Tag Archives: metta meditation

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Shantideva

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daily Practice: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daily Journal Reflection: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Buddha speaking to his son, Rahula

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

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

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

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

Daily Practice: 

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

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

When you feel ready, move on to practicing for all of the categories or just choose a few to work with for today that you feel drawn to from Benefactor, Beloved, Neutral Being, Difficult Being and All Beings.  Remember to come back to your heart center for a few moments between each category.  Offer the phrases for each being you have chosen to work with today:

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

As you become distracted or difficult feelings arise, use the Switchback, returning the practice to yourself until a sense of calm returns.  When you feel ready, return the practice to where you left off.  To complete your practice, return yourself to your circle of loving beings or envision yourself enveloped in the energy of loving-kindness and compassion that you have been cultivating. Really allow that feeling to sink in to you, let every atom and cell of your being be filled with loving-kindness and compassion.

Daily Journal Reflection:

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

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

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

Day 8 ~ May Is For Metta 2106: Mother’s Day Metta With Audio

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“All nature that we behold is the mother aspect of God, because in nature we find beauty, gentleness, and kindness. The flowers, birds, and the beauties of nature all speak of the Mother aspect of God-the creative motherly instinct of God. When we look at all the good things in nature, we feel a tenderness rise within us; we can see and feel God in nature.

The Divine Mother is so beautiful! But remember, in Her higher manifestation even that beauty is formless. She is in everything. Her divine, compassionate love is expressed in the raindrops. Her beauty is reflected in the colors of the rainbow. She offers fresh hope to mankind with the rose-tinted clouds at dawn.

Above all, be ever conscious of Her presence in your heart.” 

– Paramahansa Yogananda

It has turned out to be a beautiful aspect to our practice that Mother’s Day falls in the midst of May Is For Metta each year.  We may tend to think of Mother’s Day as a personal holiday between us and our own Mother, however by expanding our focus we can use this day to shift our consciousness to the greater whole, to transform our relationships big and small, and to deepen in our experience of Mother energy not only in our own lives but in the world as well.  In honor of Mother’s Day today, we will celebrate the energy of the Divine Mother and Mother Earth as part of our practice.

I encourage to explore the practice and to connect with your heart center to ask which mothers you feel to practice for today.  Perhaps it is your birth mother or the mother who raised you.  Perhaps it’s a grandmother, a friend or teacher, or even a your child.  And, don’t forget to include Mother Nature; she needs our love, too.  Let you heart be your guide and open to experience the heart of Metta as Buddha defined it.

We have been working to connect with and cultivate the energies of loving-kindness and compassion.   As most of us have noticed, it is a process to open ourselves to these qualities and to become receptive to the experience of loving ourselves.   Just as a mother so easily listens to her children, the feminine energy within us has the power to deepen our ability to listen, to be still and to go within.

On the simplest level, we can say that the heart is connected to the feminine energy within us and the mind to the masculine.   Our goal is to achieve wholeness, a marriage or union of these energies.  And yet, historically, especially in our culture, we have been more focused on systems of mind and logic rather than heart and intuition.   Through our practice today, we will honor the feminine energy within us, in others and in the world.

In 2014 I offered a series of audios and would like to share the Mother’s Day Metta recording here for anyone who would like to work with it as part of their practice today.

Listen To Mother’s Day Metta Audio…

Daily Practice:

Do your foundational practices.  Take some extra time today to focus on deepening your receptivity to loving-kindness and compassion.  Honor the feminine energy with you and open to the wisdom of receptivity and the creation of sacred space within your heart.  This energy helps to open us to receive divine love into the core of our beings.  Offer yourself the time and space to really open your heart today, allowing stillness and love to blossom within you.  Use your whatever method you feel to generate the energy of loving-kindness.  When you feel deeply rooted in loving-kindness and the energy of heart, say a few rounds of 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 complete in practicing for yourself, move onto the Benefactor.  Let us honor Mother Earth as our Benefactor/Mentor for today.  She nurtures and sustains us in each and every moment.  Call an image of Mother Earth into your mind or it that feels too vast, choose a place in nature you feel connected to as a focus.  Begin to offer loving-kindness to Mother Earth by enveloping her in the heart qualities you have been cultivating.  Begin by saying to yourself, “Just as I wish to be happy and free from suffering, may you be happy and free from suffering.”  Offer the phrases for Mother Earth:

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

Spend as long as you feel to practicing Metta for Mother Earth.  When you feel ready to move on, let her image go and return to your heart center.  Again, spend a few moments allowing yourself to open your heart to receive love and deepen your experience of the sacred space within your being.

For the category of Beloveds, choose one or two mothers whom you would like to send loving-kindness and compassion to today.  It can be your own mother or grandmother, someone who is like a mother to you or a just a mother you wish to honor on this day.  You may practice for as many mothers as you feel to.  Call an image to mind of your Beloved.  Begin by saying to yourself, “Just as I wish to be happy and free from suffering, may you be happy and free from suffering.”  Begin to offer her loving-kindness and repeat the phrases for your beloved:

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

When you feel complete, continue on to another mother if you feel to or return to your heart center.  Practice as long as you feel to or have committed to for today.  Spend a few moments reflecting on your practice.  Notice how it felt to connect with the energy of the Divine Mother and the feminine energies within your self, others and in the world.  And, finally dedicate the merit of your practice in the following way or as you are called to:

  • 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.

A Note:  For many people Mother’s Day is a joyful day, a time of celebration.  For some who have lost their mothers, may have never known their birth mothers, or even have a big “mother wound” due to the nature of their relationship, Mother’s Day can be a day that brings us difficult and painful feelings.  This is a perfect opportunity to notice what’s arising within us and offer practice offering lovingkindness and compassion to ourselves.  

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.  

  • Did you spend some extra time in your heart today?
  • How did it feel to practice for Mother Earth?
  • Did you explore working with more than one Beloved?
  • How did that feel?
  • Are you getting more comfortable spending time in your heart center? being still?

Today is a wonderful today to take your practice out into the world.  Spend some time offering Metta to those you see as you go about your day, perhaps the loved one or friends who you visit with today.

Wishing you a happy Divine Mother’s Day.

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

Beth

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

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Welcome to May is for Metta 2016!  Today is the first day of our annual 31-Day Exploration Of Loving-kindness Meditation here on The Heart Of Awakening Blog.   Each day will offer an exploration, guided meditation practice and journaling reflection in Metta, Loving-kindness meditation.

The intention of May Is For Metta is to support:

  • Cultivating greater loving-kindness and compassion in ourselves, others and the world
  • Developing or deepening in a daily meditation practice
  • Reflecting and expanding our self-awareness through contemplative practice, sharing in community, and journaling exercises

If you are new to May Is For Metta and would like to learn a bit more about it, you can explore the following:

May Is For Metta Page

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

Exploring Metta Meditation

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

Over the course of the next 31 days, we will be exploring cultivating greater loving-kindness and compassion in our lives, our relationships and our world.  Our vehicle will be the Buddhist practice of Metta (Loving-kindness) Meditation.  We will begin gradually with the focus on cultivating loving-kindness for ourselves.  In the Buddhist tradition, it is understood that in order to have the ability to offer loving-kindness and compassion to others, we must have a foundation of loving-kindness towards ourselves.

For many Westerners, this is something that can go against our grain.  We may have been taught to love others first or even that loving ourselves is selfish.  This is something we will be exploring during our journey together.  For now, I encourage you to just be open and notice what arises as you enter into the container of May Is For Metta.  There will be lots of support to work with our resistance and to shift our patterns towards greater loving-kindness and compassion for ourselves.

There will also be lots of support around creating a daily meditation practice.  Take some time to decide where you will do your practice and when.  It can be helpful to have a set place to practice that is clear and quiet.  You may wish to designate a meditation area in your home or office for this exploration.  However, do not let this be an obstacle.  As Mindfulness Meditation Teacher & Author Jon Kabat-Zinn says in his popular book title, “Wherever you go, there you are.”  So, wherever you can find the time and space to practice can the perfect place to start. Also, this is something you can explore during the practice period.

Meditating first thing in the morning can be a great way to start the day if you can create room to do so.  If not, just find a time that works for you.  For instance, if lunchtime is the only time you have, perhaps going outside is a good way to practice this time of year.  Be open and creative in finding a time and space that feels good to you whether it is in your home or elsewhere.  Last year, one of our participants shared that after struggling for a while to find a place to practice at home where there were many obstacles, she started doing her May Is For Metta practice in her car right as she arrived at work.

Consistency can be helpful in terms of where you practice, when you practice and for how long; this is something we will explore in the coming month, but feel free to be creative in your process – this is your journey!  Consider May Is For Metta as an opportunity to explore different aspects of meditation practice and to develop a structure that supports you where you are and where you would like to be on your path of transformation.

Daily Practice:

As we begin, find a comfortable position for your body. This can be on a chair or on the floor.  If you are on a chair, it is good to sit with your spine straight and feet flat on the floor.  Sometimes, it helps to put a pillow behind your back for support or to sit at the leading edge of the chair rather than leaning back.  If you are on the floor, sit cross-legged or in lotus posture.  Make sure to have a cushion or blanket to sit on and adjust your leg position so that you feel comfortable.

Once you come into your sitting position, check that your spine is straight, but not tense; shoulders and stomach relaxed.  Your hands can rest on your knees or your lap.  Allow your chin to tuck slightly toward your chest.   Let the eyes close, or if you prefer, leave your eyes open, gazing softly at the floor in front of you.

Begin with a few deep breaths, breathing in for a count of five and out for a count of five. It is helpful to allow the body and the mind to relax.  Take a moment to scan the body for any areas of tension or discomfort.  Allow the next few breaths to wash over those areas melting away any tensions.  Also, scan the mind for any thoughts, worries or busyness of the day.

Bring your breath and awareness to the heart center in the center of your chest.  Notice how it feels to be present in the heart.  This is the center of love, compassion, gentleness and mercy for yourself and for others.  As we begin, we connect with the energy of our own heart.  When the Buddha spoke of Metta he used the example of a mother’s love for a child; he taught that we need to love all beings as a mother loves her child.  The essence of Metta practice is generating the feeling of loving-kindness and compassion to create that foundation for ourselves and then share it with others and the world. We will explore a few ways to cultivate this feeling.

To begin, take a few moments to recall a time when you felt loved totally held in unconditional love and compassion.  Sometimes calling on the memory of a moment with a grandparent, good friend or even a loving pet is a way to generate this feeling. There may be a certain place such as a childhood home or place in nature, which brings on this feeling for you.  Imagine yourself in that moment and let that feeling, that quality of loving-kindness and compassion fill your whole being, every atom and cell.

This is the quality of Metta, or Loving-kindness; this is where our practice begins.  Allow yourself to simply spend some time just being with this feeling.  If your mind wanders or distractions arise, just remember to come back to the quality, the feeling or the image of the moment you have called on to generate it.  Breathe that feeling right into the center of your chest, into your heart center.  Allow yourself to spend some time being present in the heart, with the quality of loving-kindness.

This is your practice for today.  We are beginning by keeping it simple and exploring the essence of Metta, the feeling of loving-kindness.  If the chance arises and you remember, try to connect with this feeling of loving-kindness as you go about your day.  Bring your breath and awareness to your heart center whenever you feel to.  Simply notice how it feels to connect in this new way.

Today is the day to invite loving-kindness and compassion into your life in a more conscious way.  Although not required, it can be helpful to create a journal for this practice period and to spend a few minutes in the evening to reflect on your daily practice and exploration.

Daily Journal Reflections…

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

  • What did you notice? 
  • Did you find time to practice today?  
  • If yes, how did it feel?  If no, what stopped you? 
  • Did you decide on a place to practice?
  • What will help you to practice tomorrow? 
  • How did it feel to connect with your heart center and the feeling of loving-kindness?
  • Are there any obstacles to your practice that you are aware of?

Feel free to ask questions or share your experiences and reflections in the comments below or on The Heart Of Awakening Facebook page.  There is also a private Facebook group if you’d like to connect with others doing the practice ~ Request to join.

An important message from your host & facilitator, Beth Terrence:  

This practice is about loving-kindness and compassion.  For many of us, our tendency is to be harsh and critical with ourselves.  When we begin a new practice, we set high standards and when we don’t meet them, we tend to beat ourselves up emotionally.  This is an excellent opportunity to change that pattern, to approach change and growth from a place of gentleness and self-love rather than harshness and self-hate.

As Zen teacher, Cheri Huber, says, “If you had a person in your life treating you the way you treat yourself, you would have gotten rid of them a long time ago…”.   So, however your practice unfolds, remember to be gentle and loving with yourself.   This time is a gift you are giving to yourself to support your personal journey of transformation and healing. Let’s allow it to be a space to transform our harshness into gentleness and our self-hate into self-love.  This is truly the heart of our practice.

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

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

Beth

Day 2 ~ May Is For Metta 2015: Our Circle Of Loving Beings

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

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

– Bhante Henepola Gunaratana

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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!

Namaste.

Beth

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

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If you are interested in additional support to develop or deepen your meditation practice or work on cultivating greater loving-kindness for yourself, consider one of the optional levels:

Optional Level I: Blog Posts + 4 Weekly Group Teleclass Sessions ~ $38

Optional Level II: Blog Posts + 4 Weekly One-on-One 30 Minute Guided Meditation Sessions by Phone/Skype With Facilitator Beth Terrence ~  $147 

Learn more or Register Now!

 

Day 1 ~ May Is For Metta 2015: Our Journey Of Loving-kindness Meditation Begins

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Welcome to May is for Metta 2015!  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

Also, with the events of the past week, this year, we will be dedicating the merit of our practice to the people of Nepal and to the people of Baltimore as well as any other communities or individuals whom we wish to offer this practice for.  The concept of dedicating merit is something we will discuss more as we move forward; for now you can simply hold the intention that this practice benefit all of those in need of loving-kindness and compassion.

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 ~ 31 Days Of Loving-kindness Meditation

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!

Many blessings!

Beth

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If you are interested in additional support to develop or deepen your meditation practice or work on cultivating greater loving-kindness for yourself, consider one of the optional levels:

Optional Level I: Blog Posts + 4 Weekly Group Teleclass Sessions ~ $38

Optional Level II: Blog Posts + 4 Weekly One-on-One 30 Minute Guided Meditation Sessions by Phone/Skype With Facilitator Beth Terrence ~  $147 

Learn more or Register Now!

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

Introduction To May Is For Metta ~ 31 Days Of Loving-kindness Meditation

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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 the 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.  Currently, I am in the process of completing a May Is For Metta book to accompany the program and be used in an ongoing way.  And, I am so excited to move into 5th 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. 

I hope you will join us for this journey.  Our intention is to cultivate greater loving-kindness and compassion for ourselves, others and the world.  With the events over the last week, we will begin dedicating the merit of our practice to the people of Nepal affected by the earthquake and the people of Baltimore affected by the conflicts there; you can add any other communities that speak to you as well and overall, our intention is to offer our practice for the benefit of all beings:

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

To receive daily posts:

If you have questions or would like additional information, feel free to message me or comment below.

Tashi Deleh (I honor the greatness within you!)

Beth

May Is For Metta Community Teleclass Gathering On Sunday, May 19th at 8 PM EST

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Join the Heart Of Awakening Blog community for a teleclass gathering as part of our May Is For Metta 2013 Practice.   We have now explored all of the categories of Metta and are beginning to bring the full practice together.  As we gather, we will hold the intention of cultivating greater loving-kindness and compassion for ourselves, others and the world.  There will be a guided Metta meditation practice which will be recorded.  There will also be some time to check in to see how our practices are going, ask any questions and share our experiences with Metta.  Please join us for this opportunity to gather and deepen in our experience of May Is For Metta.

When: Sunday, May 19th at 8 PM EST

Where: Wherever You Are

Cost: Free

To Register, Click Here

I will be emailing call in instructions on Saturday.

Registrants will have access to the live call and replay.

I hope you’ll join us.

Many blessings,

Beth