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Day 31 ~ May Is For Metta 2016: Celebrating Our Journey of Lovingkindness and Compassion

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

~ Arnold Patent

Wow!  We did it.  How does it feel to have devoted 31 Days of your life to cultivating loving-kindness and compassion for ourselves, others and the world? And, even if you didn’t participate every day, know that each moment you practiced has been a heart-opening experience.  Devotion to our practice has allowed us to expand in many ways. What does this mean?  According to the Oxford Dictionary, the word “Devotee” connotes:

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

We sometimes hear the term used when someone follows a particular guru, teacher or religion, but what if we choose to follow loving-kindness and compassion as our guide? I have often heard the Dalai Lama quoted as saying, “My religion is very simple.  My religion is kindness.”   This is not to say that we cannot have our structured religions or beliefs, but at the heart of our human experience is the essence of who we are and not the structure.

As Arnold Patent touches on above, it’s not about the material, the circumstances or even the way we live our lives – it’s about knowing and feeling what lies within and connecting with the Oneness that is our true nature.  And, it is through practice that we can develop the “muscles” to experience Oneness.

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

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

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

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

Daily Practice:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today is a day to celebrate your journey with May Is For Metta.  Take some time to reflect on your practice and to explore how you would like to continue.  Find something fun or joyful to celebrate 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 does it feel to have made it through 31 Days Of Loving-kindness Exploration?
  • What have you noticed about yourself and your practice since you began?
  • How will you work with Metta going forward?
  • What other practices would you like to explore?
  • Have you taken time to honor yourself for your efforts?

Some Suggestions For Continued Practice:

  • Repeat the practice or select specific posts to work with.  Remember your practice is your own, so find a way that works for you.  I will be indexing the all of the daily practice posts shortly on the May is for Metta page so they will be easily accessible by day and topic; this will be available early next week. 
  • Also, if you haven’t yet, you are welcome to join the MIFM group on Facebook to continue to explore and share.  I will continue to post prompts and resources periodically throughout the year until our next gathering.
  • Find a meditation group in your area or start your own Metta meditation practice group.
  • There are some great books on Metta Meditation and Loving-kindness Practice to help you continue your exploration.  Here are a few suggestions:
  1. Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness by Sharon Salzberg. Shambhala Publications, 2002.
  2. The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion: Freeing Yourself from Destructive Thoughts and Emotions by Christopher K. Germer, PhD. Guildord Press, 2009.
  3. Awakening Loving-kindness by Pema Chodron.  Shambhala Publications, 2009.
  4. Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat Zinn. Hyperion Press, 1994.
  5. The Force of Kindness: Change Your Life with Love and Compassion by Sharon Salzberg. Sounds True, 2010.
  6. The Healing Power of Loving-kindness by Tulku Thondup. Shambhala, 2009.
  7. One Soul, One Love, One Heart: The Sacred Path to Healing All Relationships by John E. Welshons. New World Library, 2009.

Wishing you many blessings for the coming year.  As always, feel free to stop by to share your experiences and reflections.

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

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

Beth

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Day 28 ~ May For Metta 2016: Metta As Medicine For Heart & Soul

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

From my own limited experience I have found that the greatest degree of inner tranquility comes from the development of love and compassion.”

– H.H. Dalai Lama on Compassion and The Individual

We are getting near to the end of our daily journey together through May is for Metta 2016.  It has been an opportunity to explore ways to create happiness and peace in ourselves, others and the world.  As the Dalai Lama indicated above – at the core of being human is the desire to be happy.  This is a bond we share as human beings, regardless of our outer differences.

Our sense of separation, from ourselves, others and the world, is an obstacle, which most of us face as we try to create happiness in our lives.  By developing and deepening our connection with our own heart and generating a foundation of loving-kindness and compassion, we have begun the process of bringing more happiness to ourselves and to all beings.

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

Daily Practice:  

As we move towards the end of May Is For Metta 2013, I hope you will take some time to honor the efforts you have been making to be more loving and compassionate.  Do you foundational practices.  As you begin your practice today, take a few moments to reflect on any changes you may have experienced since you began May is for Metta.  How has your ability to connect with and generate the qualities of loving-kindness and compassion evolved?  Spend some time in your circle of loving beings or imagining a time you were held in unconditional love.  Really allow yourself to feel those energies enveloping you.  When you feel ready, repeat the phrases for yourself:

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

When you feel ready move onto the other categories as you feel to for today:  Benefactor, Beloved, Neutral Being, and Difficult Person.  Acknowledge that in practicing for this being, you have benefitted by becoming more open-hearted and loving.  As you begin each category, say, “Just as I wish to be peaceful and happy, so does this being wish to have inner peace and joy.”   Repeat the phrases for each category you are working with remembering to come back to your own heart center for a few moments between each category:

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

If you become distracted or difficult feelings arise, use the Switchback, returning the practice to yourself until a sense of calm returns.  When you feel ready, return the practice to where you left off or move on to the next category.   When you are ready move on to the category of All Beings.

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

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

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

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

Daily Journal Reflection: 

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

  • Are you able to embrace the idea that all beings wish to be happy and free from suffering.  
  • What does Metta as medicine mean to you? 
  • What have you noticed about yourself and your practice since you began?
  • How will you work with Metta going forward?
  • What other practices would you like to explore?
  • Have you taken time to honor yourself for your efforts?

Have a happy, peaceful and loving day!

Namaste.

Beth


Day 27 ~ May Is For Metta 2016: Take Your Metta To The Streets

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It’s Take Your Metta To The Streets Day!

 

“Love exists in itself, not relying on owning or being owned. Like the pearl, love can only buy itself, because love is not a matter of currency or exchange. No one has enough to buy it but everyone has enough to cultivate it. Metta reunites us with what it means to be alive and unbound.”

~ Sharon Salzberg

In a beautiful and insightful post on The Facets of Metta, teacher and author Sharon Salzberg, shares the following:

“Researchers once gave a plant to every resident of a nursing home. They told half of these elderly people that the plants were theirs to care for — they had to pay close attention to their plants’ needs for water and sunlight, and they had to respond carefully to those needs. The researchers told the other half of the residents that their plants were theirs to enjoy but that they did not have to take any responsibility for them; the nursing staff would care for the plants.

At the end of a year, the researchers compared the two groups of elders. The residents who had been asked to care for their plants were living considerably longer than the norm, were much healthier, and were more oriented towards and connected to their world. The other residents, those who had plants but did not have to stay responsive to them, simply reflected the norms for people their age in longevity, health, alertness, and engagement with the world.

This study shows, among other things, the enlivening power of connection, of love, of intimacy. This is the effect that metta can have on our lives.”

 

When we are out in the world – driving, walking, at the store – this is a time we may check out or disconnect. We are not with those we love, we are not necessarily engaging with anyone directly and yet, if we open our hearts there is a great opportunity to cultivate our sense of connection with self, others and the world.

Many of the people we engage with when we are out “on the streets” may be Neutral Beings. We may also feel some folks are “Difficult Beings”. And, there is certainly an opportunity to practice for all beings.

For today’s practice, I invite you to see what happens when you take your Metta to the streets.  Consider offering Metta to someone you may not have noticed before, to someone who caused you some frustration or irritation and to someone that you see suffering in some way that you may not be able to help actively. Be curious, explore.

And, of course, be sure to offer Metta to yourself as you move through your day!

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.  Connect with your own heart center and 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.

If you have a daily sitting practice, you can include that today as well.  Otherwise, take some time as you are out in the world, out on the streets, to notice people around you.  Work with the categories of Neutral Being, Difficult Being and All Beings as you feel called to throughout your day.  You may like to take a break from work or other activities and just sit on a bench and watch people and offer Metta as they go by.  

Acknowledge that just as you wish to be happy and peaceful so do all these other beings.  Offer phrases accordingly to each category you choose to practice for today. 

Come back to your center and offer Metta to yourself several times throughout the day as well. 

At the end of your day, offer the merit of your practice for all beings you showered Metta on today and all beings without exception:

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

 

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 explore bringing Metta to the streets?
  • Did you notice anyone who really stirred your heart strings?
  • Did you feel more aware and present with what happens around you?
  • Did you notice feeling a deeper sense of connection or peace within yourself?
  • What else did you notice?
  • Did you take time to offer Metta to yourself?

May you have beautiful and joy-filled day!

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

Beth

Day 26 ~ May Is For Metta 2016: Take Your Metta To Work Day

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It’s Take Your Metta To Work Day!

An Exploration in Bringing Loving-kindness Practice

to the World of Work

 

“Be the change you want to see in the world.” 

– Mahatma Gandhi

 

Our intention for today will be to bring our Metta practice more fully into our daily lives. Today, is Take Your Metta To Work Day.   Although the main focus will be to bring Metta into our work life, it can really be explored anywhere  – at work, at school, or in the community – wherever you spend your time.  Feel free to adapt the practice so it works for you.

The relationship between our personal lives and our work lives has often been one of disconnection or separation.  When we go to work, we put on our work persona.  When we come home, we take it off.  Although things are shifting, the process is still slow.  Even when organizations and individuals desire to be more open, authentic and heart-centered, the transition is difficult as there is really no pattern to follow.

Metta practice offers a way for an individual to stay connected with their heart center and bring more of their authenticity to all of their experiences, including work.  The goal is to allow one’s whole, integrated self to emerge and shine through.  For organizations, Metta mediation offers an opportunity to cultivate a culture of open-heartedness, mindfulness and acceptance.  Recent research has also shown that meditation practice supports greater clarity, clearer focus, improved wellness, reduced stress, increased productivity and enhanced creativity in the workplace.

Basically, bringing Metta meditation practice to work is a win-win situation.  So, whether you are an individual wanting to bring your personal practice more fully into your daily life or an organization wanting create change, bringing Metta practice to work offers a powerful tool for transformation.

For anyone who is joining in at this time, it may be helpful to read the earlier posts on Exploring Metta and Days 1 – 3 to gain an understanding of the foundational practices.  As we Take Our Metta To Work, I encourage you to continue a sitting practice if you have been cultivating one.  However, you can also do the practice at work or on your way to work.  This is an opportunity to bring Metta more fully into daily life and carry our practice to work.  Feel free to “just play” and explore what is best for you today.

It is good to begin the day with Metta practice for yourself but you can also do it as you arrive at work as a way to engage your whole self and move into your work from a heart centered place.  This can be both exciting and scary, so as always remember to be gentle and loving with your self.  The greatest gift of bringing Metta to work is continuing to carry your personal practice of Loving-kindness with you wherever you go and allowing your true self to come through in a space where you may have a tendency to constrict your own essence.

Also, you might like to check out this previous post on 7 Motivations To Take Your Metta To Work: Transforming Our World & Our Work With Loving-kindness Meditation.

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.  Connect with your own heart center and 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.

Even if you did your practice at home, take a few moments as you arrive at work to center yourself in the heart and repeat a round of two or phrases for yourself.  As you go about your day, do this a few times.  Any time that you experience stress or difficult emotions during your day, explore using your foundational practices – imagine your circle of loving beings surrounding you,  connect with your heart center or repeat some phrases for yourself for a few moments.  You will be amazed to see how a moment or two of Metta can change your day.

Sometimes people like to do this periodically throughout the day, in a proactive way.  One of my clients sets an alarm on his cell phone every hour that reminds him to take a moment to cultivate Metta for himself.  This helps him to stay connected to the heart as well as remain centered and grounded.  He finds that this supports his ability to be more focused, balanced and productive throughout the day.

One of the overall intentions of May is for Metta is to support transformation in our world and organizations are an important part of it.  So, I invite you to include a few moments of today’s practice for your organization.  You can choose the whole organization or if it feels to large, you can work with your department or team.

Remember you can adapt this practice to work, school or community depending on how you spend your day.  The idea is to bring our loving-kindness and compassion to a larger community that we are a part of and that we share a common experience with.  This helps to foster a more compassionate connection within our organizations and communities.  It can also support the alignment of organizational energy and mission.

Check that you are centered in the energy of loving-kindness.  If you need to practice a bit more for yourself, do so.  Then, when you are ready, begin to offer Metta for your whole organization, remembering that an organization is made up of individuals and is also its own energetic entity.  You are offering Metta to everyone and everything that makes up your organization, school, or community.  Say to yourself, “Just as I wish to be happy and peaceful, so do all beings within my organization.”  Begin to offer the phrases remembering that you, too, are a part of this organization:

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

As always, if your mind wanders, just notice and return to the phrases.  Sometimes, working with a larger group is difficult or you may have mixed feelings about some of the people you work with or the organization itself.  Just notice.  This is something to explore.  A part of our practice is noticing where we experience openness and spaciousness and where we experience resistance or constriction.  This is a way of getting to know ourselves more deeply and recognizing how we respond to our experiences in the world.

If you continue to struggle or difficult emotions arise, return your practice to your self until your feel more settled.  When you feel ready, once again offer the phrases for your organization.  If working with your whole organization is too much, or difficult to hold your attention on, then you can switch to a smaller group within the organization.

When you feel ready to move on, enter into your heart center once again.  Connect with the loving-kindness within your self.  Envision yourself in your circle of loving beings.  Do this in whatever way feels good to you. Take a few moments to reflect on your practice.

Other opportunities for practice today including offering Metta for someone  you work with who you find difficult or challenging or for a coworker who you consider a friend.  Perhaps there is even someone you notice at work who fits into the category of Neutral Being, but for some reason you feel to offer loving-kindness to them today.  If you can, try to offer Metta for all of the categories as you go about your day.  This does not need to be in any order but just as you remember or notice an opportunity for practice.

At the end of your day, dedicate the merit of today’s daily practice for all beings.   Consider all of the beings you have practiced for today and offer the merit of your practice for their benefit and also, for all organizations to be more heart centered.  Remember that as you offer up the merit of your practice, you are not giving it away or losing it but you are actually generating more merit through the act of giving.

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 explore bringing Metta to work?
  • How did it feel to do Metta for your organization?
  • Did you have difficult feelings or emotions arise during your practice?
  • If so, spend some time writing about them.
  • Did you take some time to return to your heart center and offer Metta to yourself throughout the day?
  • If yes, how did it feel to do so?  If not, why?
  • Were you too busy?
  • Were you able to explore the various categories while at work?
  • How does it feel to consider being more loving and compassionate to yourself and others at work?

May you have a peaceful and joyful day.

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

Beth

Day 25 ~ May Is For Metta 2016: Becoming A Beacon Of Lovingkindness

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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

Take some time today to notice any awareness that may have arisen for you during your exploration of May is for Metta 2016.  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.

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

Beth

 

Day 24 ~ May Is For Metta 2016: Deepening Your Metta Practice

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“Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals.  Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others.  Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.”

 – Pema Chodron

One of the great gifts of Metta is learning to move beyond our personal experience into the understanding that all beings experience suffering just as we do and additionally, all beings wish to be happy and peaceful just as we do.  I find 30 days to be a great container for exploring a new practice or creating a change in our lives.  As we move toward the end of our container, we have a much stronger foundation than when we first began.

This is a wonderful time to re-examine our practice and how far we have come.  It is also an opportunity to see where more of our work lies.  At this point you know that you can always do your practice in a way that you feel guided to; so your guidance as you feel to.

My suggestion for  today is to deepen in two areas:

1. Loving-kindness For Ourselves

2. Loving-kindness For A Difficult Person

Take some time today to practice for yourself for a bit longer than you may have been doing since we moved on to the other categories.   Also, take some time to offer Metta for yourself throughout the day, perhaps as difficult feelings arise or just when you think of it.  Metta can be both a proactive and responsive process, so it is beneficial to work with it in both of formal practice and “on the spot” practice.  If there is a particular issue or struggle you are dealing with or that you may have noticed  as you moved through the month, such as difficult feelings, outmoded beliefs or unhealthy patterns,  bring this into your practice by offering loving-kindness to yourself with a more specific focus.

Additionally, take some time to work the category of Difficult person, referred to in traditional Buddhist texts as the “Enemy”.  There are clearly varying degrees of difficulty and this is something to explore as part of the practice.  At the most basic level, the Difficult person is someone whom we find it challenging to like or feel friendly towards.  It is someone towards whom we may have varying degrees of negative feelings.  Sometimes, just thinking about this Difficult person causes us to feel upset or frustrated.

Working with the category of Difficult person offers us the opportunity to go to a deeper place within ourselves.  Oftentimes, when someone causes a reaction in us, there are feelings and issues we need to resolve within ourselves.   As always, we begin by cultivating loving-kindness and compassion for ourselves.  We acknowledge that something is arising within us that is causing discomfort and in a sense, we comfort ourselves with our attention and our compassion.

There are always people and situations that challenge us and cause uncomfortable feelings to arise; this can occur in our work life, our families, and just in moving about in the world.  Often, we need to deal with seemingly difficult people and situations but there is nothing we can do to change the fact that we have to relate with them.  This is one of the places we can shut our heart down as we feel there is nothing to do with our feelings but stuff them inside.  By offering Metta, we begin to work with our resistance, which supports having a more open heart and mind.  It also gives us a vehicle for dealing with something that we may feel we have no power to change.  Perhaps we cannot change this outwardly, but we do have the power to create change within ourselves.

As we begin, we recognize that the Difficult person is suffering just as we are suffering.  Even though we struggle with this person, we acknowledge that they deserve to be happy as all beings do.  You may wish to choose someone whom you have struggled with for some time or just notice a situation that arises during the day, such as a frustrating phone call or stressful interaction with a coworker.   In the beginning, it can be helpful to choose someone to work with who you find is only mildly difficult rather than someone who stirs up very strong emotions.  However, if a very difficult situation arises, this can be a good time to explore responding with loving-kindness and compassion.  Remember you can always bring your practice to yourself first.  Once you are in that space of loving-kindness you can then explore extending it to the Difficult person or situation.

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.  Connect with your own heart center and 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.

Even if you did your practice at home, take a few moments as you as you go about your day to center yourself in the heart and repeat a round of two or phrases for yourself.  Remember to do your foundational practices several times throughout the day, especially when you are experiencing stress or difficult emotions.

When you feel ready to move on to practicing for all of the categories you feel to  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.

At some point either in your sitting practice, as you go about your day or in both ways, take some time to explore the category of a Difficult Person more deeply.  Offer Metta for this person and also notice what arises within yourself.  Are there certain qualities about this person that you, too, may carry?  Maybe yes and maybe no; it’s all about exploring.  Remember, it can be someone whom you often struggle with or someone who has annoyed you or caused difficult emotions for you today.  Do your foundational practices and say, “Just as I wish to be happy and peaceful, so does this being wish to have peace and happiness”.  Begin to offer phrases for your Difficult Person, remembering to return your practice to yourself as you need to:

  • May you be happy.
  • May you be peaceful.
  • May you be free from suffering.
  • May you 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.  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.  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 on your practice of Metta for yourself and for a Difficult Person.

  • Have you noticed any changes since you began?
  • How did it feel to take some more time to offer Metta to yourself?
  • Are you able to see a change as you work with the category of Difficult Person?
  • Do you notice anything about the Difficult Person that may be something for you to explore within yourself?
  • Are you remembering to be gentle and loving with yourself as you practice?
  • May you have a day filled with happiness and peace.

Have a loving and heart-centered day!

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

Beth

Day 23 ~ May Is For Metta 2016: Cultivating Peace On Earth

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My life blazed

with the desire

To serve as a thread

Joining Heaven and Earth

                                                                      ~ Haiku by Masahisa Goi

 

One of the things that may happen when we are cultivating loving-kindness and compassion is that we become more attuned with these energies and may be drawn into connection and community with like-minded others.  As each being becomes more of an embodiment of these positive qualities, they are not just bringing change to themselves but to those around them and the world itself.  Perhaps you have experienced this is in some way as you have been working with May Is For Metta or holding this intention it is a part of your ongoing personal practice.

One of the qualities we often work with in the Metta phrases is PEACE.  May I be peaceful.  May you be peaceful.  May all beings be peaceful.  In Metta, we see peace as an aspect of loving-kindness; when we feel held in love and compassion, most often we are at peace; and when we are at peace we become more able to connect with energy of loving-kindness.  These qualities go hand in hand.

Three years ago during May Is For Metta, I participated in a Peace Pole Dedication Ceremony with one of the communities I am a part of, Heal My Voice.  Heal My Voice is an international organization whose mission is to “empower and support women and girls globally to heal, reclaim their voice and step into greater leadership in their lives and in the world.” At the time, I was participating in a book project called Harmonic Voices: True Stories By Women On The Path To Peace, which focused on a year-long journey exploring moving from chaos to calm and cultivating peace in our own lives so that we might extend that energy out into our relationships and the world.   And, athough I was familiar with the concept of Peace Poles, I didn’t know the origin of them until I attended this event.

The Peace Pole Project was started in Japan by Masahisa Goi, who was greatly affected by the destruction caused by World War II and the atomic bombs which fell on the city of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  His desire to assist in the creation of world peace was answered when in 1955, the Peace Message, “May Peace Prevail On Earth”, came to him in a moment of great inspiration and deep prayer.

After Mr. Goi authored the Universal Peace Message in 1955, a great number of people gathered in support of his vision and activities to spread the Peace Message were promoted throughout Japan.  Soon after, Peace Poles inscribed with the Peace Message began to appear in various locations across Japan initiating the start of The Peace Pole Project.  The year 1986 was designated as the International Year of Peace and since then Peace Poles are one of the most recognized international peace symbols with more than 200,000 Peace Poles standing in almost every country throughout the world.

The synergy of completing a year-long  journey into peace with May Is For Metta that year seemed to culminate with this peace pole dedication.  Reflecting on these experiences has made me feel more deeply the idea that as we cultivate an energy or quality such as loving-kindness or peace, we are actually becoming an embodiment of it.

So for today’s practice, I felt to focus on peace specifically as our exploration.  When we focus on peace and being peaceful, we are allowing ourselves to become a “living” peace pole, one that is moving about and radiating the energy of peace wherever we go.  I hope you’ll join us in this exploration today.

You may wish to work with the full practice, choosing someone for each category or you may just wish to practice Metta on the spot today.  Take some time to feel into what feels best for you.  As always, our foundation comes from cultivating Metta for ourselves, so be sure to spend some time cultivating peace for yourself so that you may then extend that energy out to others and the world.

Daily Practice:

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.  Also, for today, tune into a place or a time when you felt a deep sense of peace.  Really allow yourself to feel that peace.  Breathe it into every atom and cell of your being on the in breath and as you breathe it out feel it surrounding and enveloping you.  You may wish to continue to work with all of your phrases or just work with “May I be peaceful” for today’s exploration; it’s up to you.

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 and reconnect with the feeling of peace you generated for yourself before moving on.  For each category, offer “May you be peaceful“.  And, if you feel to work with other phrases, please do.

As always, if you become distracted or difficult feelings arise, use the Switchback, returning the practice to yourself until a sense of calm returns.  Use a peaceful time or place as your anchor for today.  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 peace 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 peace.

In honor of the Peace Pole Project, let us also add this round of phrases, “May Peace Prevail On Earth”.  Knowing that as we do so we are supporting and embodying a vision which,

  • Symbolizes the oneness of humanity and our common wish for a world at peace
  • Reminds us to think, speak and act in the spirit of peace and harmony
  • Stands as a silent visual for peace to prevail on earth

May Peace Prevail On Earth

Finally, take a moment to honor yourself for creating the space to cultivate peace in your own life and in the world.  Can you feel how this is one of the most loving things we can do for ourselves and for our planet?

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 focus on peace today?
  • Did it feel difficult to work with one quality?
  • Did you notice areas of your life where it is challenging to feel peaceful?
  • How did it feel to offer peace to others?  to the world?
  • What will you do to continue to cultivate peace in your own life, in your relationships and in the world?

Wishing you a most loving and peaceful day.

May Peace Prevail On Earth!

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

Beth

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 13 ~ May Is For Metta 2016: Lovingkindness for A Difficult Being

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“Hatred can never cease by hatred.

Hatred can only cease by love.

This is an eternal law.”

– Buddha

Today, we will continue our practice of Metta for the category of a Difficult being.  Consider someone who you have a deeper degree of difficulty with but not the most severe of challenges.  Perhaps, there is an ongoing situation, which you cannot change outwardly.  Maybe, yesterday or even today, you had an interaction that is causing you frustration, annoyance, or anger.  Perhaps you are holding a long-term resentment toward someone and your mind is not able to let go.

Metta offers an opportunity to work with what is arising both in the moment and what is an ongoing thread in our life experience.  We can utilize our practice to assist in transforming our attitude from the negative to the positive whenever we choose to.  If you find that you struggle sending loving-kindness to your Difficult person, you may wish to imagine them as vulnerable.  Perhaps as a helpless infant or someone who is on their death-bed.  Allow yourself to feel their fragility rather than their harshness, which is a trigger for you.  Allow yourself to feel this being’s humanness.

Depending on the person or situation, this may be hard to do, but remember that in some way they are suffering, too. There’s actually a very good chance that what makes this person “difficult” is coming from their own unresolved pain and suffering and somehow triggering those vulnerable places within you.

In many spiritual traditions and healing practices, it is understood that the world is a mirror.  Your outer world is seen as a reflection of your inner world.  So, in a sense, if you did not have something within you that is connected to this “difficult” person, there would be no reason for you to have a reaction – there would be no charge so to speak.  I invite you to simply consider this concept.

On a very deep level (one that embraces the interconnectedness of all things) know that as you are willing to offer Metta to this difficult person, you are also offering to what we might call the shadow, the part of ourselves that we suppress, reject and don’t want to accept or see.  This might no always be the case, but it is something else to explore as you practice.  And, remember if you are struggling in any way, you can always return  your practice back to yourself!

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 your circle of loving beings.  Allow yourself to absorb the energy of loving-kindness and compassion into your heart and into every atom and cell of your being.  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 from suffering.
  • May I have ease of well-being.

When you feel immersed in loving-kindness, bring an image of the Difficult person you will work with into your awareness.  Begin by saying to yourself, “Just as I wish to be peaceful and free from suffering, may you also be peaceful and free from suffering.”  Then, repeat 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.

Accept the feelings that arise for you and let them move through.  You may feel anger, frustration, sadness or grief ~  just let it flow.  If at any point, the feelings become overwhelming, switch back to practicing for your self.  You may wish to ask yourself, “Who is the one suffering from this anger or sadness?”  You are the one who is holding onto this feeling, the other person has most likely moved on.  Begin to let these emotions go to ease your own heart.  When you feel ready, return your practice to the difficult person until you feel complete.

Finish your practice by returning to your heart center or circle of loving beings.  Offer a few rounds of phrases for your self for your willingness to be present and work with difficult feelings and resistance.  When you are complete with your practice, take a few moments to dedicate the merit for the benefit of all who are suffering, yourself and your Difficult person included.  Use the words that feel right to you.

Daily Journal Reflection:

  • What are you noticing about practicing Metta for a Difficult person? 
  • Was it any different today? 
  • Are you able to let go of difficult feelings that you are holding onto? 
  • If so, how does that feel? 
  • If not, why are you still holding on?
  • How is practicing Metta affecting your daily life?

I thank all of you for participating with me in this journey of Metta.  Our virtual Sangha or community is worldwide; the loving-kindness and compassion we are generating is universal!

May you have a day filled with inner peace and calm.

Namaste.

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 4 ~ May Is For Metta 2016: Offering Lovingkindness To Ourselves

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

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

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

– Pema Chodron

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

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

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

Daily Practice:

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

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

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

Daily Journal Reflection:

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

Are you able to connect with the energy of loving-kindness a few times as you go about your day?

  • How is your practice going so far?
  • 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.  You are welcome to share your experiences and reflections in the comments below.

May you have a very 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, JOIN the May Is For Metta Facebook group.  

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 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

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

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I truly believe that the greatest disease of our time is one of disconnection.  We can see this in our disconnect from the natural world, from community and on the deepest level from our own selves.  This imbalance is one that tends to accompany the many benefits of living in a modern world.  And, it is one that seems to contribute to suffering, sorrow and even disease itself.  The good news is that there are resources and tools that have been around for millennia that can support us in reconnecting and returning our lives to a state of wholeness.

As a long-time meditator, trained shaman and holistic practitioner, I have come to view life on earth as a journey of awakening.  In many ways it is like a school — we come here to learn and to grow.  What presents itself to us through our life experiences is our curriculum or our program.  One of my teachers always reminds me of this when I am struggling with the affairs of daily life.  Whether great or small, our challenges, and particularly how we respond to them, are the key to unlocking the greater truth of who we are.

In my own journey, I have found no greater tool than meditation and mindfulness for facilitating a sense of awareness and connection.  And, these are practices that are not new but that have been a part of spiritual traditions for thousands of years.  They have been proven by those who have treaded the path of seeker; and today, science is joining in to uncover that there are benefits on all levels — body, mind, emotion and spirit.  Perhaps, it is this marriage between spirituality and science that is stirring an invitation for these ancient practices in our modern culture.

Everyone has a longing to transform themselves in some way and to find happiness in their lives.  Meditation and contemplative practices can help us to get to know ourselves on a deeper level, to move into acceptance of who we are and to develop the sense of connection that for many of us is often lacking in our lives.  There are many types of meditation practices available ~ enough to meet the needs of every person in this world.  I always encourage people to explore and find practices that truly resonate with them, with where they are in life today and in moving toward the person they would like to become.  As we meditate, we begin to discover that true change comes from within.

One of the most beneficial practices I have found, both in my personal practice and in sharing meditation in workshops and trainings over the last 20 years, is the practice of Metta (or Loving-kindness meditation).  This practice derives from Buddhism and in many of its traditions is considered a foundational practice.  Metta can be translated quite simply as Loving-kindness.  It is connected to the energies of the heart — love, compassion and gentleness.

I was first introduced to Metta in my early twenties when I lived and worked in New York City.  I had been meditating since I was 14 years old, mostly on my own, learning through books and occasional lectures (there was no internet yet)!  After I graduated from college, I moved to NYC and was blessed to find many centers, classes and workshops where I could go to learn about meditation.  I spent quite a bit of time at a couple of Buddhist centers and that is when I was introduced to Metta practice.

According to the Buddha’s teachings on the practice of Metta, we begin with cultivating Loving-kindness for ourselves, then for others beings and finally, for our whole world.  This is done through visualization, reflection and repetition of simple phrases like these:

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

I have to be honest, as someone who has a voracious inner critic, I found the suggestion of offering loving-kindness to myself to be a bit challenging at first.  Thankfully, I had committed to exploring Metta, so I followed the instruction of offering loving-kindness to myself as the foundation for the practice.  I can now see this resistance to loving and nurturing ourselves is a challenge that many people in our world face; back then I thought it was just me and my upbringing.

It took many years of practice for me to embrace and understand the deep importance of offering loving-kindness and compassion to oneself as a foundation, not just for Metta meditation practice, but for life itself.  Today, I view working with the resistance to this as one of the most powerful teachings of my life.  However, in those early years of exploration, it was in offering Metta to others where I found myself connecting to this practice in a profound way.

So, there I was in my early 20’s in New York City.  I hadn’t found my direction in life and was working at a job I didn’t love but I was figuring it out.  I would take the subway from my tiny apartment in Astoria, Queens to my office in Manhattan.  It didn’t take long to see that there was whole lot of the suffering going on around me.  On a daily basis, I was faced, as were all New Yorkers, with seeing people who were homeless, sick, and often unhappy.  The subway wasn’t somewhere you came across a lot of smiles, especially during the morning commute!

I think it was this feeling of suffering — others and my own, too, that led me to bring my meditation practice to my morning train ride.   At first, it was really because that was when I could find the time.  Soon, I found it helped me to practice stillness and find my center amidst the chaos of the world around me.  Then, things seemed to really change when I learned Metta.  Instead of focusing on myself alone, I was able to extend my practice out to those around me.  I noticed immediately that this helped my sense of connection as well as feeling like there was something I could offer others without having to do anything outwardly.

Like many other New Yorkers, I always wanted to help to the homeless people who I passed daily on the street — sometimes I had money to give, sometimes I didn’t or didn’t know if giving money was the best kind of support.  Often, I wondered “what else can I do to help?”  I ended up doing a lot of volunteer work with homeless shelters and programs.  As I began to practice Metta, I realized that the energy of Loving-kindness was something I could always offer.  Did it actually help that other person?  I hope so but it’s hard to know how for sure.  I do know that it helped how I felt about the world around me, it deepened my sense of connection and transformed my attitudes about life.  I truly believe these inner changes have an impact on our relationships and the world around us.

Since that time, Metta has been a foundational practice in my life.  At times, it’s been at the forefront of my daily meditation practice and at other times, I practice it on the spot, wherever I am and with whomever I encounter.  It is also one of the main practices I share with others as I have come to see that loving ourselves is a key to transformation and healing on many levels and one that is much needed in our lives and our world.  For many of us, It is one of the hardest things to do.  Metta offers a vehicle for loving ourselves like few others I have encountered — it is both simple and profound.

It was with this awareness that the vision for May Is For Metta emerged in 2010.  After leading meditation groups in a variety of settings in NYC and the MD/DC area, I found I was getting quite a number of requests for support from folks I had worked with previously and those I was connecting with online for some type of virtual program.  At the time, I was working part-time in a residential addiction treatment program as a shaman and holistic health practitioner.  One of my weekly groups at the center was on meditation and mindfulness.

In this group, I would introduce the clients to a variety of practices with the intention that they might find one they resonated with enough to practice in an ongoing way once they left treatment.  Inevitably, I found that the practice most “loved” and embraced by my clients, who were in very early recovery, was Metta or Loving-Kindness meditation. It’s not really surprising… Not only had Metta become a foundational practice in my own life, but it was also one of the tools that really helped me in my own process of long-term recovery from trauma.

The concept of loving oneself was new and somewhat scary for many of the clients, but I could also see it was something they felt excited about exploring as most had tried so many other ways to recover and were still struggling.  What I noticed was that in addition to the benefit of the feeling of loving-kindness, which is generated at the beginning of the practice, the Metta phrases actually provided a strong anchor for their practice, perhaps a bit stronger than the breath itself.  Additionally, having the ability to offer loving-kindness to others gave them an opportunity to work on their relationships that had been damaged through their addiction in a powerful way.  They may not have been able to heal or change the relationship directly, but what I noticed is their response to it changed and often softened in ways that seemed to open the door for communication in a new way.

So, in the spring of 2010, when I decided to start some type of virtual mediation program, Metta was at the forefront of my mind and heart.  One day while I was practicing, and repeating the phrases, I had an idea bubble up to do a 31 Day program.  Since May was coming, I decided to call it May Is For Metta.  The first year, the program began through a Facebook group.  I just began by inviting folks I knew who were interested in meditation.  The word spread organically and we had 118 people participate that May from various parts of the world.

In the following years, I moved the monthly practice to my blog, The Heart Of Awakening: Searching for A New Paradigm and decided to offer the program as a series of daily posts.  In 2014, it even evolved to include daily audios to accompany the posts. I am excited to share it as we move into the 6th year of May Is For Metta: 31 Days Of Loving-kindness Practice, which happens live every May 1st to 31st.  It can also happen anytime and anywhere that you feel called to practice. 

Perhaps you have joined us because you:

  • are curious about the Buddhist practice of Metta
  • have thought about meditating for sometime
  • already meditate but would like to deepen or explore a new practice
  • struggle with feelings of self-criticism or harshness
  • feel stuck in your life
  • have a sense of disconnection (this may be with your self, in your relationships or with the world itself)
  • would like to cultivate loving-kindness and compassion in your life, your relationships and the world
  • have participated in May is For Metta before and want to continue your explorations

Just know, you don’t have to be an experienced meditator or a Buddhist to practice Metta. Loving-kindness is universal!  You are welcome to work with the program in a way that feels good to you.  This program is designed to support you at whatever level of experience or interest you have.  As they say in many twelve step programs, “Take what you like and leave the rest.”  And, in the spirit of loving-kindness and compassion, it is essential to follow the guidance of your own heart — this is a concept we will explore more on our journey together.

A Note:  I am not a monk or nun, guru or authority, just a person who is happy to share this exploration with you!  It is offered by just one human being on the path of life who has explored Metta and Loving-kindness as a foundational practice and tool for life on earth.  It has helped me to open my heart and find joy in life.  I hope it will help you, too!


How To Participate in May Is For Metta 2016…

Come Explore!