cold, or tired or energized and so on.  Focus on any sensations you notice related to your physical body.  Just noting them and them moving on to the next sensation. 

You might notice areas where your feel pain tension, pain or discomfort. Observe them and then continue on to other sensations that are present.  This is a time to notice physical sensations without attaching to or resisting any one of them. You are simply noticing!

If you notice that your mind is wandering, which it will, (this is the nature of the mind) simply bring it back to the next feeling or sensation that arises in your body.

To finish, take another moment to tune into your whole body.  Then, focusing on your breath, envision yourself  breathing into and out of your entire body for a few cycles of breath.

Finally, take a moment to express gratitude for your body and all it does to support you in being alive and awake in each and every moment!

As always, feel free to share your reflections in the comments below.

Tashi Deleh (I honor the greatness within you!)

Mindfulness Mondays ~ Movement With Breath

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“In the midst of movement and chaos,

keep stillness inside of you.” 

~ Deepak Chopra

Butterfly BeautyThere are many ways to practice mindfulness meditation.  Beginning to include practices that incorporate movement can be a way to deepen your presence and support you in being more mindful as you move about through your daily life and the world around you.

Anytime that you practice mindful movements, with your attention fully in the activity and with a mindful attitude, you are practicing meditation.  Some activities to explore include walking, eating, cleaning, or doing the dishes. We’ll take time to work with each of the in future Mindfulness Mondays posts.

For this week, I was feeling to share a few simple ways to begin to explore working with mindful movement and the breath.  As I’ve shared before, sometimes due to the subtlety of the breath, it can be hard to focus on it, especially for beginning practitioners.  Also, for people who have experienced trauma or tend to be disconnected from their bodies in some way, bringing together movement and the breath, can be a way to really become more connected within themselves.

Movement With Breath Exploration

You can do these practices either sitting, on a chair or crosslegged/lotus position on the floor or in a standing position.  Sometimes it is good to explore practicing mindfulness in a standing position — if you have not done so, I encourage you to do so with this practice.  There may be times when practicing mindfulness is helpful in your daily life but taking time to sit and practice is not possible.  As you cultivate a standing practice, it will become easier practice mindfulness as you stand on line at the grocery store, walk down the street, etc.

Come to a comfortable position either sitting or standing.  If standing, stand up straight with your feet about hip-width apart. Allow your knees to be slightly bent, not tense. Relax your shoulders back, your chest and your stomach.  Tilt your chin a bit toward your chest so that your head is balanced on your neck and shoulders.

Whether sitting or standing, have a soft gaze on the floor in front of you, about 3 feet forward.  Begin to notice the sensation of your breath.  Become mindful of any areas in your body that feel tense or uncomfortable. Without trying to relax them, simply notice.

3 Ways To Practice Movement With Breath…

1) Floating Arms ~ After a few moments of tuning into to your breath and your body, begin to move your arms upwards in front of you with palms facing the floor.  As you breathe in, letting your arms simple float up to about shoulder height, continuing to rise for the length of the in-breath.  Once at shoulder height, slowly let then move back down as you breath out, returning to the side of your body on as the out-breath completes. Repeat this practice 10 or 15 rounds and notice any physical sensations as you do so.

2) Butterfly HandsHolding your hands in front of your body at a 90 degree angle. Place your palms together, fingers touching and then cross your thumbs one over the other.  As you breathe in, allow the pinky side of your hand to move outwards, spreading your finger and keeping thumbs intertwined so that your hands appear to be a like a butterfly opening it’s wings. As you breathe out, allow your bring your hands back together palms together, fingers touching and thumbs crossed.  Repeat this practice 10 or 15 rounds and notice any physical sensations as you do so.

3) Lotus FlowerHolding your hands in front of your body at a 90 degree angle. Place your palms together with all fingers touching and pointing straight out from your body.  On your in-breath, move the thumb side of your hands outward, allowing all of the fingers but the pink to become open, like a lotus blossoming.  On the out-breath, slowly bring your fingers together one by one from ring finger back to thumb until palms are together once again.  Repeat this practice 10 or 15 rounds and notice any physical sensations as you do so.

Take a few mindful moments to watch this video of a lotus blossom opening and closing.  There is a a rhythmic stillness in this movement which we can bring to our own mindfulness movements.  

After exploring these practices, you may also like to create your own mindful movements.  Be creative.

At the end of your practice, take some time to reflect, explore and journal about the following questions:

  • On a scale of 1 – 10, how mindful did you feel as you began?
  • On a scale of 1 – 10, how mindful did you feel as you finished your practice?
  • What did you notice about your bodily sensations?  Was one movement more beneficial for you than another?
  • What thoughts arose while you were practicing?
  • What emotions arose for you while your were practicing?
  • How did it feel to incorporate movement with the breath? How might you continue to work with this type of practice?

I hope you’ll take some time to explore mindful movements this week. 

Tashi Deleh (I honor the greatness with you!)

Beth

Mindfulness Mondays ~ Labeling Thoughts

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Whether one is new to meditation and mindfulness practice or a more experienced practitioner, there will be days that are more challenging than others, when we simply find the mind is busier.  Also, there many be times when we are really struggling with certain thoughts such as worries, concerns, judgements that can really take us out of the present moment.  

Practicing mindfulness is in a sense like any other exercise practice one might develop.  It takes time to build our muscles when we start lifting weights and it takes time to build our “mindfulness” muscles when we begin to practice.  Working with noticing and labeling our thoughts is a way to begin to grow in our ability to be more mindful. 

Oftentimes, there are so many thoughts circling round and round in our minds that we cannot even identify them.  Or, if we stop to notice a thought, we can’t imagine how we even got there.  Practicing mindfulness helps us to de-clutter our mind and allows us to be more awake and alive in the present moment.  As we can notice some of our habitual thoughts and patterns, we can begin to acknowledging and accepting them and let them go. 

The practice of Labeling thoughts helps can help to raise awareness about the specific types of thoughts you may have and it is also a way to engage your mind during practice.  In a sense noticing and acknowledging our thoughts can become and anchor in the same way the breath may be used as an anchor.  As we notice our thoughts, we don’t judge or analyze them, we simply notice and let them go as best we can.  The labeling is a way to begin to let go.

Labeling Thoughts Practice

This practice can be done formally as a part of a sitting practice and informally, as on the spot practice, throughout your day.  I do often suggest to begin to work with a practice as part of a sitting practice, even if it’s for 5 or 10 minutes, to begin to get familiar with the practice. Then, begin to bring it into your daily life.  

Find a comfortable position sitting on a chair with feet flat on the floor, spine straight but not tense, shoulders and stomach relaxed, hands on your knees or lap. Or, sit comfortably on the floor cross-legged with a cushion to support your body. 

Gently close your eyes or have a soft gaze on the floor in a few feet front of you if that’s more comfortable.

Take a few moments to connect with you breath without changing or depending it.  Just begin to notice the breath as it flows into and out of your body.  Notice how it feels to slow down and center yourself.  Continue to be present with your breath. 

Begin to notice any thoughts that may arise.  You may notice a flurry of thoughts right away.  You may be thinking about your To Do list, grocery shopping, worrying about a family member, etc.  You just begin to notice your thoughts.  If there are many, try to notice just one thought and as you do, begin to label it, “Thinking”.  Then, come back to your next breath – breathing in and breathing out.  When you notice another thought, label it “Thinking”.  And, once again simply come back to your next breath.

At times, you many be “Thinking, Thinking, Thinking, Thinking…” and at other times you may begin to notice some spaciousness as you are present with your breath.  Either way, you are simply noticing what is arising in your mind and in your practice. 

This is a simple way to practice Labeling Thoughts.  Sometimes it is helpful to label types of thoughts and we will explore that in future posts, however, by using “Thinking” as the label it is actually helping us to detach from our thoughts or the type of thoughts we may be having, e.g. worry, judgement, etc.  Building a habit of not identifying with a certain thought can begin a powerful process of letting go.  We are just being with whatever is arising in our minds, noticing it, labeling it “Thinking” and letting it go. 

I hope you’ll take some time to explore Labeling Thoughts this week.  As always, feel free to share your reflections in the comments below.

Namaste.

Beth

Mindfulness Mondays ~ 7 Ways To Practice Mindfulness

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I thought to wrap up the last Mindfulness Mondays post of 2015 with a summary of practices we explored recently and added a post on Gratitude practice, too!  I am planning to continue this weekly series in 2016 to offer a virtual space for you to explore mindfulness and meditation practices.

If you’d like to connect with a virtual mindfulness meditation community, I invite you to join my Facebook group, Meditation & Mindfulness In A Rapidly Changing World.  Each week, I share our practice plus some additional resources and information.  There’s an opportunity to connect and explore together; and I am planning to offer some teleseminar gatherings in the new year, too!

As always I love to hear your reflections, so feel free to drop a note in the comments below if there is something you’ve enjoyed, benefitted from or would like to see more of in 2016! 

  1. Parallel Breaths

  2. Urge Surfing

  3. Take Your Mindfulness To Work

  4. Noticing Feelings & Emotions

  5. Coherence Breathing

  6. Practicing STOP

  7. Make A Gratitude List


Upcoming Events

January 1 – 30 ~ Setting Intentions & Visioning Our Dreams 30 Day Writing Program (Virtual)
1st Sundays ~ Healing The Shadow Shamanic Journey Telelcass (Virtual)
2016 Dates TBA ~ Healing The Shadow Shamanic Journey Process Group in Annapolis, MD (Local)
May 1 – 31 ~ May Is For Metta 2016: 31 Days of Loving-kindness Meditaton & Practice (Virtual)
June 2016 ~ Discover The Healer Within 4-Session Program (Virtual)
For details and registration information on events, visit http://www.bethterrence.com/Events.html or Sign Up my for Discover The Healer Within E-News to get updates on events, articles and special offers.

Mindfulness Mondays ~ Noticing Feelings & Emotions

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Take a few mindful breaths.

Allow yourself now to notice any emotions or feelings you are experiencing right now,          in this moment… 

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Often, we relate with our emotions or feelings in one of two ways.  We may tend to ignore our feelings and emotions to push through our experiences; or, we dive into them and cling to them in a way that defines who we are.   We may view our feelings as good or bad, positive or negative.  In Mindfulness practice, our feelings are viewed as neither good nor bad, they just are what they are. Feelings may be uncomfortable or difficult; or, they may be comfortable or easy.  But, regardless, none of them are viewed as wrong or something we want to get rid of, they just simply are!

This week’s practice is simply Noticing Feeling & Emotions that you are experiencing in the moment you are feeling them, with gentle, non-judgemental awareness, loving acceptance and gentle curiosity.

You can do this practice in two ways.  First, as formal practice, which means taking time to sit, be present and work with the practice for a period of time (5 or 1o minutes is a great start).  Secondly, you can practice it as an “on the spot meditation” – when you notice a feeling or emotion arise, you simply take a few moments to tune in and work with practice.

One of the things than can begin to happen as we work with this type of mindfulness practice is that we come to see our feelings and emotions as fluid.  Rather than attaching to them as we humans tend to do, we can come to see that our feelings and emotions come and go just as waves crashing upon the shore come in and go out – some are bigger, some are smaller, some are stronger, some are weaker but, none of them stay the same all the time!  This awareness can create a sense of freedom and spaciousness. 

  • Begin with a few mindful breaths.  If it’s helpful, label the breaths “breathing in and breathing out”.
  • Then, allow yourself now to notice any emotions or feelings you are experiencing. You may be able to name the emotion or it may just be a vague sort of feeling, either way is okay.
  • Begin to notice where the feeling or emotion is located in your body – your head, throat, chest, stomach, abdomen, gut? Notice if the physical sensation moves or shifts as you bring awareness to it.
  • Notice any sensations connected to the feeling or emotion – heat or cold, anxiousness or calm, contraction or expansion…
  • Allow yourself to be present and observe any shifts or changes in your feelings and emotions and/or any physical sensations in your body connect to them as you continue noticing feelings and emotions for as long as you feel to practice.
  • Finally, bring your awareness back to your breath for a couple of minutes.

“Think you’re destined to respond the same way emotionally to the same old triggers? Not necessarily so, says Sharon Begley. With a little mind training, you can chart new pathways “

Learn more about mindfulness, neuroplasticity and changing how we respond emotionally in Rewiring Your Emotions.

I hope you’ll take some time this week to explore Noticing Feelings & Emotions.

As always, feel free to drop a note about your experience in the comments below or join my Meditation & Mindfulness In A Rapidly Changing World group on Facebook to stay connected throughout the week.

Namaste.

Beth

Mindfulness Mondays ~ Coherence Breathing

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Breathe in slowly for a count of 5.
Breathe out slowly for a count of 5. 
Continue for 5 or 6 cycles of breath or as long as you feel to practice.

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One who has gradually practiced, 
Developed and brought to perfection 
Mindfulness of the in-and-out breath 
As taught by the Enlightened One, 
Illuminates the entire world 
Like the moon when freed from clouds. 
Developing a relationship with our breath is at the heart of many mindfulness and meditation practices.  Although some feel that altering our breath, may not fall under the realm of mindfulness, I have found that a practice of coherence breathing is highly beneficial in cultivating our relationship with the breath and is particularly helpful in becoming present with the in and out breaths.  Counting in and of itself, without changing or deepening the breath, is another good practice, which we will explore in another post. 
 
In the book, “The Healing Power of the Breath”, authors Richard Brown, MD and Patricia L. Gerber, MD, share:
“Breathing can alleviate negative feelings, such as fear, anxiety, frustration, anger, depression, self-blame, confusion, restlessness, and physical discomforts. With regular practice over time breathwork can bring improvements in physical health, physical endurance, and resilience. But breathing is not just a treatment for life’s ills,; it can also enhance pleasurable and creative activities such as musical performance, writing, team sports, or just being with nature. Breath practices nurture positive emotions, loving feelings, compassion, our sense of connection with what is meaningful in life, and our sense of bonding with others.”
Coherence Breathing is a simple way to work with your breath by synchronizing the in and out breaths for a count of five on both the in and out breaths; this can be varied from four to six counts depending on your comfort and breath patterns. This type of breathing can have a profound impact on your body, mind, emotions and spirit.  
Meditation teacher Tara Brach refers to this technique as a “heart breath”.  In a sense it is training your system to have deeper, slower breaths, which supports greater calm, balance and well-being.   Often, our natural tendency is to have shorter, shallower breaths. Coherence Breathing also supports your ability to become more mindful as you practice; and as you cultivate a deeper relationship you also deepen  your awareness of your whole being.

Scientists have found that there is an ideal breath rate for each person, somewhere between 4 and 6 breaths per minute using equal timing for breathing in and breathing out.  This patterning helps to increase our heart-rate variability and balance our stress response systems. Also, the electronic rhythms of the heart, lungs, and brain become synchronized, which is known as a resonant rate amongst researchers.  Although the research is new, this pattern of breathing has been known amongst meditation practitioners and traditions for centuries.  

Here is a chart of some of the benefits of Coherence Breathing vs. Shallow Breathing:

For this week’s exploration, practice Coherence Breathing by working with breathing in for a count of five and out for a count of five.  You may need to vary the in and out between a count of four and six depending on what feels comfortable for you.  Ideally, practicing for 5 – 10 minutes is good start, but even one minute can be beneficial.

Namaste.

Beth

 

 

New Mastering Anxiety & Stress Teleseminar Program Starts 11/11! Come Explore!

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Mastering Anxiety & Stress

A Holistic Approach

4-Session Teleseminar Program

Wednesdays, 11/11 – 12/9
7:00 – 8:00 PM ET

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I am excited to be offering my Mastering Anxiety & Stress: A Holistic Approach Program for only the second time virtually.  This unique program has developed out of my work with both private clients, and in wellness centers and addiction treatment programs over the last 8 years.  It offers a holistic approach to changing our patterns around anxiety and stress.  I have seen amazing results occur in just 30 days and clients often report that the tools they acquire create a foundation for them going forward that they can continue to work with and develop on their own. That’s my goal – to help you discover the healer within and cultivate your own ongoing healing process! You can do this program anytime, anywhere!  The teleseminar calls are open to be on live or an audio replay will be available to listen when it works for you.  I’ve included a description below to learn more and if you have questions or would like additional information, please feel free to contact me.  I invite you to come explore!

• Are you struggling with feelings of anxiety? 
• Is stress affecting your quality of life?
• Do you experience restlessness and an inability to relax?
• Do you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep because you can’t quiet your mind?
• Do you have chronic worrisome thoughts that are difficult to turn off?

• Do you suffer from muscular tension, headaches, stomach problems or lack of energy due to worry or anxiety?

Being able to deal with anxiety and stress effectively is an important component in experiencing a joyful and balanced life.  Anxiety and the effects of stress can keep you from being able to focus and be present.  It can cause a variety of physical and psychological symptoms, which can interfere significantly with work, family and enjoying every day life. And, if not addressed, it can be a contributor to physical disease such as heart disease and digestive problems. 

Recent research has shown that there are a variety of alternative and holistic treatment options for relieving anxiety and stress.  Come and explore natural and effective methods for mastering anxiety and stress.

In the 4-Week Series, you will:

  • Learn 5 Steps to Mastering Anxiety & Stress
  • Understand and recognize how you experience anxiety and stress
  • Learn tools and techniques to support balance and ease of well-being
  • Build a personal holistic resource toolbox
  • Develop a new self-care plan
  • Participate in a supportive group environment 

This 4-Week Series will be both educational and experiential. Through a series of explorations, discussions and practices, participants will be able to explore how they experience anxiety and stress, know their triggers and begin to develop a toolbox to support them in optimal living.  This program will be offered via teleseminar and will have an optional Facebook private group.  Attendance on the live weekly calls is encouraged, however, audio replays will be available for all participants to listen to or download. 

Cost: 

  • Basic Program including 4-Week Series, Private FB Group & Weekly Email Check Ins~ $127
  • Extended Program including above plus One 90 Minute Individual Integrative Holistic Healing Session with Beth Terrence In Person, by Phone or Skype ~ $242

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What folks say about this program:
 
“I couldn’t believe my life could change so much in just 30 days.  After struggling with anxiety for so long, I thought I would never find the relief I was longing for.  Beth’s program helped me to understand how anxiety was showing up in all areas of my life.  The intensive support helped me to change habits that weren’t working for me and to acquire techniques that help me to manage stress and feel less anxious.  I really feel this program has given me a new beginning!” ~ R.J., Annapolis, MD
 
“I was having trouble sleeping, finding myself frustrated with my children, and unable to focus at work.  Stress was ruling my life.  A friend recommended I try Beth’s program and at first I was skeptical but through this 30 day process, I found a new lease on life.  I am sleeping better, enjoying life and able to get more done with less stress. Creating a holistic toolbox that is unique for me was a key part of this change as well as building a self-care plan to carry me forward.  The personalized aspect of this program was key for my success in creating change in my life.” ~ M.F., Baltimore, MD
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Meditation And Mindfulness: Tools For Balanced Living

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100_2211Meditation and Mindfulness are core practices in my life.  I have found these to be essential practices for living as a human being on earth.  They are tools I  like to share and explore in my classes, workshops and teleseminars as well as here on The Heart Of Awakening Blog.  I began my personal exploration with meditation when I was 14 years old and have been a practitioner and spiritual seeker ever since.  I have explored meditative and contemplative practices from a variety of spiritual traditions and cultures and I continue to today.

Personally, I have certain foundational practices that I work with; and I am always open to exploring new ones as they enter my awareness.   What I have found in my own journey and in working with others is that it is important to find practices that supports you where you are and where you would like to be.  Additionally, finding ones that are resonant with who you are today supports cultivating and deepening in an ongoing practice.  Living in a rapidly changing world as we do sometimes requires that we adapt and explore more regularly to keep pace with the changes arising both inwardly and outwardly.  Meditation and mindfulness practices offer tools to support self-awareness, connection and balance in our lives, our relationships and our world. 

Overall, meditation is a process of focusing, calming and observing the movement of the mind.  It is an important tool to achieve mental clarity, ease of well-being and deeper awareness.  Almost all spiritual traditions have some form of meditation or contemplation as a way to practice and deepen our sense of connection with self, others, the world and spirit.   Metta meditation is a Buddhist practice that cultivates loving-kindness and compassion.  It begins with self, as creating a foundation of compassion for self is seen as necessary to be able to offer this energy to others.  I find this practice to be highly beneficial for both the beginning and experienced meditator; that is why I offer the annual May Is For Metta: 31 Days Of Loving-kindness practice during the month of May each year.  And, I am excited to be moving toward completion of a book on that topic to be released this May.

Regardless of what type of meditation practice you are working with, it is fascinating to consider how science is really beginning to identify many of the benefits of meditation, which spiritual practitioners have known for so long.   Many institutions including Harvard Medical School and NIH have now shown that meditation can have positive effects on an individual’s health and overall well-being.  Research shows that this is accomplished as meditation brings the brain wave patterns into an alpha state, which is a level of consciousness that promotes a healing state.  There is even scientific evidence that meditation can reduce blood pressure and relieve pain and stress.

One interesting piece I came across was in an article by David DeSteno on the Daily Good, entitled, “The Morality Of Meditation”.  DeSteno heads up the Social Emotions Group at Northeastern University; as stated on their website, the group’s goal is “to illuminate the complex and reciprocal relations binding emotion and social behavior.  In short, we’re most interested in how emotions shape decisions and actions underlying many of the most important facets of social living.”  Aware of many of the positive benefits of meditation, the group wanted to actually explore Buddha’s original teaching that meditation is the path to ending suffering.

What they found was it took only a short period of time for people who just began meditating to become more compassionate than a control group.  There has been other research on the aspect of the development of compassion through meditation, whether we are using a compassion practice, such as Metta, or another type of practice.  Meditation makes us more compassionate – as we become more connected to ourselves, others and the world, that is a natural response. There are many benefits that have come to light through recent research and that support what meditation practitioners have long known, so at this point, there is really no reason not to meditate and every reason to practice.  Meditation practice makes us healthier, more balanced and more loving and compassionate.

Here is a list of some of the ways that meditation can benefit us on a variety of levels:

Physical:

  • Decreased high blood pressure.
  • Lowered cholesterol levels.
  • Deep rest measured by decreased metabolic rate and lower heart rate.
  • Lowered levels of cortisol and lactate, two chemicals associated with stress.
  • Reduction of free radicals – unstable oxygen molecules that can cause tissue damage.
  • Improved flow of air to the lungs resulting in easier breathing.
  • Decreases the aging process.

Mental/Emotional:

  • Greater creativity.
  • Decreased anxiety.
  • Decreased depression
  • Decreased irritability and moodiness
  • Improved learning ability and memory.
  • Increased self-actualization.
  • Increased feelings of vitality and rejuvenation.
  • Increased happiness.
  • Increased emotional stability.
  • Increased brain wave coherence

Spiritual:

  • Experiencing a sense of oneness and connection
  • Deeper understanding and fulfillment of purpose
  • A sense of completion
  • Strengthening intuition and insight
  • Deepening our sense of empathy and compassion for ourselves, others & the world.
  • An overall experience of well-being

There are a variety of techniques that may be beneficial in creating greater balance and harmony in your life; it’s a great idea to be just be open and explore, especially as you are beginning.  But, even an experienced meditator can benefit from what is called “beginner’s mind”, coming to your practice and to your life with openness and curiosity.  It can be beneficial to find a meditation practice that best supports you where you are in the moment as well as in moving toward the changes you wish to make in your life.  As you explore, you will notice that meditative tools and practices vary according to culture and tradition.  Here are some types of meditation practices you may wish to explore:

Basic Breath Meditation: With just one breath, we have the ability to move from being unconscious to being fully conscious and awake.  If we work with the breath regularly, the potential for change is infinite. here are many ways to work with the breath and it is important to find a practice that resonates with you.  But just one breath taken in a conscious way can be a meditation and a way to be more fully present.  Several of these a day or some type of daily practice creates a powerful catalyst for transformation. Some ways to practice include using the breath as anchor, labeling the breath, counting breaths.  So, stop now wherever you are and just take breath. Notice the breath, sense where you feel it entering the body, feel the fullness or shallowness of it, and label it “breathing in” and “breathing out”.  That’s all it takes!

Mindfulness Meditation: Mindfulness practice is about being aware of the sounds and activities happening within you and around you.  It’s almost a flow-like type of meditation, because you literally just let your mind be fluid and flow from one thought to the next, not really focusing on one particular thing.  You are simply just noticing.  It is unique in that it is not directed toward getting us to be different from how we already are.  Instead, it helps us become aware of what is already true moment by moment. We could say that it teaches us how to be unconditionally present; that is, it helps us be present with whatever is happening, no matter what it is. Some ways to practice include noticing the body, thoughts, location, or conscious action, e.g. mindful eating or washing the dishes.  

Focusing Meditation/Concentration: If the idea of clearing your mind of all thoughts stresses you out, focused meditation or concentration is great because you can focus on a sound, object, mantra, or thought.  The key here is to just focus on one of these things and stay committed to that one thought or object.  If you notice your mind has wandered, you simply bring it back to the object of focus.  For some people, music is a helpful focus as it can be relaxing as well.   Others prefer to gaze at an object such as a candle or an image such as a saint or spiritual teacher.  In our day-to-day lives, our minds can easily be in 10 places at once, so focusing on one is a powerful tool to learn now to be centered and balanced.  I like to practice outdoors sometimes focusing on things in nature like a tree, a flower or a body of water.

Walking Meditation: Movement meditation may seem intimidating, but if you’re by yourself and you really get into it, it can be extremely uplifting and relaxing at the same time.  Standing with your eyes with a soft gaze on the floor in front of you, simply focus on your breath and begin to step right and then left, mindfully.  If it’s helpful you can label your steps, “stepping right” and “stepping left”.  You can explore synchronizing a breath with each step.  Walking meditation can be done in a circle or straight line pausing when you get to an end point and really taking time to notice as your turn around and pause how it feels to shift from movement to stillness to movement once again.  This is something we can carry with us so that we might walk and move more mindfully and with greater awareness through our day-to-day lives.

Mantra Meditation: Mantras are words that are chanted out loud during meditation or can be repeated silently within.  The sound or the words of the mantra actually becomes the object of focus during the meditation and can create a strong anchor for our attention.  In yoga, the mantra Om is regularly used since it delivers a deep vibration that makes it easy for the mind to concentrate on that particular sound.  It is considered a universal sound representing Oneness.  So Ham is another well-know mantra practice, which reflects on the natural sound and rhythm of the breath. You can explore So Ham in my post So Ham Mantra: Breathing, Connecting, Being.

Guided Meditation Or Visualization: Particularly when beginning to meditate some people find it easier to listen to or follow a guided meditation or visualization.  Again, there are many types of practices that can be guided from a gentle body scan meditation to a powerful visualization.  Where guided meditations get really interesting is in the way that they utilize the power of your imagination and the power of visualization to effect positive personal changes.  Visualization techniques are now widely employed in many fields such as the arts, sports, business, alternative medicine, psychotherapy and self-improvement as they help to create a positive feeling or intention. Check out my Meditation On Actualizing Intention.

Grounding Practices/Chakra Meditations: In the yogic tradition of India as well as other spiritual traditions, there is an understanding of the energetic nature of being, beyond the physical. Although systems vary according to tradition, the concept of chakras is a common thread.  Chakras are energy centers, which reflect all aspects of our being, and working with them can help to foster balance and ease in our lives.  The Root Chakra is at the base of the spine and can help with the experience of being grounded and rooted in the world.  Usually when we feel out of balance, we are ungrounded in some way.  Grounding can be as simple as making a connection to the earth with our breath and awareness or using a visualization to deepen our experience of rootedness. Explore Grounding practices in my post on Grounding In A Rapidly Changing World.

Metta Meditation: Metta is a foundation Buddhist meditation practice.  It uses words, images, and feelings to evoke a loving-kindness and compassion toward oneself and others.  With each recitation of the phrases, we are expressing an intention, planting the seeds of loving wishes over and over in our heart.  It is a great practice for beginners and experienced practitioners.  Examples of phrases include: May I Be Happy. May I Be Peaceful. May I Have Ease Of Well-Being.  Join us in May for May Is For Metta: 31 Days Of Loving-kindness Practice, a virtual meditation event happening here on the Heart Of Awakening Blog.

Recommended Reading

  • Wherever You Go There You Are By Jon-Kabat Zinn
  • Loving-kindness: The Art Of Revolutionary Happiness By Sharon Salzberg
  • The Miracle Of Mindfulness By Thich Naht Hanh
  • How To Meditate By Pema Chodron
  • Journey Of Awakening: A Meditator’s Guidebook By Ram Dass 
  • Breath Sweeps Mind Edited By Jean Smith

If you’d like to explore more, consider joining my Facebook group, Meditation & Mindfulness In A Rapidly Changing World.  This group is an extension of my Tuesday night weekly meditation & mindfulness group at The Zen House in Annapolis, MD and offers resources and practices to support meditation and mindfulness exploration.  It is open to anyone who would like to explore and I will be sharing some classes and audios virtually as well.

Tashi Deleh (I honor the greatness within you)

Take Your Mindfulness Meditation To Work! A Conversation on Let’s Coach With Mark & Carolyn

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“Meditation is a way of being, not a technique. Meditation is not about trying to get anywhere else. It is about allowing yourself to be exactly where you are and as you are, and the world to be exactly as it is in this moment.”  ~ Jon Kabat-Zinn

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Listen To The Show

Today, I joined hosts Carolyn Owens and Mark Thorn on their Blog Talk Radio Show, Let’s Coach With Mark & Carolyn.  Our topic was “Take Your Mindfulness Meditation To Work”.  I just wanted to share some of what we discussed and a link to the show for you to explore.

The relationship between our personal lives and our work lives has often been one of disconnection or separation.  When we go to work, we put on our work persona.  When we come home, we take it off.  Even when organizations and individuals desire to be more open, authentic and heart-centered, the transition is difficult.

It is such a fascinating time when we see science is getting on board with what spirituality has long know – meditation is a powerful tool for both consciousness and well-being.  I am amazed to see each week new information being shared about a variety of practices and one that seems to be in the forefront is mindfulness meditation.  Here is a brief summary of recent research from Dan Seigel, co-director of UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center:

• University of New Mexico researchers found that participation in a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course decreased anxiety and binge eating.

• Office workers who practiced MBSR for twenty minutes a day reported an average 11% reduction in perceived stress.  

• Eight weeks of MBSR resulted in an improvement in the immune profiles of people with breast or prostate cancer, which corresponded with decreased depressive symptoms.

• A prison offering Vipassana meditation training for inmates found that those who completed the course showed lower levels of drug use, greater optimism, and better self-control, which could reduce recidivism.

• Fifth-grade girls who did a ten-week program of yoga and other mindfulness practices were more satisfied with their bodies and less preoccupied with weight.

• A mix of cancer patients who tried MBSR showed significant improvement in mood and reduced stress. These results were maintained at a checkup six months later.

• The likelihood of recurrence for patients who had experienced three or more bouts of depression was reduced by half through Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, an offshoot of MBSR.

• After fifteen weeks of practicing MBSR, counseling students reported improved physical and emotional well-being, and a positive effect on their counseling skills and therapeutic relationships. (Source: The Science Of Mindfulness)

So, what is mindfulness?

Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, defines mindfulness as “paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally, to the unfolding of experience moment to moment.

Mindfulness is a not just a practice, but a state of being in attention to the present moment.  When you’re practicing mindfulness, you are observing your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judgement, comparison or the need to understand.  It is a way to be present to life as it unfolds.  It’s simply practicing moment to moment awareness.

Here are some of the overall benefits of mindfulness practice:

  • Reduced stress
  • Decreased anxiety and depression
  • Improved self-awareness
  • Boosts to working memory 
  • Clarity and Focus 
  • Less emotional reactivity 
  • Relationship satisfaction
  • Improved immune functioning
  • Sense of well-being
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Increased empathy and compassion

How can this support our us in the world of work?

As Dan Seigel mentioned in his overview of scientific research, mindfulness meditation has been shown to benefit people at work as well as in their personal lives.  Mindfulness supports greater clarity, clearer focus, improved wellness, reduced stress, increased productivity, stronger resiliency and even enhanced creativity – these are all things that can benefit us in the world of work, whether we work in a large corporation or are a self-employed entrepreneur.

For an individual, mindfulness meditation offers a way to stay present, focused and bring more of our authentic self to our work.  For organizations, mindfulness meditation offers an opportunity to cultivate a culture of clarity, focus and employee engagement.  For both, it also supports a new paradigm for leadership development that is based on authenticity, self-awareness and openness.

Basically, bringing mindfulness meditation practice to work is a win-win situation.  So, whether you are an individual wanting to bring your personal practice more fully into your daily life or an organization wanting create change, bringing mindfulness practice to work offers a powerful tool for transformation.  We can see this happening at companies like Google, Apple, Proctor and Gamble, General Mills, Harpo Studios and The Huffington Post.

Some ways to incorporate mindfulness into your work:

Ways to incorporate mindfulness into your work:

  • Practice the “just one breath meditation”.  Simply take a mindful breath, noticing the sensations of the breath, where you feel it in your body, the rhythm of the breath and/or labeling it “breathing in and breathing out.
  • Count your next five breaths.
  • Give yourself a break – get up, stretch, step a way for just a moment.
  • Go for a mindful walk around the office or go outside and get some fresh air.
  • Feel your feet on the floor. Feel the support of the earth beneath you.
  • Give some attention to you body.  Notice where you feel might feel tension or discomfort.  Bring the breath to that area for just a moment.
  • Pause and notice all of the sounds around you, just listen and notice.
  • Get a mindfulness app or set a timer to remind you to pause several times during the day. 

Feel free to comment or share on how you bring mindfulness or other meditation practices to your world of work! 

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Day 20 ~ May Is For Metta 2014: 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

May Is For Metta 2014

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.

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.

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If you are interested in receiving 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 + 31 Daily Audio Message/Guided Meditation Practices delivered to you through email each morning ~ $31

You will receive a catalogue of audios from Day 1 to present which can be accessed online or downloaded.  A new message will be delivered each day thru May 31st.

Sample Day 2 Of May Is For Metta Audio Message

Level II: Blog Posts + 31 Daily Audios +  One-On-One Integrative Transformational Healing Session with Beth Terrence in person in Annapolis, MD,  or by Phone or Skype  ~ $108

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Day 13 ~ May Is For Metta 2014: Loving-kindness For A Neutral Being

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May Is For Metta 2014

“My religion is very simple.  My religion is kindness.” ~ H.H. Dalai Lama

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.

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If you are interested in receiving 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 + 31 Daily Audio Message/Guided Meditation Practices delivered to you through email each morning ~ $31

Sample Day 2 Of May Is For Metta Audio Message

Level II: Blog Posts + 31 Daily Audios +  One-On-One Integrative Transformational Healing Session with Beth Terrence in person in Annapolis, MD,  or by Phone or Skype  ~ $108

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Day 4 ~ May Is For Metta 2014: Offering Loving-kindness To Ourselves

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“Compassion is not a magical device that can instantly dispel all suffering. The path of compassion is altruistic but not idealistic.  Walking this path we are not asked to lay down our life, find a solution for all of the struggles in this world, or immediately rescue all beings. We are asked to explore how we may transform our own hearts and minds in the moment.

Can we understand the transparency of division and separation? Can we liberate our hearts from ill will, fear, and cruelty? Can we find the steadfastness, patience, generosity, and commitment not to abandon anyone or anything in this world? Can we learn how to listen deeply and discover the heart that trembles in the face of suffering?

The path of compassion is cultivated one step and one moment at a time. Each of those steps lessens the mountain of sorrow in the world.”  – Pema Chodron

May Is For Metta 2014

Believe it or not, we are going to spend a couple of more days focusing on cultivating loving-kindness and compassion for ourselves before we move on.  This practice is an opportunity to spend time being present with yourself and deepening in offering love and kindness to yourself in a new way.  How often do you take time to be fully present with yourself?  How often do you spend time offering love to yourself?  You may not always be able to take time off to just be by yourself, but in cultivating a practice of meditation and of loving-kindness, you are creating an “inner” retreat.  This is one of the most loving things you can do for yourself as you attend to the busyness of life.  And, it doesn’t have to happen on the meditation cushion, it can also be by inviting some of the aspects of Metta into your day-to-day activities.

For some of us, it is not easy to spend time loving and showering kindness on ourselves; it may actually be difficult or challenging.  This is a really good reason to stick with it.  It is often easier to focus our energies on others, neglecting ourselves.  We may have a strong inner critic, we may be used to focusing our attention on others, or we may believe it is selfish to love ourselves first.  Part of our practice is to notice what thoughts, feelings and beliefs come up as we practice.  We notice and then return to our practice by simply generating the feeling of loving-kindness and repeating the phrases.

Many thoughts arise during meditation practice and it is natural to come face to face with our conditioned mind.  There are many voices that keep us held in limiting patterns.  These are the voices that can actually keep us from sitting down to practice or from taking the time to be still.  Often, these begin with not being good enough, worthy enough or deserving of love.  In this practice and really in all meditation practice, we are beginning to turn the tables on these limiting beliefs.  Metta allows us to see where we are stuck and where it is that we are withholding love from ourselves.  I encourage you, even if you are struggling with disruptive thoughts, coming face to face with limiting beliefs or struggling with difficult feeling to stay present with the practice and with yourself.

Daily Practice:

Begin with the foundational practices.  If you have not decided how you wish to begin, take some time today to do so, reviewing Days 1 and 2 if necessary.  Once you have settled your body and mind, begin cultivating the feeling of loving-kindness.  Then, take a few moments to notice your experience.  Your sense of loving-kindness may be deepening as you are beginning to work with it more regularly.  Just notice.  When you feel immersed in the energy of loving-kindness, begin repeating the phrases.  Continue with the same phrases as yesterday or try some others for today.  This is still a time for exploration.  Be gentle, be open, and most of all be loving with yourself.  Practice for as long as you have committed to or as much as you can for today.

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

Also, as you go about the day, you may become more aware of some of the voices that keep you stuck.  When you notice this during the day, take a few moments to focus on the breath, and the feeling of loving-kindness; then try to a round of the phrases for yourself.  This begins to shift your conditioned mind as you are bringing these patterns to light and responding to them 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.  Are you able to connect with the energy of loving-kindness a few times as you go about your day?  How is your practice going?  Are you able to commit some time everyday?  If yes, how does it feel?  If not, what’s getting in the way?  Do you need to adjust the time or place to make it workable?  What beliefs are you aware of that keep you from your practice and from loving yourself more fully?

I’d love to hear how your explorations are going.  May you have a very beautiful and loving day.

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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 in person, by phone or skype with facilitator Beth Terrence ~ $108

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Day 2 ~ May Is For Metta 2014: Our Circle Of Loving Beings

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“The nature of the sun can be called “Maitri” or “Metta”.  Maitri or Metta also means friendliness or loving-kindness.  Perhaps the reason why loving-kindness is called so is that it generates very warm feeling towards all beings.  

Like warmth comes from the sun, one who has loving-kindness has a warm heart towards others.  Just as the sun shines indiscriminately on any object in the world, “Metta” or “Maitri” pervades all beings without any discrimination.  Just as the sun dispels darkness, loving-kindness destroys the darkness of hatred.” Bhante Henepola Gunaratana

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As we have begun to explore, the foundation of Metta begins with cultivating loving-kindness and compassion for ourselves.  It is here, with our own self that we can begin to experience the deep love and compassion that we will later extend out to others and the world.  Yesterday, we started to connect with essence or feeling of loving-kindness and compassion. Today, we will continue to explore ways to generate the quality of loving-kindness toward ourselves and deepen into it.

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. 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 truly work with it as a vehicle for our practice.

As I mentioned yesterday, we will gradually be building our practice, day by day.  You may feel like we are going too slow but this is an intentional part of the practice.  The mind tends to be very busy and go fast, but the energy of the heart is much slower and gentler.  Taking time to shift our energy and our awareness into the space of the heart requires slowing down. 

Also, we are just beginning to connect with the feeling of loving-kindness in this new way.  So, in a sense we are beginning to build a new relationship with ourselves.  Anyone who has been in a relationship knows that it takes time to connect and grow in intimacy.  Part of our journey during May Is For Metta is to cultivate a deeper knowing of ourselves that can only arise when we begin to approach ourselves from the space of the heart, with openness, gentleness and loving-kindness.  It is important to include “going slow” as part of our practice. 

Daily Practice:

Find a comfortable position either sitting on a chair or on the floor.  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 at this time.

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 all that out with the next few breaths, just letting it all drift away like a cloud passing by in the sky ~ you simply 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.  Sometimes 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.  Simply 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 – family members, close friends, animals or universal beings whom you feel embody love such as Mother Theresa, Buddha, Jesus, Quan Yin, etc.  In my practice, I include my Grandma Clara, my childhood dog Babas Au Rhum, my cat Percy, my mentor Bill, my Sufi teacher Ayesha, the Dalai Lama, Mother Theresa, Hilda Charlton, Buddha and others whose image stirs the feeling of loving-kindness and compassion in me.  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.

Also, if there is someone whom you have mixed or uncomfortable feelings about, perhaps a family member or friend, you can work with this later on in our practice, but you may not want to include them in your circle just for now.  This 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 of it. You are receiving love from all of those loving beings 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.

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 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 you resist loving 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 and compassion with you wherever you go.

Everyone is invited to share thoughts, experiences and reflections as their practice unfolds.

May you have a beautiful and loving day!

Namaste.

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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 in person, by phone or skype with facilitator Beth Terrence ~ $108

Register Now!

Day 1 ~ May Is For Metta 2014: Our Journey Of Loving-kindness Begins

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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:

May Is For Metta Page

May Is For Metta 2014! Coming Soon To A Cushion Near You

May Is For Metta ~ A Journey Of Loving-kindness On Heal My Voice Radio

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.

Daily Practice:

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.

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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

Register Now!

 

May Is For Metta 2014 ~ Coming Soon To A Cushion Near You!

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“Though we all have the seed of loving-friendliness within us, we must make the effort to cultivate it.  When we are rigid, uptight, tense, anxious, full of worries or fears, our natural capacity for loving-friendliness cannot flourish.  To nurture the seed of loving-friendliness, we must learn to relax.  In a peaceful state of mind, such as we get from mindfulness meditation, we can forget our past differences with others and forgive their faults, weaknesses and offenses.  Then loving-friendliness naturally grows within us.”

-Bhante Henepola Gunarantana

It’s hard to believe it’s that time of year again – my favorite time of year here on The Heart Of Awakening Blog.  We are gearing up for the 4th annual May Is For Metta: 31 Days Of Loving-kindness Exploration Event here on The Heart Of Awakening Blog.  This is an event I started initially on Facebook and expanded here on HOA.  May Is For Metta is a gathering of a virtual sangha (community) with participants from all over the world energetically coming together for daily guided meditation practice and exploration during the month of May.  Our intention is to cultivate greater loving-kindness and compassion for ourselves, others and the world or as Bhante Henepola Gunarantanta calls it ~ “Loving-friendliness”!

I am excited to be preparing and sharing about our upcoming virtual gathering of May Is For Metta 2014: 31 Days Of Loving-kindess Exploration.  Our practice will begin on May 1st and end on May 31st with explorations and guided practices each day.  The heart of the practice centers around daily posts which include information on Metta (Loving-kindness) Meditation, guided practices and journaling exercises.   There is also some sharing on HOA’s Facebook page.  Once the process begins it is basically self-guided – you can begin on Day 1 or jump in where you feel to.  For those who choose to commit to the 31 Days of practice, there is an opportunity to develop or deepen a daily meditation or contemplation practice.  There will be lots of support in building a regular practice.

New this year are two optional levels for those who would like additional support. Options include:

Optional Level I : Daily Blog Posts plus Daily Audio Message/Guided Meditation Practice ~ $31 For 31 Days  (Register Now…)

Optional Level II: Daily Blog Posts plus Daily Audios plus 1 One-on-One Session by Phone/Skype with facilitator Beth Terrence to support your individual practice (Register Now)

What Is Metta Meditation?

Metta, or Loving-kindness meditation, is a Buddhist practice that involves the repetition of phrases, similar to mantra, that help to generate the energy of loving-kindness and in a sense offer blessings to ourselves, to others and to the world.  Although we work with the phrases as the anchor of the practice, the essence of it is the generation of the energy of loving-kindness and compassion.  There are variations on the phrases which focus on cultivating happiness, safety, and ease of well-being.  Here is one version:

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

For those who are new to Metta and/or a daily meditation practice, this time offers you the opportunity to build a practice and to create a space for stillness and peace. This is one of the most loving acts we can do for ourselves.  And, so how wonderful to begin with the practice of Metta – cultivating loving-kindness and compassion for ourselves, others and the world.

For those who currently have a daily meditation practice and/or have worked with Metta practice before, this is a time for you to go deeper.  One of the greatest lessons I have learned in life is to always come to a teaching or practice with a beginners mind.  From this place of openness and unknowing lies a great opportunity for developing our understanding and can allow us to become more present to each moment.

In a gradual way, each day will offer simple guidance on how to begin and stay present with a daily practice. It is up to you how much time to commit and how deep you will choose to go.  A part of the journey is uncovering where we resist, get stuck and withhold from ourselves by not creating the time and space we need to be centered and whole.  So in essence, this 31 Days is really an exercise in Loving Ourselves enough to commit some time and space to be more present; the vehicle for creating that time and space is the practice of Metta and daily meditation.

To receive updates and posts this year, there are a few ways to stay connected:

  • “JOIN” The Heart Of Awakening Blog community through the sign up box on the top right of this page
  • “LIKE” The Heart Of Awakening Facebook page
  • “REGISTER” through Eventbrite to receive daily posts (free) via email or to sign up for optional levels which include daily audios and/or a one-on-one session to support your practice and exploration.  There are additional fees for the optional levels.  Learn more…
  • “DONATE” – If you have enjoyed May Is For Metta and The Heart Of Awakening Blog, consider making a donation to support this year’s event and all of the offerings on HOA.  Donations can also be made through Eventbrite.  Learn more…

Also, if you have participated before would like to drop a note to share or reflect on your experiences, I’d love to hear from you; and I am sure folks who are interested would, too.   If you have any suggestions for this year’s gathering, please feel free to drop me a note as well.

I am so looking forward to our journey together.  Feel free to share May Is For Metta with your friends, family, co-workers and community.  We will spend quite a bit of time exploring how loving-kindness and compassion practices can be brought into our relationships and daily experiences.  Imagine if each person on earth were to take some time everyday to cultivate greater loving-kindness and compassion ~ what our world might be like!  Let’s see starting May 1st!

Namaste.

Beth

Day 31 ~ May Is For Metta 2013: A Path To Oneness

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“Reaching a state of compassion is the ultimate gift we give ourselves as human beings.  It is knowing and feeling that all power is within us and that none is vested outside of us – neither in material things nor in the circumstance of our lives.  Compassion comes from loving ourselves so completely that we see and feel others only through that love.  In a state of compassion, Oneness is our reality.” ~ Arnold Patent

Wow!  We did it.  How does it feel to have devoted 31 Days of your life to cultivating loving-kindness and compassion for ourselves, others and the world?  The word “Devotee” comes to mind here, which according to the Oxford Dictionary connotes:

  • a person who is very interested in and enthusiastic about someone or something: a devotee of Lewis Carroll
  • a strong believer in a particular religion or god: devotees of Krishna

We sometimes hear the term used when someone follows a particular guru, teacher or religion, but what if we choose to follow loving-kindness and compassion as our guide?  I have often heard the Dalai Lama quoted as saying, “My religion is very simple.  My religion is kindness.”   This is not to say that we cannot have our structured religions or beliefs, but the heart of our human experience is about the essence of who we are and not the structure.  As Arnold Patent touches on above, it’s not about the material, the circumstances or even the way we live our lives, it’s about knowing and feeling what lies within and connecting with the Oneness that is our true nature.  And, it is by practicing that we can develop the “muscles” to experience Oneness.

I was excited to come across an article during our practice time which shares about research at the University Of Wisconsin on loving-kindness practice and how it transforms us.  This research has been going on for some time and what has been found is that as we practice loving-kindness, we are actually retraining our brain.  I love it when science comes on board and show us what spirituality has known for so long.  More recent research has focused on assessing loving-kindness practice by evaluating a shift to more altruistic tendencies as an indicator.  Researcher Helen Weng says this,

“Our fundamental question was, ‘Can compassion be trained and learned in adults?  Can we become more caring if we practice that mindset?  Our evidence points to yes… It’s kind of like weight training.  Using this systematic approach, we found that people can actually build up their compassion ‘muscle’ and respond to others’ suffering with care and a desire to help.”

One of the aspects that was noted was that the practice actually helps people to regulate their emotions in a new way.  In the research, this was reflected by certain changes in the brain and in the ability to respond in a more compassionate way.  Part of this has to do with what we have learned from our practice alone, that as we deepen our ability to experience loving-kindness and compassion, we become more able to hold the space for other’s suffering as well as for the uncomfortable feelings that arise within ourselves.  This is often where might have had the tendency to turn away or close our hearts.  Thanks to Metta, we have the ability to open and to transform in each moment.  How beautiful!

If you’d like to learn more about research loving-kindness and other explorations in meditation, visit UW’s Center For Investigating Healthy Minds.

Daily Practice:  Do you foundational practices.  As you begin your practice today, take a few moments to reflect on any changes you may have experienced since you began May is for Metta.  How has your ability to connect with and generate the qualities of loving-kindness and compassion evolved?  Spend some time in your circle of loving beings or imagining a time you were held in unconditional love.  Really allow yourself to feel those energies enveloping you.  When you feel ready, repeat the phrases for yourself:

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

As we conclude our practice, choose someone from each of the individual categories whom you have already practiced for during May is for Metta and offer Metta again for this being:  Benefactor, Beloved, Neutral Being, and Difficult Person.  Acknowledge that in practicing for this being, you have benefitted by becoming more open-hearted and loving.  As you begin each category, say, “Just as I wish to be peaceful and happy, so does this being wish to have inner peace and joy.”   Repeat the phrases for each category you are working with remembering to come back to your own heart center for a few moments between each category:

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

If 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 or move on to the next category.   When you are ready move on to the category of All Beings. To conclude our practice, let’s take a few moments to practice for our virtual sangha; our community of May is for Metta practitioners is spread out all over the world.  For the last 31 days, we have been coming together with our hearts and the intention of creating more loving-kindness and compassion in ourselves, others and the world.  Offer the phrases for our community, including yourself:

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

When you feel complete, move on to the broader category of All Beings.  As we extend out our practice today, let us remember that it is this state of compassion that opens us to the experience of Oneness.  Let us dedicate our practice for the benefit of all beings without exception:

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

To complete your practice, return yourself to your circle of loving beings or envision yourself enveloped in the energy of loving-kindness and compassion.  Let every atom and cell of your being be filled with the energy of loving-kindness and compassion.  Feel these qualities filling you and surrounding you.  Know that you have created a strong foundation of loving-kindness and compassion within yourself and you can now carry that wherever you go.  You are a beacon of loving-kindness and compassion. Today is a day to celebrate your journey with May Is For Metta.  Take some time to reflect on your practice and to explore how you would like to continue. Journal Notes: How does it feel to be a beacon of loving-kindness and compassion?  What have you noticed about yourself and your practice since you began?  How will you work with Metta going forward?   What other practices would you like to explore?   Have you taken time to honor yourself for your efforts?

It has been a joy to explore and journey with you all again in this way during May Is For Metta 2013.  I hope you will continue to explore as your heart guides you to.  I will be indexing this year’s practices on the May Is For Metta page of the blog in the next week or so for continued practice, and 2012’s post are already indexed there.  There is some repetition of the posts and some variation, but feel free to come back to the practice as you feel to.  Some folks have found it helpful to do the 31 Days again or to just drop into a specific topic as they feel to.  Also, I am considering adding some other guided practices in this way, so stay tuned.  If you want to stay up to date with what’s happening, you can stay connected by signing up to follow the blog, receive my E-news or by joining us on Facebook (see sidebar).  Also, if you have any comments, reflections or suggestions that you would like to share, please feel free to comment or drop me a note.

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

Love & Light, Beth

Day 30 ~ May Is For Metta 2013: Metta As Medicine For Heart & Soul

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“ONE GREAT QUESTION underlies our experience, whether we think about it consciously or not:  What is the purpose of life?  I have considered this question and would like to share my thoughts in the hope that they may be of direct, practical benefit to those who read them.
 
I believe that the purpose of life is to be happy.  From the moment of birth, every human being wants happiness and does not want suffering.  Neither social conditioning nor education nor ideology affect this.  From the very core of our being, we simply desire contentment.  I don’t know whether the universe, with its countless galaxies, stars and planets, has a deeper meaning or not, but at the very least, it is clear that we humans who live on this earth face the task of making a happy life for ourselves.  Therefore, it is important to discover what will bring about the greatest degree of happiness…

From my own limited experience I have found that the greatest degree of inner tranquility comes from the development of love and compassion.”- H.H. Dalai Lama on Compassion and The Individual

Our journey together through May is for Metta has been an opportunity to explore ways to create happiness and peace in ourselves, others and the world.  As the Dalai Lama indicated above – at the core of being human is the desire to be happy.  This is a bond we share as human beings, regardless of our outer differences.  Our sense of separation, from ourselves, others and the world, is an obstacle, which most of us face as we try to create happiness in our lives.  By developing and deepening our connection with our own heart and generating a foundation of loving-kindness and compassion, we have begun the process of bringing more happiness to ourselves and to all beings.

In a sense, we can view our practice of Metta, of loving-kindness and compassion, as the “medicine” that brings happiness into being.  What better medicine can there be?  In many cultures, the term medicine refers not only to drugs or substances, but to wisdom and the guidance of spirit.  Metta is medicine for the heart and soul;  it’s natural, it’s free and it’s beautiful to experience.  And, as we work with the “medicine” of Metta, it’s energy pours over into others and the world.  As we heal ourselves, we heal the world.

Daily Practice:  As we move towards the end of May Is For Metta 2013, I hope you will take some time to honor the efforts you have been making to be more loving and compassionate.  Do you foundational practices.  As you begin your practice today, take a few moments to reflect on any changes you may have experienced since you began May is for Metta.  How has your ability to connect with and generate the qualities of loving-kindness and compassion evolved?  Spend some time in your circle of loving beings or imagining a time you were held in unconditional love.  Really allow yourself to feel those energies enveloping you.  When you feel ready, repeat the 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 onto the other categories as you feel to for today:  Benefactor, Beloved, Neutral Being, and Difficult Person.  Acknowledge that in practicing for this being, you have benefitted by becoming more open-hearted and loving.  As you begin each category, say, “Just as I wish to be peaceful and happy, so does this being wish to have inner peace and joy.”   Repeat the phrases for each category you are working with remembering to come back to your own heart center for a few moments between each category:

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

If 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 or move on to the next category.   When you are ready move on to the category of All Beings.

When you feel complete, move on to the broader category of All Beings.  As we extend out our practice today, let us remember the words of the Dalai Lama, that at the core, all beings wish to be happy.  Let us dedicate our practice for the benefit of all beings without exception:

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

To complete your practice, return yourself to your circle of loving beings or envision yourself enveloped in the energy of loving-kindness and compassion.  Let every atom and cell of your being be filled with the energy of loving-kindness and compassion.  Feel these qualities filling you and surrounding you.  Know that you have created a strong foundation of loving-kindness and compassion within yourself and you can now carry that wherever you go.  You are a beacon of loving-kindness and compassion.

Take some time today to reflect on your practice and to explore how you would like to continue as we prepare to move into our last day of practice together. 

Journal Notes: How does it feel to be a beacon of loving-kindness and compassion?  What have you noticed about yourself and your practice since you began?  How will you work with Metta going forward?  What other practices would you like to explore?  Have you taken time to honor yourself for your efforts?

Have a happy, peaceful and loving day!