Tag Archives: Maitri

Day 2 ~ May Is For Metta 2016: Our Circle of Loving Beings

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

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

– Bhante Henepola Gunaratana

The foundation of Metta begins with cultivating loving-kindness and compassion for ourselves.  It is here, with our own self that we can begin to experience the deep love and compassion that we will later extend out to others and the world.  Yesterday, we started to connect with essence or feeling of loving-kindness and compassion by reflecting on a person or time we felt held in unconditional love.  Today, we will continue to generate the quality of loving-kindness toward ourselves a by creating our own circle of loving beings.  For some this way is easier, for others the first way is preferred.  It’s good to keep in mind that May Is For Metta is a time for exploration – you may try one way, then another and finally find one that you settle into for your practice.

Developing a deep sense of connection with our own inner self allows us to feel connected to everything and to experience a sense of wholeness.  Offering loving-kindness and compassion to ourselves is the catalyst for offering it others and the world.  So, it is important to take time to generate this feeling.  Once we know the feeling and we can generate the energy of loving-kindness, then we can truly work with it as a vehicle for our practice.

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

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

Daily Practice:

Find a comfortable position either sitting on a chair or on the floor.  Allow your spine to be straight but not tense; shoulders or stomach relaxed with your hands on your knees or your lap.  Eyes can be closed or open with a soft gaze on the floor in front of you.  You may like to explore practicing with eyes open or closed; there is merit to both ways for various practices and it is good to find a way that is resonant for you at this time.

Begin with a few deep breaths.  It is important to allow the body and the mind to relax.  Take a moment to scan the body for any areas of tension or discomfort.  Allow the next few breaths to wash over those areas melting away any tensions.  Also, scan the mind for any thoughts, worries or business of the day, and send all that out with the next few breaths, just letting it all drift away like a cloud passing by in the sky ~ you simply notice it and then it just drifts away.

Bring your breath and awareness to the heart center in the center of your chest.  Notice how it feels to be present in the heart.  This is the center of love, compassion, gentleness and mercy for your self and for others.  As we begin, we connect with our own heart.  Sometimes we notice a sense of openness or spaciousness as we enter the heart space.  Sometimes we notice our resistance or a sense of constriction.  Just notice what arises as you connect with your heart center without judgment or the need to change anything in this moment.  Simply love and accept where you are and honor that you are taking time to make this connection with your self.

Now, imagine yourself sitting in the center of a circle of loving beings.  They may be people in your life – loved ones – family members, close friends, animals or universal beings whom you feel embody love such as Mother Theresa, Buddha, Jesus, Quan Yin, etc.  In my practice, I include my Grandma Clara, my childhood dog Babas Au Rhum, my cat Percy, my mentor Bill, my Sufi teacher Ayesha, the Dalai Lama, Mother Theresa, Hilda Charlton, Buddha and others whose image stirs the feeling of loving-kindness and compassion in me.  Sometimes it can be easier to work with people who are living but this is for you to explore.  Be sure that the feeling that arises from these beings is one of unconditional love.

Also, if there is someone whom you have mixed or uncomfortable feelings about, perhaps a family member or friend, you can work with this later on in our practice, but you may not want to include them in your circle just for now.  This is “your circle of unconditional love and compassion” and only those beings that generate those feelings should be included.  Are you willing to create this for yourself?  This is a powerful tool to work with in your practice and to bring into your daily life.  So take some time to consider who will be in your circle for now; this is something you can change as your practice develops.

Once you have your circle created, just imagine sitting in the center of it.  You are receiving love from all of those loving beings surrounding you.  Allow the love in your heart, mind, body and spirit to expand as you receive the unconditional love of all the beings in your circle.  Deeply breathe this into your heart center, letting it flow into every atom and cell of your being.  As you breathe out, allow love and compassion to fill your circle so that you are infused with it both inwardly and outwardly.  Feel all the love that is in you and all of the loving, supportive energy around you.  Spend as long as you wish to sitting in your circle receiving loving-kindness.  When you feel ready, let the imagery of your circle go for now, knowing you can always call on it when you feel to.

Daily Journal Reflections:

Take some time to reflect and journal about any experiences, feelings or awareness that arose during your practice or throughout the day today.

  • What did you notice?
  • Did you practice today?
  • If so, how did it feel?  If not, what happened?
  • How does it feel to be cultivating loving-kindness and compassion for your self?
  • Did you notice any ways you resist loving yourself?

Tomorrow, we will begin to incorporate the Metta phrases into our practice.  Today, really allow yourself to embody the feeling and energy of loving-kindness as you do your practice and perhaps, as you go about your day.  At least once, try to call your circle of loving beings into your active life, perhaps at work, or while running an errand, etc.  Allow yourself to carry loving-kindness and compassion with you wherever you go.

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

May you have a beautiful and loving day!

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

Beth

P.S. If you’d like to connect with others doing the May Is For Metta Practice, Request to join our Facebook group

And, I am using the following hashtags on posts on Twitter if you’d like to connect there: #lovingworld #may4metta2016

 

Day 4 ~ May Is For Metta 2013: Embracing Ourselves In Loving-kindness

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Quanyin

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daily Practice – Begin with the foundational practices.  If you have not decided how you wish to begin, take some time today to do so, reviewing Days 1 – 3 if necessary.  You may wish to review the introductory audios from those days as well.  Once you have settled your body and mind, begin cultivating the feeling of loving-kindness.  Then, take a few moments to notice your experience.  Your sense of loving-kindness may be deepening as you are beginning to work with it more regularly.  Just notice.  When you feel immersed in the energy of loving-kindness, begin repeating the phrases.  Continue with the same phrases as yesterday or try some others for today.  This is still a time for exploration.  Be gentle, be open, and most of all be loving with yourself.  Practice for as long as you have committed to or as much as you can for today:

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

Also, as you go about the day, you may become more aware of some of the voices that keep you stuck.  When you notice this during the day, take a few moments to focus on the breath, the feeling of loving-kindness and even try to a round of the phrases for yourself.  This begins to shift your conditioned mind as you are bringing these patterns to light and responding to them with loving-kindness and compassion.

Journal Notes – Are you able to connect with the energy of loving-kindness a few times as you go about your day?  How is your practice going?  Are you able to commit some time everyday?  If yes, how does it feel?  If not, what’s getting in the way?  Do you need to adjust the time or place to make it workable?  What beliefs are you aware of that keep you from your practice and from loving yourself more fully?

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

Day 1 ~ May Is For Metta 2013: Beginning Our Practice

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Quanyin

Listen To Day 1 ~ May Is For Metta 2013 Audio

Welcome, everyone.  This is our first day of May is for Metta 2013.   Each day will offer a guided practice and exploration in Metta, Loving-kindness meditation.  This time is also an opportunity to develop or deepen your meditation practice.  We will begin gradually with the focus on cultivating loving-kindness for ourselves, which is the foundation of Metta practice.

Take some time to decide where you will do your practice.  It can be  helpful to have a set place to practice that is clear and quiet.  You may wish to create a meditation area in your home or office.  However, do not let this be an obstacle.  As Jon Kabat-Zinn says, “Wherever you go, there you are.”  And, wherever you are can be is the perfect place to practice.  For instance, if lunchtime is the only time you have, perhaps going outside is a good place to practice this time of year.  Be open and creative in finding a space that feels good to you whether it is in your home or elsewhere.  Last year, one of my friends 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.

Today, you may also like to take some time to decide how long you will practice each day or at least as we begin.  This can change over the 31 Days and as the practice develops and deepens.  Five minutes can be a good beginning if that‘s what works for you.  Are you willing and able to commit five minutes or fifteen minutes a day to allowing more love, compassion and stillness into your life?  Making a time commitment can be helpful in creating a container for your exploration and especially as you are beginning to practice.  It’s okay to start with less time and expand it as the practice develops.

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.

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 important to allow the body and the mind to relax.  Take a moment to scan the body for any areas of tension or discomfort.  Allow the next few breaths to wash over those areas melting away any tensions.  Also, scan the mind for any thoughts, worries or 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 your self and for others.  So, as we begin, we connect with 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.  This is the feeling we are working to cultivate in our practice.

Take a few moments to recall a time when you felt loved in that way, when you felt totally enveloped by love and compassion.  Sometimes calling on the memory of a moment with a grandparent or even a loving pet is a way to generate this feeling.  Let that feeling, that quality fill your whole being, every atom and cell.  This is the quality of Metta, of Loving-kindness and this is where the practice of Metta begins.  Spend some time just being with this quality, with this feeling.  If your mind wanders or distractions arise, just remember to come back to the quality, the feeling and to breathe right into the center of your chest, your heart center.  Allow yourself to spend some time being present in the heart, with the quality of loving-kindness.

This is your formal practice for today.  We are beginning by keeping it simple and developing 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.  Just 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 Questions:  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? for how long?   What will help you to practice tomorrow?  What does Loving-kindness mean to you?  How does it feel?

An important message from your sponsor:  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, so let’s allow it to be a space to transform our harshness into gentleness and our self-hate into self-love.  This is the heart of our practice.

Have a beautiful day.

The Heart Of Awakening is an online resource for transformation and healing written by Beth Terrence.  Beth offers Integrative Transformational Healing Programs For Individuals, Groups & Organizations in the MD/DC area and virutally.  To learn more, visit www.bethterrence.com.

Exploring Metta Meditation

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As we approach May 1st and the beginning of our journey into May Is For Metta 2013, I wanted to share this post from last year which is a good introduction to Metta Meditation. For info on this year’s May Is For Metta, check out Coming Soon To A Cushion Near You – May Is For Metta 2013.  You can also join us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/theheartofawakening.

The Heart of Awakening

“If there is love, there is hope that one may have real families, real brotherhood, real equanimity, real peace.  If the love within your mind is lost and you see other beings as enemies, then no matter how much knowledge or education or material comfort you have, only suffering and confusion will ensue.”
H.H. Dalai Lama

Metta meditation is a foundational practice in some Buddhist traditions.  The word Metta is referenced in several different Suttas or discourses; it is often associated with the Pali Canon of Theravada Buddhism.  Metta is considered one of the Four Immeasurables or Brahma Viharas which include: Loving-kindness, Compassion, Sympathetic Joy and Equanimity.  It is said to help facilitate awakening, open-heartedness and the spirit of generosity as well as support the development of meditative concentration.

In English, Metta is translated as loving-kindness.  According to the Buddha’s teachings, this loving-kindness has two aspects, one negative and…

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Day 16 of May is for Metta 2012: Loving-kindness Practice for a Difficult Person

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Day 16

“Metta is also called a paritta — a spiritual formula capable of safeguarding one’s well-being, protecting one against all dangers and rescuing one from mishaps and misfortunes.  When the monks could not stay and meditate in that beautiful forest provided with all facilities because the deities were hostile to them, they had to leave the place.  And when they were armed with the protection of the Metta Sutta, which they recited and meditated upon throughout their journey, by the time they reached the place, the deities were full of friendly feelings and already waiting for them.  Hostility had been turned into hospitality.” –  Acharya Buddharakkhita

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.

Journal Notes: 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.

Day 12 of May is for Metta: Loving-kindness Practice for Self, Benefactor & Beloved

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Day 12

“The nature of the sun can be called “Maitri” or “Metta”. Maitri or Metta also means friendliness or loving-kindness. Perhaps the reason why loving-kindness is called so is that it generates very warm feeling towards all beings. Like warmth comes from the sun, one who has loving-kindness has a warm heart towards others. Just as the sun shines indiscriminately on any object in the world, “Metta” or “Maitri” pervades all beings without any discrimination. Just as the sun dispels darkness, loving-kindness destroys the darkness of hatred.”                                 – Bhante Gunaratana

As Bhante Gunarantana, a Buddhist monk and teacher shares above, Metta can be thought of like the sun.  It helps to warm our hearts and generate loving-kindness and compassion to others.  It also helps to illuminate the darkness or those places within where we are holding ourselves back or holding feelings, which prevent us from having a deeper connection with ourselves, others and the world.  Metta practice has the ability to shine the light on what we need to see in ourselves and offers a vehicle for working with what we find within ourselves and for others with love, gentleness and compassion.

This weekend, take some time to reflect on your practice so far.  Perhaps you are getting to know yourself better or becoming aware of specific patterns or feelings that emerge as you practice.  Also, in the spirit of the sun, you might like to take your practice outside, find a beautiful place in nature to practice.

Today, we will continue our practice of Metta to the category of a Beloved, a close friend or family member.  A Beloved is someone we feel close to and have a positive relationship with.  Continue to practice for the same person you practiced for yesterday.  We will also include the Benefactor and move through the first 3 categories of the practice in sequence.  So, choose a Benefactor to work with as well.  If you are practicing in nature, you may wish to practice for that place or for one of your favorite places.

Daily Practice: Do your foundational practices.  Continue until you feel the energy of loving-kindness arising in yourself.  When you feel ready, then 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 Beloved:

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

Practice for a few minutes for the Benefactor and then move onto the category of the Beloved.  Invite an image of your Beloved, a friend or family member into your mind.  Hold them in your heart and offer “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 safe.
  • May you be happy.
  • May you be peaceful.
  • May you be free from suffering.

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.  When you feel to go back to whatever 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.  Dedicate the merit of your practice offering that the benefit is for self, others and that of all beings without exception.  Another way to do this is to say a prayer at the end of your practice in whatever way or tradition feels best for you.

Journal Notes: Did you take your practice outside?  If not, today, I hope you will explore this on another day; it is a wonderful way to practice.  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?

May your day be filled with sunshine and happiness.