Tag Archives: Buddhism

Day 20 ~ May Is For Metta 2016: Planting Seeds of Lovingkindness

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May the earth be wholesome everywhere
The world blessed with prosperity
May the poor and destitute find wealth
And the stooping animals be freed

May every being ailing with illness
Find relief at once from suffering
May all the sickness that afflict the living
Be instantly and permanently healed

May those who go in dread, have no more fear,
May captives be unchained and set free,
And may the weak now become strong,
May living beings help each other in kindness.

May travelers upon the road,
Find happiness no matter where they go,
And may they gain, without hardship,
The goals on which their hearts are set.

From the songs of birds and the sighing of trees,
From the shafts of light and from the sky itself,
May living beings, each and every one,
Perceive the constant sound of Dharma

– Shantideva

It is a natural aspect of life that we are troubled by difficult emotional states and often, we may find it difficult to deal with them.  However, even when the mind is troubled, it is within the capacity of each of us to arouse positive feelings.  The Buddha taught the practice of Metta meditation to develop the mental habit of loving-kindness and compassion for one’s self and others.

Loving-kindness is a practice which can bring about positive attitudinal changes.  It assists in developing a quality of loving acceptance.  This is a way of healing the mind and freeing it from pain and confusion.  Metta practice offers the immediate benefit of changing our habitual negative patterns present in the mind as well bringing about a positive outlook on life.

Sometimes the response to Metta is immediate; we begin to feel more loving-kindness and happiness right away.  Other times, we do the practice, and do it some more, and do not feel very different.  Still, even without feeling it, it is important to know that we are creating a positive change in our minds and our lives.  It is like planting a seed.  It takes time for the seed to develop and to begin to burst forth.  Think of Metta practice as planting seeds for the cultivation of loving-kindness and compassion in your life, your relationships and in the world.

One of the ways we can work with Metta is in response to things that happen in the world such as natural disasters, acts of violence or other tragedies that are happening in every moment.  Or, maybe there is someone we know personally who is suffering from a disease such as cancer or perhaps the loss of a loved one.  Regardless of the size or scope of the situation, what is happening is that we are becoming aware of suffering.  It is possible we may be unable to do something outwardly to help.  It is also possible we are having a strong or difficult reaction to this suffering.

Offering Metta in response to tragedy or to the awareness of another’s suffering is one of the great gifts of the practice.  We may or may not be able to do something outwardly, but inwardly we can generate loving-kindness and compassion for those in need.   So let’s take some time today in our practice to offer Metta to others around the world who are suffering.  Perhaps something you saw in the news today pulled at your heart-strings; this is a perfect opportunity to practice Metta.

Today, let’s work with the full practice and all of the categories.  If for any reason this feels too much or is an obstacle to your practice, then just choose a few categories to work with.  Just take a few moments to breathe into your heart center and feel what is right for you today.

Daily Practice: 

Do your foundational practices. Find a quiet place and a comfortable position.  Imagine yourself in your circle of loving beings or enveloped in the feeling of loving-kindness  in a time when you felt held in that way.  Then, begin your practice by offering the Metta phrases for yourself.

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

When you feel ready, move on to practicing for all of the categories or the ones you have chosen for today: Benefactor, Beloved, Neutral Being, Difficult Person, and All Beings.  Acknowledge that “just as I wish to be happy and free from suffering, so does this being wish to be happy and free from suffering.”  Then, move onto working with the phrases that feel best to you.

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

If you become distracted at any point or difficult feelings arise, use the Switchback, returning your practice to yourself until a sense of calm returns.  Then, return your practice to where you left off.  When you are ready to complete your practice, return yourself to your 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 into you, let every atom and cell of your being be filled with loving-kindness and compassion. Let this energy support you as you journey through the day.

Anytime you become aware of someone, somewhere in the world, or some group of people who are suffering, take a few moments to practice on the spot.  This is a gift to others and the world and to yourself as you are choosing to open your heart in a moment when it may feel like closing.  In offering loving-kindness and compassion, you are opening to receive it more deeply as well.  And, remember, each time that you practice Metta you are planting seeds of loving-kindness and compassion that can grow and flow where they are needed in the world.

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 are you feeling about your Metta practice?
  • Are you noticing a difference in how you feel or what you are experiencing?
  • If yes, what is that like?  If no, are you okay knowing you are planting seeds?
  • Do you think you may continue to practice Metta or daily meditation after the 31 days?
  • If so, what will that look like?  If not, is there another practice you’d like to explore?
  • Did you explore practicing on the spot?

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

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Day 19 ~ May Is For Metta 2016: Walking Metta Meditation

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“In my room, the world is beyond my understanding; 

but when I walk I see that it consists of three or four hills and a cloud.”

– Walllace Stevens

During our practice in 2010, one of our participants shared that she had incorporated her practice of Metta with walking meditation, which she usually did outside.  I have always found walking meditation to be very beneficial because it helps to develop a practice in a way that supports carrying it out into the world.  Living in New York City for a large part of my life, I found this practice very beneficial.  It was not possible to connect with the many people I saw everyday or even offer help to all of those I saw in need, but it was possible to offer loving-kindness and compassion.  I know this practice was something that helped me to have a much greater connection to the world around me as well as a deep sense of peace.

At the time of the Buddha, it was a traditional practice for the monks and nuns to practice the cultivation of loving-kindness meditation as they walked.  As they went around town to town asking for food, they would radiate out loving-kindness and compassion to everyone they encountered on the streets.  

Today, I encourage you to explore combining your Metta practice with walking meditation, either as a formal practice or just by going out for a walk.  In basic walking meditation, we hold our awareness on each step.  Stepping right, stepping left.  This is our anchor as the breath may be our anchor in other practices.  In working with Metta, be present with each step but continue to use the phrases as your anchor if your mind wanders or you become distracted.

This is a short video with Thich Nhat Hanh sharing about the practice of walking meditation and the importance of making peaceful, happy steps on the earth.  He quotes the Buddha as saying, “As you can make peaceful, happy steps on the earth, the earth can become the pureland.”  Take some time today to make peaceful, happy steps on the earth.

Daily Practice: 

Choose whether you want to do a sitting practice and then explore doing some Metta as you go for a walk.  Or, choose to incorporate your Metta practice with walking meditation.  You can choose to walk in a circle or perhaps find somewhere in nature where you can practice mindful walking.  Do your foundational practices.  Imagine yourself in the center of your 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 or the ones you have chosen for today using the phrases that feel best to you. Try to take at least part of your practice out into the world, whether doing walking meditation, going for a walk or even while at the grocery store.  Explore extending Metta to people you see out in the world remembering that “just as you wish to be happy and peaceful, so does this being wish to have inner peace and joyfulness.”  Repeat the phrases:

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

If you become distracted at any point or difficult feelings arise, use the Switchback, returning your practice to yourself until a sense of calm returns. Then, return your practice to 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.   

  • Did you explore combining Metta with walking meditation?  
  • How did that feel?  
  • How is your practice going?  
  • Are you able to spend some time everyday in practice?  
  • If yes, what are you noticing?  If not, what is stopping you?

May you all have a radiantly joyful day.

Tashi Deleh! (I honor the greatness within you!)

Beth

Day 18 ~ May Is For Metta 2016: Everyday Is A New Beginning

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“Rahula, practice loving-kindness to overcome anger.  Loving-kindness has the capacity to bring happiness to others without demanding anything in return. 

Practice compassion to overcome cruelty.  Compassion has the capacity to remove the suffering of others without expecting anything in return.

Practice sympathetic joy to overcome hatred.  Sympathetic joy arises when one rejoices over the happiness of others and wishes others well-being and success. 

Practice non-attachment to overcome prejudice.  Non-attachment is the way of looking at all things openly and equally. 

This is because that is.  Myself and others are not separate.  Do not reject one thing only to chase after another.  I call these the four immeasurables.  Practice them and you will become a refreshing source of vitality and happiness for others.”

– Buddha speaking to his son, Rahula

Everyday is a new beginning.  If for some reason you have lost momentum with your practice or even if you have dropped off, just remember that you can begin again.  You can continue right where you left off or move on; you can even start over again if that feels right to you.  This exploration is about cultivating loving-kindness and compassion.  It is also about developing a daily meditation practice in a way that supports you where you are today.

During meditation, we use an anchor such as the breath or the phrases to bring us back to the present moment; we do this whenever we realize our mind has wandered.  In the same way, when we realize we have gotten off track or missed a day or two or three of our practice, we simply return to it.  We do this with gentleness and with love.  We just notice we have gotten distracted and we return to the practice.  Although our natural habitual tendency might be to move into self-judgment or harshness, we can choose to embrace our practice of loving-kindness by just noticing where we are and then gently and lovingly returning to our center.

Meditation offers us the opportunity to return to our center and to begin anew in every moment.  Metta teaches us to be loving and compassionate with ourselves in our practice and in our daily life.  Extend this gift of loving-kindness to yourself in the moment and explore what’s possible.

Today, we will work with the full practice, choosing one person for each of the categories.  If for any reason this feels too much or is an obstacle to your practice, then just choose a few categories to work with.  Begin your practice by setting an intention in a way that feels right for you. Recognize that you are practicing, not just for yourself and that the cultivation of loving-kindness is beneficial for all beings and for the world.

Daily Practice: 

Do your foundational practices.  Find a quiet place and a comfortable position.  Imagine yourself in your circle of loving beings or enveloped in the feeling of loving-kindness.  Imagine a time when you felt held in that way.  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 or just choose a few to work with for today that you feel drawn to from Benefactor, Beloved, Neutral Being, Difficult Being and All Beings.  Remember to come back to your heart center for a few moments between each category.  Offer the phrases for each being you have chosen to work with today:

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

As 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.  To complete your practice, return yourself to your 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.

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 are you feeling about your practice?
  • Can you approach your practice with gentleness and compassion rather than harshness or judgment?
  • How does it feel to be cultivating a daily practice or exploring expanding in loving-kindness?
  • Are you able to connect with your heart center more easily?
  • If so, how does that feel?  If not, what is getting in your way?
  • Are you being gentle and loving with yourself in regards to your practice? in your life?
  • May you have a peaceful and happy day.

Tashi Deleh! (I honor the greatness within you!).

Day 17 ~ May Is For Metta 2016: Bringing Our Practice Together

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“We all are so deeply interconnected; we have no option but to love all. Be kind and do good for any one and that will be reflected. The ripples of the kind heart are the highest blessings of the Universe.” 

~ Amit Ray

Today, we will continue our practice of Metta by bringing together all of the categories to experience the full practice of Metta.   If for some reason this feels too much, simply choose a few to work with for today.  

In a previous year’s practice, a question arose about the phrases, which I have been exploring and pondering each year since.   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.  This exploration of the phrases always feel like something to explore together.  Feel free to comment on the post here or come share in our Facebook group about your reflections on the phrases.

Also, I came across this explanation of what Metta “is not” on the Wildmind Buddhist Meditation website and it feels like it may be helpful to explore:

  • 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 can be 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.  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.

Tashi Deleh! (I honor the greatness within you!)

Beth

Day 12 ~ May Is For Metta 2016: Offering Lovingkindness To A Difficult Being

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“To understand human evolution it helps to get a fix on where you are headed. The answer is quite simple: you are moving to a state of total compassion. How do you get there? That’s simple too (at least in concept). By removing the “rough spots” in your life. What are the “rough spots? Anything you do not love. Because everything you do not love will cause you conflict.”

~ Ross Bishop,  A Shaman’s Path To Inner Peace

Today, we will move our practice of Metta to the category of a Difficult being, referred to in traditional Buddhist texts as the “Enemy”.  At the most basic level, the Difficult person is someone we find it difficult to like or feel kindly toward.  This is someone who we may have negative feelings toward or we find that they challenge us in some way.  There are varying degrees of difficulty and this is something we will explore as part of the practice.  This category offers us the opportunity to go to a deeper place within ourselves as we work to evoke and hold loving-kindness for someone who may have hurt us in some way, whom we have resistance towards and whose image stirs negativity in us.

When choosing a Difficult person, you can choose someone you have mildly difficult feelings about or a real “enemy” with whom you have experienced true problems.  It may be someone whom you find unpleasant, frightening, or annoying.  The Difficult person can include someone who is hostile toward you or someone toward whom you have hostility.  In the beginning, it is best to choose someone to work with who you find is only mildly difficult rather than someone who stirs up very strong emotions; this helps to expand your ability to generate loving-kindness.  Later, when you have practiced offering loving-kindness toward a mildly difficult person then you can expand your practice to increasingly difficult people.

Daily Practice: 

Do your foundational practices.  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.  By now you should have a clear sense of how to begin your practice.  If you need to, you can always return to Days 1 – 7 to deepen your foundation in loving-kindness practice for yourself.  Then, begin to send Metta to yourself by repeating the phrases.

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

When you feel immersed in the energy of loving-kindness for yourself, bring an image of the Difficult person you will work with into your awareness.  Remind yourself that this person, although difficult, is also struggling to find his or her way in life and in the process, is causing you discomfort.  Begin by saying to yourself, “Just as I wish to be peaceful and free from suffering, may you also find inner peace and calm.”  Then, begin repeating the phrases while holding the image of the difficult person in your mind:

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

It is natural for feelings of resistance, aversion, anger, guilt, and discomfort to arise. Sometimes the phrases seem weak in comparison to these strong emotions.  If you are struggling with your own emotions, try to name the emotion you are feeling, such as sadness or anger.  Take a few moments to practice compassion for yourself using the phrases and when you begin to feel more settled, then return your practice to the Difficult person.  Use the Switchback as often as you need to maintain an overall feeling of loving-kindness and compassion.  If it feels too much to practice for a difficult person, trying moving to another category that we have worked with and then move back to the difficult person when you feel to.

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 and offer loving-kindness to a Difficult person.  Spend a few moments dedicating the merit of your practice for your own benefit and for that of all sentient beings.  Do this in a way that feels appropriate for you.

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 was your experience practicing Metta for a Difficult person?
  • Was it harder than the other categories?
  • Did you have difficulty choosing or holding a Difficult person in your awareness?
  • Are you using the Switchback when you need to?
  • Are you continuing to be gentle and loving with yourself in your practice?
  • And, in your daily life?
  • If so, how does that feel?  If not, what is getting in the way?

May you have a beautiful and peaceful day.

Tashi Deleh! (I honor the greatness within you!).

Beth

Day 11 ~ May Is For Metta 2016: Lovingkindness For Neutral Beings

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“Loving-kindness meditation accords with zen’s Bodhisattva vow, in confirming that our awakening is mutually grounded in the interdependence of all beings, rather than being a self-centered endeavor.  Loving-kindness is sometimes misconstrued as an attempt to conjure up good feelings, or to see ourselves as loving or kind.  However, its function is to invite the awakening of compassion and empathy, aspects of our being.”

– Elizabeth Hamilton

Today, we will continue our practice of Metta for Neutral beings.   As the neutral person is not so “real’ to us, it is often harder to elicit feelings for this person.  For this reason, it can be helpful to work with the same neutral person for a few days.   Sometimes, people feel bored with this category, as there is not as much emotional charge as with a friend or enemy.  It may be harder to hold one’s attention on the neutral person.  Staying attentive can be a challenge in Metta as well as during meditation practice in general.  However, we are working to focus our awareness.  This practice offers a wonderful opportunity to stay present with our experience, bringing our attention and consciousness to a place where we may often be inattentive and unconscious.

Choose two or three Neutral beings to work with today.  You may do this as part of a sitting practice and/or explore using Metta when you are out and about in the world.  When you are on the street, in the store, or at the gym, try choosing a Neutral person you see and silently say the phrases for this person.  Last year, one of our participants shared about offering Metta to the other drivers she passed them on the road and noticed that she felt more peaceful and less frustrated during her commute.

This practice is an opportunity to offer loving-kindness and support to someone without needing to take outward action.  It is an inner offering and it is a way we can bring more loving-kindness and compassion into the world.  And, it is a way we can shift our own experience from negative to positive, from judgement to acceptance and from frustration to inner peace.

Daily Practice:  

Do your foundational practices. Begin to cultivate loving-kindness for yourself by connecting with your heart or imagining yourself in your circle of loving beings.  Offer 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 for yourself, bring the image of a Neutral person into your awareness.  Once you have called this person to mind, allow yourself to make a heart connection with this person.  Perhaps send some of the loving-kindness you have cultivated from your heart to their heart center.  Notice how it feels to offer loving-kindness to a Neutral being.  Say 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.

Just notice what arises as you practice.  If your mind wanders or thoughts arise, bring your awareness back to the neutral person and continue repeating the phrases.  As always, if difficult emotions or distractions dominate your attention, return to your heart center, repeating the phrases for yourself until you feel clearer and calmer.  When  you feel to, return your practice to the neutral person.  Continue on to one or two other Neutral beings.  Remember you can also take your practice with you as you go about your day.

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 Neutral beings.  Part of our practice is experiencing the relationship that we have with all beings; this is part of being human, being alive and living on Earth at this time.  We share a common experience whether we know each other or not.  Metta offers an opportunity to acknowledge and honor our interconnectedness with all beings on a deeper and more conscious level.

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 has it been to practice Metta for Neutral beings?
  • Did you practice for someone as you went about your day?
  • Are you continuing to be gentle and loving with yourself?
  • Have you noticed any difference in your sense of connection to self, others and the world since you began your Metta practice?

May you have a joyful day.

Tashi Deleh! (I honor the greatness within you!)

Beth

Day 10 ~ May Is For Metta 2016: Offering Lovingkindness To A Neutral Being

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“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.

Tashi Deleh! (I honor the greatness within you!)

Beth


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Day 9 ~ May Is For Metta 2016: Dedicating The Merit Of Our Practice

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May the earth be wholesome everywhere
The world blessed with prosperity
May the poor and destitute find wealth
And the stooping animals be freed

May every being ailing with illness
Find relief at once from suffering
May all the sickness that afflict the living
Be instantly and permanently healed

May those who go in dread, have no more fear,
May captives be unchained and set free,
And may the weak now become strong,
May living beings help each other in kindness.

May travelers upon the road,
Find happiness no matter where they go,
And may they gain, without hardship,
The goals on which their hearts are set.

From the songs of birds and the sighing of trees,
From the shafts of light and from the sky itself,
May living beings, each and every one,
Perceive the constant sound of Dharma

– Shantideva

It is customary in Buddhism and other spiritual traditions to dedicate the merit of our practice.  We ask to accomplish a twofold benefit – that our practice is for our own benefit and that of all sentient beings.  All sentient beings can include humans, animals, plants, and beings in other realms.  Dedicating merit offers our practice for the support of others, asking that the loving-kindness we generate may be beneficial to all beings and at the same time, it helps our own minds to remain firm in our dedication to cultivate compassion within ourselves.

Traditionally in Buddhism, merit is offered at the end of one’s practice.  May Is For Metta is adapted from the Buddhist practice of Metta and also incorporates heart-centered practices from other traditions.  The opening by Shantideva offers one way to work with this.  Although there are a number of traditional ways to dedicate merit, invite you to explore finding words or phrases to dedicate merit that resonate with you.

For many years now, I have had the practice of inviting an intention of benefit for myself and all those who are in need of support as I first begin my practice.  Then, at the end of my practice each day I take a few moments to dedicate the merit of my practice to any specific individuals, groups or locations in the world that I am feeling to offer it on this day and ultimately for all beings without exception.  You may wish to use the Shantideva prayer, you may wish to name those people or places you wish to support, or you may wish to simply wish to say something like this Metta prayer at the end of your practice:

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Here is another traditional way to dedicate merit; and as we have discussed with choosing the phrases, feel free to find the language that feels best for you:

  • 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.

For today’s practice, we will continue working with the categories of Benefactor/Mentor and Beloved; and then conclude with dedicating the merit of our practice.  Sometimes people have difficulty choosing whom to work with.  I had suggested a practice yesterday to explore by working with the heart, but also it is good to just be open and see who/what comes to mind.

The name Benefactor/Mentor connotes a certain type of person but we should not get caught up in the title.  Remember, we say choose a being because in addition to a human being, it can be an animal or something you love in nature, a tree, a river, or the mountains.  The essence of this category is that this being creates warmth in you and puts a smile on your face.

Daily Practice:

Do your foundational practices.  Begin by getting comfortable and settling in to your breath.  Spend a few moments centering on your heart, recalling a moment you felt immersed in unconditional love or see yourself in the center of your circle of loving beings.  Begin to send Metta to yourself by repeating 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.

Then, when you feel ready, bring an image of a Benefactor, a mentor, teacher, grandparent, loving animal or place in nature, into your mind.  Begin to offer loving-kindness to this being.  Before you begin the phrases offer, “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 your Benefactor:

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

Practice for a few minutes for the Benefactor and then move onto the category of the Beloved.  Invite an image of your Beloved, a close friend or family member into your mind.  Hold them in your heart and offer this, “Just as I wish to be happy and free from suffering, may you be happy and free from suffering.”  Then, begin to repeat the phrases for your Beloved:

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

Remember, if you are struggling with the practice or having difficult feelings arise, you can always return the practice to yourself for a few moments.  Then, when you feel to go back to whichever category you were working with.  Just call that being back into your mind and heart and continue your practice.  Practice as long as you feel to or have committed to for today.  

Take a few moment as you finish to dedicate the merit of your practice in a way that feels best for you.  If you already have a way you do this, you can just continue with it.  May Is For Metta is meant to support or enhance your existing practices.  And, if this is a new concept for you, take some time over the next week or so to explore various ways to dedicate merit until you find one that feels good for  you to continue with.  Another way to do this is to say a prayer at the end of your practice in whatever manner or tradition feels best for you.   And, be sure to check out the “Extra Credit” below.

  • 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.

  • How did it feel to work with a number of the categories?
  • What did you notice?
  • Are you remembering to return to yourself when you need to?
  • How are you feeling about your practice or exploration of Metta overall?
  • Did you explore a way to dedicate the merit of your practice?  How did that feel?

May your day be filled with happiness, love and equanimity.

Tashi Deleh! (I honor the greatness within you!)

Beth


Extra Credit:

This song written by American monk, Ven. Heng Sure carries the essence of dedicating merit as well as what the overall intention of our Metta practice is centered on.  Hope you’ll take a few moments and listen.  I’ve included the words below as well.

May every living being,
Our minds as one and radiant with light,
Share the fruits of peace
With hearts of goodness, luminous and bright.

If people hear and see,
How hands and hearts can find in giving, unity,
May their minds awake,
To Great Compassion, wisdom and to joy.

May kindness find reward,
May all who sorrow leave their grief and pain;
May this boundless light,
Break the darkness of their endless night.

Because our hearts are one,
This world of pain turns into Paradise,
May all become compassionate and wise,
May all become compassionate and wise.

Day 6 ~ May Is For Metta 2016: Offering Lovingkindness To A Benefactor

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“How and why we love changes the qualities of our love.  Love with loving-kindness transforms love into the nectar of wisdom. 

Love with attachment transforms the love into poison, into a state of afflicting emotions. 

Therefore, we must recognize the characteristics of the love that is loving-kindness and learn how to generate it in ourselves.” 

Tulku Thondup

Today, we begin to extend the field of our practice of Metta, Loving-kindness out beyond our own selves to another being.  We will continue to start our practice by cultivating loving-kindness and compassion for our ourselves as this is always the foundation from which we begin our Metta practice.  Then, we will continue by offering Metta to someone who has been a great supporter or help to us in our life.

Traditionally, this category is referred to as the Benefactor or Mentor.  A Benefactor/Mentor is someone who has been generous and kind to us.  They have taught us, supported us and inspired us in some way.  When we think of them, we feel loved and supported; we have great gratitude for the fact that this being is a part of our lives.  Just thinking of this person generates a smile.   Some of the options to choose from include:  a beloved teacher, a mentor, a grandparent, a pet, a child or even something you love in nature.  They may be one of the people we called on to generate Metta individually or as part of our Circle of Loving Beings.

Often, in the beginning of practice, it is suggested to extend Metta to Benefactor/Mentor who is a living person as this can be easier and help to deepen our level of concentration without other feelings arise. I suggest following the guidance of your heart on this choice.

As we work with this category, we expand our experience of loving-kindness in two ways.  One is that we begin to extend our practice out to another.  The other is that in offering Metta to this being, it supports us in deepening our own experience loving-kindness as that is what this relationship has brought to our lives.  A Benefactor/Mentor is someone whom we have only the most positive and loving feelings toward.

Kindness points to the core of what it means to be alive, which is to be connected. – Sharon Salzberg

I have shared the above quote here as it is in working with our relationship with a Benefactor/Mentor that we begin to extend our loving-kindness outward and open up to expanding our sense of connection to all beings.  This is an essential part of the Metta practice.  We do it gradually by creating a foundation of loving-kindness within ourselves and then working with the various categories, all of which we will explore during May Is For Metta.

Daily Practice:

Do your foundational practices:  Begin by getting comfortable and settling in to your breath.  Spend a few moments centering on your heart, recalling a moment you felt immersed in unconditional love or seeing yourself in the center of your circle of loving beings.  By now, you have begun to develop a sense of how to connect with the energy of loving-kindness.  Allow your self to feel enveloped in this loving feeling.  Begin to send Metta to yourself by repeating the phrases you have been working with.  Remember, creating a strong foundation is an important part of the practice; be careful not to neglect this as you begin to offer Metta to others.  When you feel ready, begin to offer the Metta phrases you have been working with to yourself:

  • May I be safe.
  • May I be happy.
  • May I be peaceful.
  • May I be free from suffering.

Bring an image of the Benefactor/Mentor clearly into your mind and let yourself feel what it feels like to be in the presence of that being.  Really allow yourself to enjoy the feeling of being with that person, as if they were really sitting there with you in this very moment.  This is someone who warms your heart just by thinking about them.  Say to yourself, “Just as I wish to be happy and free from suffering, may you be happy and free from suffering.”  Begin repeating the phrases for your Benefactor or Mentor:

  • May you be safe.
  • May you be happy.
  • May you be peaceful.
  • May you be free from suffering.

If at any point you notice that your mind has wandered, simply bring your attention back to the phrases and the image of your benefactor.  And, if you find that you are having a lot of distraction or difficult feelings coming up, I invite you to explore switching your practice back to yourself for a few moments.  This can be done by offering yourself a round of phrases, turning your attention to your heart center, or imagining your circle of loving beings.  Then when you feel more centered, simply return your attention to the Benefactor/Mentor you have chosen to work with today.  

Often, whether in meditation or in life, we can judge ourselves harshly.  I encourage you to be gentle and loving with yourself as you explore Metta practice.  As often as you feel to, explore the practice of switching back to offering Metta to yourself as this is a way to begin to become more loving toward yourself.   This is perhaps the most powerful gift that Metta practice can bring!  We listen, we become more attentive and we respond to ourselves when we are having difficulty with loving-kindness and compassion.   As we do so, we plant the seeds for a paradigm shift in how we relate with ourselves, with others and with life itself.

Continue to practice for your Benefactor/Mentor for as long as you can or have committed to for your practice time.   Then, return your awareness to the image of sitting in your Circle of Loving Beings or being present in your heart center.  Allow that feeling to really sink into your whole being, into every atom and cell.  Let it surround and envelope you.  As you move out into your day, imagine yourself embodying loving-kindness and compassion with each step and each breath.

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 begin to practice Metta for another being?
  • Did it seem easier or harder than practicing for your self?
  • How is your practice going?
  • Are there any obstacles you are becoming aware of?
  • Are you remembering to return your practice to yourself when you are having difficult emotions arise or have difficulty concentrating?
  • Are you able to bring your practice into your daily life in some way?

May you be happy today!

Tashi Deleh! (I honor the greatness within you!)

Beth

Day 1 ~ May Is For Metta 2016: Our Journey of Lovingkindness Begins

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Welcome to May is for Metta 2016!  Today is the first day of our annual 31-Day Exploration Of Loving-kindness Meditation 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

Introduction To May Is For Metta 2016! Daily Posts Start Tomorrow!

Exploring Metta Meditation

May Is For Metta ~ A Journey Of Loving-kindness On Heal My Voice Radio  (2014)

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.  There is also a private Facebook group if you’d like to connect with others doing the practice ~ Request to join.

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.

I am so happy you are joining us for this journey of loving-kindness and compassion.  I look forward to our time together!

Tashi Deleh! (I honor the greatness within you!)

Beth

Day 26 ~ May Is For Metta 2015: Becoming A Beacon Of Loving-kindness

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“Love and peace are qualities we cultivate through the choices we make.  It is up to each of us to make this choice of our own accord and equally our opportunity to share this energy from within.  No one can do it for us.  So if you wish to see how much love and peace is growing on the planet… be that love and peace and you will begin to notice it all around you.  In fact, you will become a part of the very process itself and others will come to know you for this energy in action.

Peace is not a static state as many may think.  In reality it is a very dynamic energy that moves in where strife and chaos attempt to control and tempers these situations so that all can be balanced naturally.  Love is the same way.  When we choose to love unconditionally, we bring the highest potential into every situation and heal generations of conflict… simply by letting go and loving all involved, including ourselves.”

– Harold W. Becker

We are now into the last week of our practice together for this year.  Take some time today to notice any awareness that may have arisen for you during your exploration of May is for Metta.  Also, spend some time considering how you would like to structure your practice going forward.  Will you continue to practice Metta or maybe you’d like to explore another type of practice?  Will you continue a daily meditation practice?  How has it felt to cultivate loving-kindness and compassion for your self, others and the world?

Today, explore carrying the energy of Metta, loving-kindness with you wherever you go.  As the above quote explores, the qualities we are working with in our Metta practice our not static, they are dynamic.  As you practice Metta, you are bringing the vibration of loving-kindness and compassion with you – into every moment, every interaction and every relationship.  This is a conscious choice that you are making to shift your vibration in a way that benefits your own being as well as others and the world.  

Today, really feel yourself radiating the energy of loving-kindness and compassion out to the people and places around you.  Imagine you are a beacon for loving-kindness, a bright light that illuminates life with loving-kindness; and, as you move about this energy is radiated in all directions.  You may use the phrases if you feel to – for a specific person, place or group, or even for the whole world.  Or, you may just wish to extend the energy or quality of loving-kindness and compassion out to others and the world.  This is a quality you now know well.  You know how to cultivate it within yourself through your practice; this is the foundation for extending Metta to others.  Today is an opportunity to carry that with you more fully into your life, relationships and the world.

Continue with your sitting practice for all of the categories or the ones you choose.  If there was a certain category you struggled with, you may wish to spend some time with that category and explore what thoughts and feelings arise as you practice.

Daily Practice: 

Do your foundational practices.  Find a quiet place and a comfortable position.  Set an intention for your practice.  Imagine yourself in a circle of loving beings or enveloped in the feeling of loving-kindness; remember a time when you felt held in unconditional love.  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 to move on, come back to your own heart center and the feeling of loving-kindness within.  Move on to practicing for all of the categories or the ones you have chosen for today: Benefactor, Beloved, Neutral Being, Difficult Person and All Beings.  As you begin, 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:

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

As 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.   To complete your practice, return yourself to your circle of loving beings or envision yourself enveloped in the energy of loving-kindness and compassion.  Really allow that feeling to sink into you, let every atom and cell of your being be filled with the energy of loving-kindness and compassion.

Take a few moments to reflect on your practice.  Think of all the beings you have practiced for today and over the last month.  Ask that the merit of your practice be for the benefit of all beings knowing that in sharing this merit you, too, are receiving immense benefit.

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.  What have you noticed during your exploration of Metta?  Are you planning to continue with Metta?  What other practices would you like to explore?  Have you taken time to honor yourself for your efforts?  If so, how did that feel?  If not, what is stopping you?  Have you explored journaling as a way to uncover thoughts, patterns and beliefs, which you may be holding that are no longer serving you?  Now may be a good time to explore this.

I honor each of you for your willingness to deepen into loving-kindness and compassion.

May you have a peaceful and happy day.

Namaste.

Beth

Day 25 ~ May Is For Metta 2105: Create Your Own Metta Practice

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“A human being is a part of the whole called by us”universe”, a part limited in time and space.  He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness.  This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us.  Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

– Albert Einstein

Each time I explore the writings of Albert Einstein, I am just so amazed.  He was not only a master in the realm of science but of spirituality as well.  His words offer deep insights into universal consciousness, the interconnectedness of all things and the importance of being centered in the heart.  Each time we practice Metta, we are widening our circle of compassion and embracing all beings with loving-kindness.  Each time we do this for ourselves and for others, we are increasing our ability to move beyond our “delusion” of separation; we are opening the doorway to experiencing oneness.  What a beautiful journey to be on together!

At this point in our Metta practice, we have explored practicing with all of the categories in a variety of ways.  As I have shared, it is really up to you how you would like to practice.  We have only 7 days of May Is For Metta 2105.  After that you may wish to continue with Metta or perhaps move on to exploring a different practice.  Also, there may be days you just practice for yourself; there may be some when you feel to do the full practice and some when you choose specific categories to work with.  This is one of the gifts of Metta practice.  Your practice can be adapted on a daily basis or you may wish to practice in a certain way for a period of time.  For the rest of our time together, we will explore a few more ways to practice, but at this point, you have all you need to create your own daily practice.

Daily Practice:  

Do your foundational practices.  Find a comfortable position. Imagine yourself in the center of a circle of loving beings or enveloped in the feeling of loving-kindness.  Allow your self to connect deeply with your own heart center.  Whenever you feel to, offer the Metta phrases for yourself:

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

In addition to your sitting practice, remember to come back to your heart and do your foundational practices several times throughout the day, especially when you are experiencing stress or difficult emotions.  When you feel complete with generating the feeling of loving-kindness and offering it to yourself, begin to consider which categories you would like to practice for today:

  • Benefactor
  • Beloved
  • Neutral Being
  • Difficult Person
  • All Beings

As you begin to extend Metta to whichever beings you choose, say to yourself, “Just as I wish to be happy and peaceful, so does this being wish to have inner peace and joy.”  Begin to offer the phrases:

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

Whenever you feel complete with a category, come back to your heart center for a few moments before going on to the next one.  You may wish to explore practicing for a longer period of time with some or all of the categories.  As always, let your heart be your guide.

When you have completed your practice, take some time to dedicate the merit for the benefit of all beings without exception.  I would also like to continue to extend the offering of peace we brought in yesterday as part of the practice, by saying, “May Peace Prevail On Earth.”  You can join in this if you feel to by adding it to the dedication of merit or just be repeating a few times at the end of your practice.  Spend a few moments reflecting on your practice and expressing gratitude for your experience in a way that feels appropriate to you.

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 create your own practice?  Are you noticing you are more comfortable practicing for some categories and than others?  Did you have any difficult feelings arise during your practice?  Are you remembering to practice for yourself when difficult thoughts or feelings arise throughout the day?  Have you shared your experiences of Metta with anyone in your life?

May you day be filled with sunshine and happiness.

Namaste.

Beth

Day 24 ~ May Is For Metta 2015: Loving-kindness In Every Direction

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To the Great Spirit – 
First in all things, Creator of all Life, 
Who was, and is, and will always be; 
Who, within the immensity of all creation, 
Is uniquely present here and now, in this moment. 

To the East – 
The quiet coming of the new dawn, 
The joyous breaking forth of Spring, 
The place of birth and rebirth and the beginning of life;

To the South – 
The high heat of noonday, 
The flowering warmth of Summer 
The place of fertility and the fullness of life;

To the West – 
The quiet peace of evening, 
The changing colors of Fall, 
The place of harvest and the gathering of life;

To the North – 
The clear darkness of night, 
The deep cold of Winter, 
The place of death and purification 
and the transformation of life;

To the Mother Earth – 
The ever constant Giver of Life, 
From whom all things draw sustenance; 
Who, in the greatness of her family, 
Offers blessing and freedom to each of her children;

To the Six Directions – 
Together making the oneness of God and Creation, 
We offer praise and thanksgiving, 
We ask these things: 
A heart open and made strong with love, 
A mind clear and made wise with understanding, 
A life lived with courage and compassion 
in the fulfillment of Divine Purpose.

– Sioux Prayer

 

Metta practice allows us to do what we can to be loving and happy no matter what is happening in our lives and in the world.  In each moment, we have a choice.  By focusing our attention on the heart and on loving-kindness, we are choosing to be open to ourselves and all that is arising.  It is not about the outside.  It is about our own experiences and the attitude that we cultivate towards those experiences.  Each moment that we choose loving-kindness allows us to be more receptive and to create a place of peace where we might have felt discomfort.  When we do Metta, rather than contracting our energy, we are expanding it.  We are supporting our own journey of awakening to the truth of who we are.  We are moving from a place of separateness to an experience of Oneness.  And, we are bringing that awareness to others and the world.

Take some time today to truly honor yourself for the time and energy you have dedicated to becoming more conscious and awake.   You have offered yourself the blessing of loving-kindness and compassion and there is really no greater gift that you can give to yourself, others and the world.

Today, we will continue with the full practice, working with all of the categories.  I have also included a new way to practice for All Beings that I learned from one of my teachers.  This practice works with sending loving-kindness out to all directions and for me feels similar to the way I honor the directions as part of my shamanic work.  In many indigenous cultures, praying or calling in the directions is a way to begin the day or create sacred space.  The Sioux prayer above is one example of this as is previous post here on HOA, Prayer For A New Day.  Combining our Metta practice with the directions can be a wonderful way to expand the energy of loving-kindness and compassion that we have been cultivating  and supports feeling a greater sense of connection to all creation.

If for any reason doing the full practice feels too much or is an obstacle to your practice, then just choose a few categories to work with.  At this point, how you practice each day is your choice.  You may have awareness of a certain category you need to practice for or you may wish to do the full practice daily for a period of time.  Just explore and let your practice unfold.  Begin your practice by setting an intention in a way that feels right for you.  Recognize that you are practicing, not only for yourself but that this cultivation of loving-kindness is beneficial for all beings and for the world.

Daily Practice:  

Do your foundational practices.  Find a quiet place and a comfortable position.  Imagine yourself in a circle of loving beings or enveloped in the feeling of loving-kindness, in a time when you felt held in that way.  As you do so, acknowledge that you are practicing, not only for yourself; the cultivation of loving-kindness is beneficial for all beings and for the world.  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 or the ones you have chosen for today.  Use the phrases that feel best to you.

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

As 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 if you feel to move onto the next category.

There are a number of ways to radiate to all beings.  One of these is to work with the directions.  We radiate to all beings in 10 different directions, repeating the Metta phrases for each.  We can also adapt this to a specific category of all beings such as all creatures or all children.  Working with the directions is a way to connect spatially with all beings and the world.  It offers an opportunity to move beyond ourselves not just in thoughts but in space as well.  This aspect of practice can bring us into deeper connection with the world in which we live.  As you practice today, I encourage you to allow yourself to really feel the world which you are a part of as you explore incorporating the directions into your practice of All Beings.  You can use the phrases below or adapt them to the phrases you have chosen to work with; it’s up to you

1. May all beings in the eastern direction be happy, be peaceful, be free from suffering and have ease of well-being.

2. May all beings in the western direction be happy, be peaceful, be free from suffering and have ease of well-being.

3. May all beings in the northern direction be happy, be peaceful, be free from suffering and have ease of well-being.

4. May all beings in the southern direction be happy, be peaceful, be free from suffering and have ease of well-being.

5. May all beings in the northeastern direction be happy, be peaceful, be free from suffering and have ease of well-being.

6. May all beings in the southwestern direction be happy, be peaceful, be free from suffering and have ease of well-being.

7. May all beings in the northwestern direction be happy, be peaceful, be free from suffering and have ease of well-being.

8. May all beings in the southeastern direction be happy, be peaceful, be free from suffering and have ease of well-being.

9. May all beings below (in the downward direction) be happy, be peaceful, be free from suffering and have ease of well-being.

10. May all beings above (in the upward direction) be happy, be peaceful, be free from suffering and 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 that you have been cultivating.  Breathe in that feeling of connection; embrace your connection with all of the directions and all beings.  Allow that feeling of connection to sink in to you, let every atom and cell of your being be filled with a sense of connection infused with loving-kindness and compassion.  Take a few moments to dedicate the merit of your practice.

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 does it feel to have spent so much time focusing on loving-kindness and compassion?   How did it feel to work with the directions?  Did you notice anything about your connection to all beings? to the world?  How are you feeling about your practice overall?  Are you continuing to be gentle and loving with yourself?  If not, are you doing enough Metta for yourself?

I honor each of you for deepening into loving-kindness and compassion.

May you have a peaceful and happy day.

Day 23 ~ May Is For Metta 2015: Every Day Is A New Beginning

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“Rahula, practice loving-kindness to overcome anger.  Loving-kindness has the capacity to bring happiness to others without demanding anything in return.  Practice compassion to overcome cruelty.  Compassion has the capacity to remove the suffering of others without expecting anything in return. Practice sympathetic joy to overcome hatred.  Sympathetic joy arises when one rejoices over the happiness of others and wishes others well-being and success.  Practice non-attachment to overcome prejudice.  Non-attachment is the way of looking at all things openly and equally.  This is because that is.  Myself and others are not separate.  Do not reject one thing only to chase after another.  I call these the four immeasurables.  Practice them and you will become a refreshing source of vitality and happiness for others.”

– Buddha speaking to his son, Rahula

Everyday is a new beginning.  If for some reason you have lost momentum with your practice or even if you have dropped off, just remember that you can begin again.  You can continue right where you left off or move on; you can even start over again if that feels right to you.  This exploration is about cultivating loving-kindness and compassion.  It is also about developing a daily meditation practice in a way that supports you where you are today.

During meditation, we use an anchor such as the breath or the phrases to bring us back to the present moment; we do this whenever we realize our mind has wandered.  In the same way, when we realize we have gotten off track or missed a day or two or three of our practice, we simply return to it.  We do this with gentleness and with love.  We just notice we have gotten distracted and we return to the practice.  Although our natural habitual tendency might be to move into self-judgment or harshness, we can choose to embrace our practice of loving-kindness by just noticing where we are and then gently and lovingly returning to our center.

Meditation offers us the opportunity to return to our center and to begin anew in every moment.  Metta teaches us to be loving and compassionate with ourselves in our practice and in our daily life.  Extend this gift of loving-kindness to yourself in the moment and explore what’s possible.

Today, we will work with the full practice, choosing one person for each of the categories.  If for any reason this feels too much or is an obstacle to your practice, then just choose a few categories to work with.  Begin your practice by setting an intention in a way that feels right for you. Recognize that you are practicing, not just for yourself and that the cultivation of loving-kindness is beneficial for all beings and for the world.

Daily Practice: 

Do your foundational practices.  Find a quiet place and a comfortable position.  Imagine yourself in your circle of loving beings or enveloped in the feeling of loving-kindness.  Imagine a time when you felt held in that way.  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 or the ones you have chosen for today: Benefactor, Beloved, Neutral Being, Difficult Person and All Beings.  Remember to come back to your heart center for a few moments between each category.  Offer the phrases for each being you have chosen to work with today:

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

As 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.  To complete your practice, return yourself to your 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

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 are you feeling about your practice?  Can you approach your practice with gentleness and compassion rather than harshness or judgment?  How does it feel to be cultivating a daily practice or exploring expanding in loving-kindness? Are you able to connect with your heart center more easily? If so, how does that feel?  If not, what is getting in your way?  Are you being gentle and loving with yourself in regards to your practice? in your life?

May you have a peaceful and happy day.

Day 22 ~ May Is For Metta 2015: Planting Seeds Of Loving-kindness

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 “Hatred cannot coexist with loving-kindness,and

dissipates if supplanted with thoughts based on loving-kindness”. 

– Buddha

It is a natural aspect of life that we are troubled by difficult emotional states and often, we may find it difficult to deal with them.  However, even when the mind is troubled, it is within the capacity of each of us to arouse positive feelings.  The Buddha taught the practice of Metta meditation to develop the mental habit of loving-kindness and compassion for one’s self and others.

Loving-kindness is a practice which can bring about positive attitudinal changes.  It assists in developing a quality of loving acceptance.  This is a way of healing the mind and freeing it from pain and confusion.  Metta practice offers the immediate benefit of changing our habitual negative patterns present in the mind as well bringing about a positive outlook on life.

Sometimes the response to Metta is immediate; we begin to feel more loving-kindness and happiness right away.  Other times, we do the practice, and do it some more, and do not feel very different.  Still, even without feeling it, it is important to know that we are creating a positive change in our minds and our lives.  It is like planting a seed.  It takes time for the seed to develop and to begin to burst forth.  Think of Metta practice as planting seeds for the cultivation of loving-kindness and compassion in your life, your relationships and in the world.

One of the ways we can work with Metta is in response to things that happen in the world such as natural disasters, acts of violence or other tragedies that are happening in every moment.  Or, maybe there is someone we know personally who is suffering from a disease such as cancer or perhaps the loss of a loved one.  Regardless of the size or scope of the situation, what is happening is that we are becoming aware of suffering.  It is possible we may be unable to do something outwardly to help.  It is also possible we are having a strong or difficult reaction to this suffering.

Offering Metta in response to tragedy or to the awareness of another’s suffering is one of the great gifts of the practice.  We may or may not be able to do something outwardly, but inwardly we can generate loving-kindness and compassion for those in need.   So let’s take some time today in our practice to offer Metta to others around the world who are suffering.  Perhaps something you saw in the news today pulled at your heart-strings; this is a perfect opportunity to practice Metta.

Today, let’s work with the full practice and all of the categories.  If for any reason this feels too much or is an obstacle to your practice, then just choose a few categories to work with.  Just take a few moments to breathe into your heart center and feel what is right for you today.

Daily Practice:  

Do your foundational practices. Find a quiet place and a comfortable position.  Imagine yourself in your circle of loving beings or enveloped in the feeling of loving-kindness  in a time when you felt held in that way.  Then, begin your practice by offering the Metta phrases for yourself.

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

When you feel ready, move on to practicing for all of the categories or the ones you have chosen for today: Benefactor, Beloved, Neutral Being, Difficult Person, and All Beings.  Acknowledge that “just as I wish to be happy and free from suffering, so does this being wish to be happy and free from suffering.”  Then, move onto working with the phrases that feel best to you.

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

If you become distracted at any point or difficult feelings arise, use the Switchback, returning your practice to yourself until a sense of calm returns.  Then, return your practice to where you left off.  When you are ready to complete your practice, return yourself to your 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 into you, let every atom and cell of your being be filled with loving-kindness and compassion. Let this energy support you as you journey through the day.

Anytime you become aware of someone, somewhere in the world, or some group of people who are suffering, take a few moments to practice on the spot.  This is a gift to others and the world and to yourself as you are choosing to open your heart in a moment when it may feel like closing.  In offering loving-kindness and compassion, you are opening to receive it more deeply as well.  And, remember, each time that you practice Metta you are planting seeds of loving-kindness and compassion that can grow and flow where they are needed in the world.

At the beginning of our time, I offered that we would dedicate the merit of this practice to the people of Nepal and the the people of Baltimore as well as any other communities we feel to share our Metta with.  I invite you to take some time to do that day and additionally, for the benefit of all beings as in the words of Shantideva:

May the earth be wholesome everywhere
The world blessed with prosperity
May the poor and destitute find wealth
And the stooping animals be freed

May every being ailing with illness
Find relief at once from suffering
May all the sickness that afflict the living
Be instantly and permanently healed

May those who go in dread, have no more fear,
May captives be unchained and set free,
And may the weak now become strong,
May living beings help each other in kindness.

May travelers upon the road,
Find happiness no matter where they go,
And may they gain, without hardship,
The goals on which their hearts are set.

From the songs of birds and the sighing of trees,
From the shafts of light and from the sky itself,
May living beings, each and every one,
Perceive the constant sound of Dharma

– Shantideva

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 are you feeling about your Metta practice?  Are you noticing a difference in how you feel or what you are experiencing?  If yes, what is that like?  If no, are you okay knowing you are planting seeds?  Do you think you may continue to practice Metta or daily meditation after the 31 days?  If so, what will that look like?  If not, what is stopping you?   Did you explore practicing on the spot?

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

Day 21 ~ May Is For Metta 2013: Walking Metta Meditation

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“In my room, the world is beyond my understanding; 

but when I walk I see that it consists of three or four hills and a cloud.”

– Walllace Stevens

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During our practice in 2010, one of our participants shared that she had incorporated her practice of Metta with walking meditation, which she usually did outside.  I have always found walking meditation to be very beneficial because it helps to develop a practice in a way that supports carrying it out into the world.  Living in New York City for a large part of my life, I found this practice very beneficial.  It was not possible to connect with the many people I saw everyday or even offer help to all of those I saw in need, but it was possible to offer loving-kindness and compassion.  I know this practice was something that helped me to have a much greater connection to the world around me as well as a deep sense of peace.

At the time of the Buddha, it was a traditional practice for the monks and nuns to practice the cultivation of loving-kindness meditation as they walked around.  As they went around town asking for food, they would radiate out loving-kindness and compassion to everyone they encountered on the streets.  Today, I encourage you to explore combining your Metta practice with walking meditation, either as a formal practice or just by going out for a walk.  In basic walking meditation, we hold our awareness on each step.  Stepping right, stepping left.  This is our anchor as the breath may be our anchor in other practices.  In working with Metta, be present with each step but continue to use the phrases as your anchor if your mind wanders or you become distracted.

This is a short video with Thich Nhat Hanh sharing about the practice of walking meditation and the importance of making peaceful, happy steps on the earth.  He quotes the Buddha as saying, “As you can make peaceful, happy steps on the earth, the earth can become the pureland.”  Take some time today to make peaceful, happy steps on the earth.

Daily Practice: 

Choose whether you want to do a sitting practice and then explore doing some Metta as you go for a walk.  Or, choose to incorporate your Metta practice with walking meditation.  You can choose to walk in a circle or perhaps find somewhere in nature where you can practice mindful walking.  Do your foundational practices.  Imagine yourself in the center of your 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 or the ones you have chosen for today using the phrases that feel best to you. Try to take at least part of your practice out into the world, whether doing walking meditation, going for a walk or even while at the grocery store.  Explore extending Metta to people you see out in the world remembering that “just as you wish to be happy and peaceful, so does this being wish to have inner peace and joyfulness.”  Repeat the phrases:

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

If you become distracted at any point or difficult feelings arise, use the Switchback, returning your practice to yourself until a sense of calm returns. Then, return your practice to 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.   Did you explore combining Metta with walking meditation?  How did that feel?  How is your practice going?  Are you able to spend some time everyday in practice?  If yes, what are you noticing?  If not, what is stopping you?

May you all have a radiantly joyful day.

Namaste.

Day 20 ~ May Is For Metta 2015: 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

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 question 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.  It 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.

Beth