Tag Archives: Stillness

Join Me For A Free Teleseminar ~ Actualizing The Power Of Intention on 2/2 at 7 PM ET

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I am excited to be offering a free teleseminar on one of my favorite topics, Actualizing The Power Of Intention, on Monday, 2/2 at 7 PM ET.  This is a something I’ve shared on in prior posts here on HOA, through workshops and at other events.  Although most folks have defined their resolutions for this year, I find taking time during the winter months to go within is very important for creating intentions from a place of stillness and inner wisdom.  Also, we will be in a period of Mercury retrograde in Aquarius from Jan. 21st to Feb. 11th.  This is a wonderful time to explore our visions and dreams; and reflect on the life we would like to create for ourselves and our world.  I hope you will join me to explore what’s possible!

Actualizing The Power Of Intention

Free Teleseminar With Beth Terrence
Monday, 2/2 at 7 PM
As we bring our intentions into the forefront of our experience and work more actively with them, we begin to create changes in our consciousness, our energetic field and in the world. In a sense, we become a beacon carrying that energy both inwardly and outwardly into all of our experiences. We all have our own personal intentions that we can work with and we also have the opportunity to carry intentions that support ourselves, others and the world.  Embodying qualities such as peace, happiness, respect and serenity can become a part our active intentions thus assisting in our own personal transformation and shifting our world into a new paradigm.  
Join me for an exploration on actualizing the power of intention.  Together we will explore:
  • Exciting research on the power of intention
  • How to create intentions that come from our deepest essence
  • Ways to work with intention to create alignment in your life
  • Utilizing the power of intention to become a catalyst for change in the world
This is one of my favorite topics to explore.  I hope you’ll join me for this creative exploration.

Eventbrite - Actualizing The Power Of Intention Free Teleseminar With Beth Terrence

 

Discover The Healer Within

 

Also, if you haven’t signed up for my Discover The Healer Within E-News, take a peak at the January issue to see if it’s something you’d like to explore.  I share monthly on a variety of holistic and transformational topics, upcoming events and special offers.  Usually you’ll receive about 4 – 5 emails per month, not more.  If you like to sign up to receive it, click here

Day 3 ~ May Is For Metta 2014: Offering Loving-kindness To Ourselves

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“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of our love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”Buddha

May Is For Metta 2014

Our relationship with ourselves is the foundation for all of our relationships – with others, with nature and with the world.  Our cultivation of love, acceptance and good- heartedness towards ourselves will facilitate our ability to offer Metta to others in a genuine way.  It is essential that we do not neglect this aspect of practice and it is why we are moving gradually as we develop our Metta practice.

For many of us, our nature is to move fast and to get to the point of it all.  Often, in moving that way, we miss the essence of what we are working to cultivate and the awareness that arises from being present to the moment.   One of the major lessons of the heart, which I have learned from many of my teachers, is the need to slow down to move into the heart space.  The mind moves quickly, the heart moves slowly and is accessed through entering into the still space within.

Today, we will begin using the Metta phrases in our practice with a continued focus on loving ourselves.  Some of us may not be used to spending so much time on ourselves in this way.  We may come up against our resistance, our judgments, and all of the ways we hold our mistakes and shortcomings against us.  We may even doubt the value of dedicating time and effort to this practice.  We may feel we don’t deserve love and compassion.  And yet, our goal is to love ourselves completely, which includes all the things we may not like about ourselves.

At this time, it is important to remember to be gentle and loving with yourself.  When a new shoot emerges from the ground, it needs to break through; there is effort involved.  You are creating a new way of being; it requires effort and even some discomfort.  Consider this practice as if you are starting a new workout program – wouldn’t you expect to feel sore or out of shape at the beginning?  Wouldn’t you have some resistance and not really want to show up?   I am hoping you will show up in some way and just notice what is arising.  Even a short workout, can be beneficial in building your “muscles” of loving-kindness and compassion.

You may like to take some time today to consider your commitment to practice – where, when, how long, etc.  We have been creating a foundation that will be used throughout our month of practice and possibly beyond.  Coming to your place of practice, moving into your meditation posture, working with your breath, beginning to connect with the heart center and connecting with your circle of loving beings will be what we will refer to going forward as the “foundational practice”.

So, you can explore how you wish to begin your Metta practice and also, this may become your foundation for all of your meditation practice.  It is up to you which aspects are most important; it is about finding ways to begin that bring you into the moment and help to center you in the energy of loving-kindness.  It can be beneficial if you come to your practice the same way each day, but there is room to take time and explore what works for you.  Review the practices for Day 1 and Day 2 if you feel to, especially if you are just joining in.  Today we will begin to incorporate the Metta phrases into our practice.

There are a variety of Metta phrases and you will see different ones as you begin to explore.  It is good to find 3 – 4 phrases that you feel resonant with.  Feel free to explore with different phrases, especially during the first week of practice to find what feels best for you.  Here are some suggestions. I have grouped them together but you can mix and match 3 or 4, as you feel called to.

  • May I be free from danger.
  • May I have physical happiness.
  • May I have mental happiness.
  • May I have ease of well-being.
  • May I be happy.
  • May I be peaceful.
  • May I be free of suffering.
  • May I have ease of well-being.
  • May I be happy and peaceful.
  • May I be healthy and strong.
  • May I care for myself, joyfully.
  • May I be safe from inner and outer harm.
  • May I be safe from internal and external harm.
  • May I have a calm, clear mind and a peaceful loving heart.
  • May I be physically strong, healthy and vital.
  • May I experience love, joy, wonder and wisdom in this life just as it is.
  • May I be happy.
  • May I be at peace.
  • May I live with ease.
  • May I be free from suffering.

The purpose of the phrases is two-fold.  One, they are the catalyst for cultivating loving-kindness and compassion and for showering ourselves with those qualities.  Two, they are the anchor for this practice.  They are the center that we come back to when our mind wanders or as we notice we have become distracted.  So, when the mind wanders, as it will, as it is the nature of the mind, we just gently and lovingly bring ourselves back to the next phrase.  If we find we have totally wandered off, we simply begin with the next set of phrases.

Daily Practice:

Do the foundational practice – Come to your place of practice, move into your meditation posture, work with your breath, begin to connect with the heart center and connect with your circle of loving beings.  Spend as much time to as you feel to generating the energy of loving-kindness – remember this is the heart of the practice. 

When you feel ready begin to work with 3 or 4 of the phrases you have chosen for today.  The phrases are repeated silently to oneself.  Sometimes, they are repeated aloud and we will explore this later on, but for now, let’s repeat them silently.  You can repeat one phrase per breath, alternate one on the inhale and one on the exhale, or find a rhythm that feels good to you. Also, you don’t necessarily have to focus on the breath at all; you can just focus on the phrases, especially for now.

Let the meaning of the phrase gently wash over you. You are affirming to yourself and to the universe that you desire to be safe, happy and peaceful.  If at any point you feel disconnected from the energy of loving-kindness, you can always go back to your heart center and your circle of loving beings.  This is the foundation of your practice; the phrases symbolize Metta but generating the essence of loving-kindness is the true practice.  Spend as much as time as you have dedicated to your practice for today.

When you finish with the phrases, you may wish to reconnect with your circle of loving beings for a moment and then, in whatever way you feel to give thanks or gratitude for your practice. 

Daily Journal Reflections:  

How did it feel to work with the phrases?  Were they a good anchor for your practice?  Did you notice your mind was less busy using the phrases?  Were you able to stay connected to the energy of loving-kindness as you repeated the phrases?  Did you practice in the way you intended to today?  If you did not practice in the way you intended to, are you still being gentle and loving with yourself?  How does it feel to be cultivating loving-kindness and compassion for your self?  Did you notice any ways your resist loving yourself?

I hope you enjoy beginning to work with the phrases.  Wishing you a happy, peaceful and loving day!

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

Level I: Blog Posts + Daily Audio Message/Guided Meditation Practice ~ $31

Level II: Blog Posts + Daily Audios +  One-On-One session in person, by phone or skype with facilitator Beth Terrence ~ $108

Register Now!

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daily Practice:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daily Journal Reflections:

Take some time to reflect and journal about any experiences, feelings or awareness that arose during your practice or throughout the day today.  What did you notice?  Did you practice today?  If so, how did it feel?  If not, what happened?  How does it feel to be cultivating loving-kindness and compassion for your self?  Did you notice any ways you resist loving yourself?

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

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

May you have a beautiful and loving day!

Namaste.

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

Level I: Blog Posts + Daily Audio Message/Guided Meditation Practice ~ $31

Level II: Blog Posts + Daily Audios +  One-On-One session in person, by phone or skype with facilitator Beth Terrence ~ $108

Register Now!

A Winter Solstice Exploration And Meditation

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Osprey nest
full of snow,
the trees around it
bowing under white.
Again the cycle
gives us North –
will be bend
or break this time?
The beauty,
ache and clench of tired body, both familiar and
impenetrable –
small fire within
with which to meet
this power.
The mountains become
stronger in winter,
the snow their shaman’s
cloak, clouds and gale
their spirit allies.
This land
speaks to me, asks
what medicine
I have brought
this time.
Loren Cruden, from Compass of the Heart

Today, December 21st marks the time of Solstice.  For those of us in the northern hemisphere this is the Winter Solstice.  It occurs at 12:11 PM EST and 5:11 UTC Solstice marks the shortest day of the year with only 9 hours and 32 minutes of daylight to be experienced.  The Winter Solstice is celebrated in many cultures and traditions around the world as the Return Of The Sun.  Although we are just entering the depths of Winter, from this point onward, our days begin to get longer and light begins to expand in our world.

Through the autumn months up until this Solstice day, there has been a journey into the darkness happening around us and inside us as well.  Whether or not we have been conscious of this or not, many people experience an intensity this time of year, deep seated feelings can come to the surface, our energy can feel chaotic, and we often need lots more rest.  In essence, there is a very strong compression of energy that has been occurring which often feels like a heaviness but is actually an alchemical process of transformation.  As the light has been diminishing in our experience, we are challenged to face more of our “darkness” or our shadow self.

If we observe the natural world throughout the autumn months, there is a process of going in that occurs.  Plants that have been above ground during the spring and summer die off and remain alive underground.  Animals, such as the bear enter into a cycle of hibernation each year.  Living in a modern world allows us to overcome our place in the “natural” world in many ways.  We “create” artificial light which in many ways keeps us from connecting with our natural rhythm.

Winter is most often associated with North and Wisdom is an attribute of the North.  When we are willing to listen to our own natural rhythms such as the need to rest more, to be still, or to journey within, there is an incredible opportunity to connect with our own inner wisdom, too.  We do this through our attention and receptivity as we listen deeply to the stillness of self.  Just as the bear goes into hibernation each year, we too have the opportunity to go within and to seek counsel with our own true selves, to look into the depths of our own heart and soul.

So, why do we resist this journey into the darkness knowing it carries with it a deeper wisdom and a fuller knowing of ourselves?  For some there is a natural fear of the darkness or a fear of being still.  Also, as I shared above, during this time not only are we experiencing more darkness outside and inside, but there is a strong compression of energy and emotion.  Feelings are intensified; there is in a sense a natural cleansing process taking place in our being and we are often faced with the parts of ourselves that we wish not to see.  This journey into the darkness can be an uncomfortable one, but choosing to work with it in a more conscious way can “lighten” our experience of it.

Winter is asking, or rather, demanding that we go within to journey on the inner planes and uncover a deeper sense of who we are.  Winter Solstice is a powerful time to be present with ourselves and to explore where we are holding resistance.  Remember, this whole process of compression and contraction is occurring so that as the light begins to return to our life and the world, we can hold more of it in our being.

A few years ago at this time of year, I was called to do a shamanic journey to the Darkness.  As I was led through the underworld into the darkness, I felt a tremendous sense of comfort.  This is where my energy longs to be this time of year.   I asked what I could learn from the darkness.  This was the guidance I was given:

“The Darkness allows you to see what is real,

it guides you within,

the truth is to be found within,

your vision comes from within,

the light is always there,

even in what seems to be the blackest moment.”

So, this moment of Solstice is really a time to honor the darkness and to look within, especially if we haven’t done so as of yet this season.  Too often we seek answers to questions outside ourselves rather than explore our innate wisdom. We often seek advice from others, from books or even go to Google for our answers.  Winter is a time to begin to journey from the inside out, to look within our heart and soul for our answers, and to connect with the wisdom and guidance, which lies within us.

It is in embracing the darkness that we access our true essence and allow more of our light to shine in the world.  In many cultures, the Solstice celebration occurs over a period of days from December 21st to 23rd.  I hope you will take some time during this Solstice time to journey within, to honor the Darkness and then to welcome the return of the Light.

After I have taken some time to honor all of the wisdom that has come from my journey into the Darkness, I use this short meditation to release what needs to be released, to celebrate the return of the Light and to access the new wisdom coming into my life:

Find a quite place to practice.  Move into a comfortable position either sitting or lying down.  Take a few deep breaths, breathing in for a count of five and out for a count of five.  With each cycle of breath allow yourself to let go of any tension or discomfort in your body.  Let your breath flow into it’s own natural rhythm.  Notice any busyness or worries in your mind and send them out with the next few exhales.  If at any point your mind wanders or distractions arise, just return to the next breath, breathing in and breathing out.

Move your breath and awareness into your heart center in the center of your chest.  Just notice how it feels to be present in the heart, the center of love, compassion, gentleness or mercy for yourself and for others.  Does it feel open, spacious?  Do you feel resistance or constriction?  Just notice.  No judgment.  Spend a few moments just noticing how it feels to be in the center of your heart.

Now imagine that the center of your heart is a like a cave that you have drawn all of your energy into during this Winter “hibernation”.  Even if it’s uncomfortable, allow any feelings, patterns or beliefs, which may have been stirred up with the compression of energy to come into your conscious awareness.  Tune into what you feel ready to release.  Create some type of hole or opening in the cave that you can send these “discomforts” out through.  Take a few moments to use your breath and awareness to release them.  You may wish to do this one by one or all at the same time.  When you have a sense of clearing or relief, move on to the next part of the practice.

Now, imagine a lighting a small flame right there in the center of your cave and in the center of the your heart.  With each cycle of breath allow the flame to get a little bigger and a little brighter, and bigger and brighter.  Let it expand so that it fills you, your whole body and then even beyond your body.  Let it be so big that you are now dwelling inside this flame, you are this flame ~ know this bright light is your true essence.  Feel how bright you are.  Feel how clear and strong you are.

Ask your flame self “what wisdom do you have to share with me now?”, “what insight can help me with on my journey?”  and “what new energies are you bringing to my life?”  Take some time to be still and simply LISTEN!  Continue to open your heart with your breath and awareness.  Listen for the wisdom.  Slowly allow your flame to move back inward until it is once again in the center of your heart.  Feel that the wisdom, the guidance you received dwelling in the center of your heart.

Ask for a word or image to emerge from this flame deep within the center of your heart that will represent all of the wisdom you have just received.  Carry this word or image with you as a reminder, a Power Symbol to help you reconnect with your true essence in any moment.

Happy Solstice, Beautiful Beings!

Peace ~ A Body, Mind, Emotion & Spirit Approach

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“If we’re frantic, life will be frantic… And so our goal in any situation becomes inner peace.”

~  Marianne Williamson

I have been working on a story for an upcoming Heal My Voice Collaborative Book project.   This will be my second time participating in a Heal My Voice Writing Circle and the focus is on Peace.  It’s been a couple of months that I have been gathering ideas and exploring what story might want to emerge for the book.  And, I have been diving into what peace means to me, how I experience it and where in my life I am not experiencing peace.

Awhile back, I came upon a course listing from a fellow Zero Balancer. Zero Balancing® is a type of body/energy work that I utilize in my holistic practice.  And, interestingly, it was one of the best modalities I have experienced that facilitates and supports a deep sense of inner peace.  The title of the course was “The Peaceful Body.   Just hearing this term stirred something in me.  I realized that so often we tend to think of peace in terms of a peaceful mind or peaceful spirit.  Suddenly, I felt strongly that in order to truly experience peace and embody it in the world, it really seems beneficial to consider it on all levels.

In my life and my work, I have tended to take a holistic approach – one that addresses body, mind, emotion and spirit and the integration of all of those parts into a balanced whole.  This feels like an important paradigm to bring to the cultivation of peace.  Gandhi’s famous words,”We must be the change we wish to see in the world” comes to mind here.  We often hear that we cannot bring peace to our world if we are unable to cultivate peace within our own selves.  But what does that mean?

It’s easy to say we need to cultivate peace in our lives but learning how to actualize that awareness and how to live and embody peace is another story.  My sense is that by taking a holistic approach to peace, we can create a framework for developing and deepening our ability to be Peace Beings, on all levels – body, mind, emotion and spirit.

A peaceful body

A peaceful mind

A peaceful emotional state                         =  A PEACEFUL BEING

A peaceful spirit

Many Peaceful Beings  = A Peaceful Planet

I have been told often that I have a very peaceful presence.  I find this interesting as I have tended to experience stress and anxiety and continue to work through old traumas.  Even when I might not feel calm, I seem to project that energy outward.  My sense is this comes from 30 plus years of meditation and cultivating stillness within.  Even when I may not feel peaceful inside, others tend to feel peaceful around me.  This may also have to do with the fact that having come through traumatic experiences, I know how to be calm in the face of crisis and chaos.

I share this because, for many years, I saw this as a strength and I have to admit that it still does come in handy, especially when facing a crisis or dealing with a chaotic situation.  However, what I have learned in my years as a body/energy worker, healer and most of all a being in search of peace is that there is a price to pay when we hold the façade of peace and yet, our center continues to hold turmoil and chaos.

It is often this gap that creates the greatest disharmony in our individual selves and in our world.  If we consider this from purely an energetic perspective, most of us have a sense of when we feel chaotic, unbalanced and disconnected and we probably, also have a sense of when we feel peaceful, balanced and connected.  I use the following sketches to illustrate this:

Image #1 depicts an energy body that is chaotic, unbalanced and disconnected.

Image #1 depicts an energy body that is chaotic, unbalanced and disconnected.

Image #2 depicts our energy body when we are peaceful, balanced and connected.

Image #2 depicts our energy body when we are peaceful, balanced and connected.

There are many ways to shift our energy from a chaotic state to a balance and peaceful state.  Also, just having the awareness of these variations and recognizing how we tend to move between the two states can be the beginning of a practice to become a more Peaceful Being.

Exploration: A Holistic Approach To Peace

Taking a holistic approach to Peace offers a framework for actively working to cultivate deeper peace in our lives and in our world.  In order to feel peaceful, balanced and connected, we need to attend to the our whole self- body, mind, emotion and spirit.  And, we need to also find ways to integrate all of these aspects of self.  Take some time to explore each level and how you might work to create greater peace and balance in your life.

Body – Do you feel healthy?  Are you following a diet that supports well-being?  Are there foods or chemicals you are taking in that may cause you to feel out of balance or be harmful to your body?  Do you get enough rest and relaxation?  Are you experiencing tension or discomfort in your physical body that needs your attention? Take some time this week to do a holistic self-care review and consider what changes may support your body in being more in a state of peacefulness and balance.

Mind – Do you experience a calm mind?  Are you able to create space for stillness?  Does mental chatter or busyness keep you from feeling peaceful and balanced?  Are you holding beliefs that are in opposition to being at peace, e.g. the world is unsafe, I am undeserving of peace or happiness, there is only one way to peace, etc.  Take some time this week to explore a practice that helps to quiet your mind, such as meditation, yoga, or even a walk in nature.  Also, do some journaling to explore beliefs you may be carrying that are keeping you from a deeper experience of peace.

Emotion ~ Are you holding in feelings that need to be expressed or released?  Are you in denial about feelings you are experiencing?  Are you unable to connect with what you are actually feeling?  Are you picking up on the emotions of others due to a depleted or chaotic energy field?  Take some time this week to explore what you are feeling.  Are there unresolved feelings you need to work to let go of?  Be open to really listening to your heart and what it needs in order to move into a place of peace.

Spirit – Do you feel a sense of connection to your self? to others? to the world? to Source?  Experiencing a sense of connection is one of the foundations for Peace.  When we are disconnected, we lack a sense of support and stability which is inherent in the energetic quality of peace.  Take some time this week to explore your sense of connection.  Do you need to do some inner work to connect with your own self?  Do you need to connect with community?  Do you have a spiritual practice which supports connection and fosters peace in your life?

In addition to considering each level on it’s own, it is also important to consider the interrelationship of various aspects of self as well as overall integration.  For instance, sometimes we are holding emotions in the physical body that need to be released or discharged.  Sometimes body/energy work can support this; sometimes emotional release work or even some type of physical exercise is needed.  Be open to exploring what practices and tools support you in achieving a sense of wholeness and well-being.  This is another foundation for becoming a Peaceful Being.

A simple practice for cultivating peace ~  When you have a moment where you recognize you are feeling chaotic, stressed, unbalanced, etc.  Take a few deep breaths.  Breathing in for a count of five and out of a count of five.  Then, let your breath move to it’s own natural rhythm.  Continuing to follow the breath with your intention and awareness – on the in breath invite in the energy of peacefulness and calm in to your body, mind, emotion and spirit.  As you breath out, let go of any tensions, worries, stresses, or obstacles to peace that you may be carrying in body, mind, emotion and spirit.  You may wish to do all the levels at once or work with one at at time.  (Note: This practice can also be used to explore what you are feeling or experiencing on each level)

I hope you have a beautiful week.  May it be filled with peacefulness, balance and connection.

As always, feel free to stop by to share your thoughts, feelings or reflections on Peace.

Know Yourself: The Foundation For Change

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You cannot transcend what you do not know.  To go beyond yourself, you must know yourself.

~ Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

I am excited to be starting a new 31 Day Blog Challenge.  Every year when I do May Is For Metta, I feel like this is an opening to write more and daily.  Then, June comes and find I just don’t make it back to the page as much as I intend to.  Having a motivator, a challenge or a deadline that is accountable to others is something I find I need.  I am not sure why this is the case. I’d love to just say I am going to write everyday and do it, just because I want to.  It’s curious and something I am exploring in myself.

So, here I am in July, feeling the call to join a 31 Day Blog Challenge.  I guess another aspect of this is that writing or the process of writing itself tends to be a very solitary process.  So joining in a collective group of writers and bloggers who are journeying together during this time really helps to create a container for that energy and offers a drive to be more proactive.  I am looking forward to exploring the variety of bloggers and blogs that have signed on for Lesa Townsend’s 31 Day Blog Challenge.  I hope you’ll join me in this exploration here on The Heart Of Awakening Blog and check out some of the other blogs as well.

One of the things I have been working on this year is creating a program that is at this point called, 30 Days To Change.  This program has stemmed from some of the workshops, articles and individual sessions I have done over recent years.  What I have found is that 30 or 31 Days is a great container to initiate a foundation for change.  I have seen research on varying amounts of time but this is a framework that I have found works well with the processes I have developed around holistic self-care, mastering anxiety, transforming your inner critic, and discovering the healer within.

It just occurred to me recently that this process can be applied to any area of focus or type of change –  30 Days is a good way to begin to cultivate healing and transformation in a powerful way and can offer a foundation for how to work in an ongoing way.  I like that this time frame can involve both a daily process and also be segmented into 4 weekly segments.  I plan to spend some time over the summer developing this as its own model for change to be applied to whatever area one might like to focus on.   So, stay tuned for more of that exploration to emerging here.

For today, I’d like to share a step that I find is a key component in creating any type of change:

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Know Yourself.  We live in such a busy and chaotic world.  Our lives are full of distractions and disruptions both inwardly and outwardly.  How can we create change in our lives if we don’t know who we are and we aren’t truly conscious of what we are experiencing.  How can we know what changes would best support us or how we want to be in the world without that self-knowing?

There are many ways to get to know oneself on a deeper level.  Developing a contemplative practice such as meditation, yoga, tai chi, or prayer can be a good starting point.   Just spending some time in stillness, whether indoors or out in nature, just being and listening  and allowing our inner voice to be heard is a great step, too.  Writing or journaling can be a powerful way to deepen in self-reflection and self-awareness.

Take the time and space to explore some tools and practices that can support you in getting to know yourself more fully and deeply; this is probably the greatest thing you can do for yourself.  Take some time to consider areas of your life where you feel out of balance.  Are there certain changes you are feeling to make?  Is there something that is going on in your life that is causing you considerable distress?  Are you willing to take some time to just be with that and explore what might be beneficial for you in terms of change?

So, whether you have a specific change in mind or just feel to explore a bit, I hope you will join me this month in my exploration.  It won’t be totally linear, but I will be sharing bits and pieces of my developing program.  Is there a practice or tool you feel to bring in that can support you in getting to know yourself?  Or, perhaps you feel to explore some new practices to see how they might support you.

As always,  I would love to hear how others have worked with creating change, particularly if there is a certain time frame you have found beneficial or certain practices that support getting to know yourself.

Day 18 ~ May Is For Metta 2013: Exploring Loving-kindness For All Beings

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Quanyin

Let thoughts of loving-kindness pervade the whole world, above and below, outwards and unbounded, free from any hatred or ill-will.  Whether standing or walking, sitting or lying down, during all one’s waking hours, tend this mind of goodwill, which is called the state of sublime abiding. – The Buddha, Sutta Nipata

The Buddha taught that loving-kindness practice is central to happiness.  The practice of Metta is very positive and as we have touched on earlier, really means cultivating a deep “friendliness” toward ourselves, others and all beings.  Sometimes people think these feelings should arise naturally or spontaneously rather than being generated.  The Buddha shared that there is a need to cultivate these qualities.  He taught that achieving this state, know as sublime abiding, where heart and mind are one, does come from a heavenly state, however it is something we must invite into ourselves and our lives.  In a sense, by working with the energies and qualities of loving-kindness and compassion, we are activating that part of our divinity.

Today, we will continue our practice with groups of beings and the category of All Beings.  We will also add one or two of the individual categories to the practice before we bring the full practice together tomorrow.  In addition, to tomorrow’s post, I will be offering a teleclass gathering at 8 PM EST on Sunday, May 19th.   This will be an opportunity to come together and share our experiences, ask questions and participate in a guided Metta meditation practice.  Here is the link to register, which will provide call instructions for the live call and audio replay.   I hope you’ll join us.

Daily Practice:  As always, we begin by cultivating loving-kindness and compassion for ourselves.  Find a comfortable position.  Imagine yourself in the center of a circle of loving beings or enveloped in the feeling of loving-kindness.  Begin your practice by offering the Metta phrases for yourself:

  • May I be free from danger.
  • May I have mental happiness.
  • May I have physical happiness.
  • May I have ease of well-being.

When you feel ready, choose one category, either a Benefactor/Mentor or a Beloved to work with.  Envision holding this being in loving-kindness and compassion.  Say to yourself, “Just as I wish to be happy and peaceful, so does this being wish for joy and serenity.”  Begin to offer phrases for the person you have chosen:

  • May you be free from danger.
  • May you have mental happiness.
  • May you have physical happiness.
  • May you have ease of well-being.

When you feel ready, come back to your heart center and repeat a round of phrases for yourself.  Then, choose either a Neutral being or a Difficult person to work with.  Envision holding this being in loving-kindness and compassion.   Begin to offer phrases for this person, saying, “Just as I wish to be happy and peaceful, so does this being wish for joy and serenity.”   Repeat the phrases for this being:

  • May you be free from danger.
  • May you have mental happiness.
  • May you have physical happiness.
  • May you have ease of well-being.

Again, when you feel ready to move on, come back to your heart center for a few moments and repeat a round of phrases for yourself.  This time call on a group of All Beings, such as All Children, All Animals, All Men, or All Women.  Say to yourself, “Just as I wish to be happy and peaceful, so do All ______  wish for joy and serenity.”  Begin to offer loving-kindness to this group by offering the phrases:

  • May All _______ be free from danger.
  • May All _______ have mental happiness.
  • May All _______ have physical happiness.
  • May All _______ have ease of well-being.

As always, if your mind wanders, just notice and return to the phrases.  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 group.  If working with a large group is too difficult, you can always choose a smaller group, like your family or a community you are a part of.  Sometimes it is more challenging to hold our focus and awareness on a larger group of beings, particularly spread out around the world.

When you feel ready to move on, center in your heart once again.  Connect with the loving-kindness within your self.  Say to yourself, “Just as I wish to be happy and peaceful, so do All Beings wish for joy and serenity.”  And, gently begin to repeat the phrases for All Beings:

  • May All Beings be free from danger.
  • May All Beings have mental happiness.
  • May All Beings have physical happiness.
  • May All Beings have ease of well-being.

If at any point you need to return the practice to yourself, or perhaps return to a smaller group, do so.   Being gentle and responsive to yourself is one of the gifts of Metta practice.  We notice our difficulty or resistance, but rather than ignoring it or trying to push through it, we return to our own heart and to cultivating loving-kindness for ourselves.  It can be helpful to reflect on or journal about what difficulties arise as they are indication of things we need to work on in ourselves.  When you feel complete with your practice, return yourself to your circle of loving beings or envision yourself enveloped in the loving-kindness and compassion that you have been cultivating.  Allow that feeling to sink in to you, let every atom and cell of your being to absorb the energy of loving-kindness.  Take a few moments to reflect on your practice.

Dedicate the merit of your practice for all beings.  Consider all of the beings you have practiced for today and offer the merit of your practice for their benefit.  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.

Journal Notes:  Did you have difficult feelings or emotions arise during your practice?  If so, spend some time writing about them.  What did you notice in practicing for various categories of individuals and groups?  Were some more difficult than others?  Were some easier?  How are you feeling about your practice overall?  Is there anything you’d like to change about it for the rest of our time together?  This can be a good time to review your commitment to see if you’d like to make any changes.

May the road rise up to meet you,

May the wind be always at your back,

May the sun shine warm upon your face,

And the rain fall soft upon your fields,

And until we meet again,

May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.

– An Irish Blessing

Day 11 ~ May Is For Metta 2013: Loving-kindness For A Neutral Being

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Quanyin

“As you let go of negative states of mind, you create the space in your mind for the cultivation of positive thoughts.  Skillful Thinking means that we replace angry hostile thoughts with thoughts of loving-friendliness.  Loving-friendliness, or metta, is a natural capacity.  It is a warm wash of fellow-feeling, a sense of interconnectedness with all beings.  Because we wish for peace, happiness and joy for ourselves, we know that all beings must wish for these qualities.  Loving-friendliness radiates to the whole world the wish that all beings enjoy a comfortable life with harmony, mutual appreciation, and appropriate abundance.

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

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.

Journal Notes:  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 your have noticed and any insight you have gained.

Reflection:  In the opening quote by Bhante Henelopa Gunaratana, his defines Metta as loving-friendliness.  Earlier on we discussed the discomfort some of us feel in working with the word love or loving-kindness.  If you are still having difficulty connecting with loving-kindness, you might like to shift your focus to cultivating loving-friendliness for yourself and others as a way to open and connect more with the practice.  Feel free to reflect on this and explore what works for you.

May you experience friendliness and ease as you go about your day.

Day 5 ~ May Is For Metta 2013: Expanding Loving-kindness For Oneself

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Quanyin

“During the Buddha’s last months, he always taught, “Take refuge in yourselves, not in anything else.  In you are Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.  Don’t look for things that are far away.  Everything is in your own heart.  Be an island unto yourself.”  Whenever you feel confused, angry or lost, if you practice mindful breathing and return to your island of self, you will be in a safe place filled with warm sunlight, cool shade trees, and beautiful birds and flowers.”

– Thich Nhat Hanh

Everything is in your own heart.  Creating that safe and peaceful place is something that needs to happen from the inside out.  We cannot hope to find peace in the world unless we have peace within our own self.  Today is one more day to practice Metta for your self.  For those who are having trouble making the time to practice or are struggling with the practice itself, I encourage to spend some time just being present with the feeling of loving-kindness and compassion.  Connect with your heart center.  Call upon your circle of loving beings.  Do this as often as you can remember to as you go about your day.  Part of this journey is learning that although formal practice benefits us in many ways, what we are really working towards is carrying this quality and awareness with us wherever we go.  But, I hope you will try to take even a moment or two to sit and practice.   This helps to create a new pattern.  Consistency is something that is needed for the heart to open and for loving-kindness to deepen.

Daily Practice – Do your foundational practices.  This can include other practices that you work with if Metta is an addition to your regular meditation practice.  Begin in the same way.  Get settled in a comfortable position, spend a few minutes just being present with breath, let any tensions of mind and body melt away with the breath and begin to cultivate that feeling or quality of loving-kindness and compassion.  Also, get really comfortable in creating and working with your Circle of Loving Beings.  This is a powerful support to generate loving-kindness that you can call upon in any moment or any situation.  Once you develop this foundation, it is easier to call upon the energy of loving-kindness and compassion as you move about in the world.  There may be some days it is easier to do this and others that are more difficult; that’s okay.  Just notice and remember to be gentle and loving with yourself no matter how your practice goes.

When you feel immersed in the qualities of loving-kindness and compassion, then, move onto the phrases.  Continue with the same phrases as yesterday or try some others for today.  This is still a time for exploration.  As we move on to the next category, it may benefit you to work with the same phrases for the rest of the practice.  I tend to work with these phrases most of the time.

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

Journal Notes – Have you found phrases you are comfortable working with?  Do the phrases help to create more of anchor for your mind?  Have you been able to find some way to practice daily or at least explore cultivating more loving-kindness toward yourself?  What can you do today that would be really loving for yourself?

Most of all take some time to really honor yourself for the efforts you are making to be more conscious, loving and compassionate.  In whatever way you are practicing, you are moving into greater self-love and understanding. Congratulations.

Thank you for sharing this special journey with all of us.

Have a beautiful and peace-filled day.

Day 2 ~ May Is For Metta 2013: Circle Of Loving Beings

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Quanyin

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

Listen To Day 2 ~ May Is For Metta 2013 Audio

As I have shared in the introductory posts, 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 to others and the world.  Yesterday, we started to connect with essence or feeling of loving-kindness and compassion and today, we will continue to explore and deepen into that feeling.

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.  It may seem that we are going slowly in entering into our Metta practice, however, cultivating the energy of loving-kindness is truly the essence of the practice.  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 work with it as a vehicle for 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.

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 that all out with the next few breaths, just letting it all drift away like a cloud passing by in the sky, you 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.  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 those beings you feel embody love such as Mother Theresa, Buddha, Jesus, Quan Yin, etc.  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 arouses the feeling of love 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 in our practice, but you may not want to include them in your circle 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; you are receiving love from all those 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.

Notice how you feel?  Were there any shifts or changes since you began your practice?  How did it feel to open to receiving loving-kindness and compassion from your circle of loving beings?  Did you feel resistance or constriction?  Did you feel a sense of openness or spaciousness?  Remember, this is all about awareness and noticing what arises.  As we continue to practice, we will explore ways to work with what is arising.

Journal Notes:  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?  Do you have a clear sense of how you will practice, place, length of time, etc.?  Although not a requirement, it can be helpful to have a clear commitment to 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!

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

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Quanyin

Listen To Day 1 ~ May Is For Metta 2013 Audio

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

Take some time to decide where you will do your practice.  It can be  helpful to have a set place to practice that is clear and quiet.  You may wish to create a meditation area in your home or office.  However, do not let this be an obstacle.  As Jon Kabat-Zinn says, “Wherever you go, there you are.”  And, wherever you are can be is the perfect place to practice.  For instance, if lunchtime is the only time you have, perhaps going outside is a good place to practice this time of year.  Be open and creative in finding a space that feels good to you whether it is in your home or elsewhere.  Last year, one of my friends shared that after struggling for a while to find a place to practice at home where there were many obstacles, she started doing her May Is For Metta practice in her car right as she arrived at work.

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

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

As we begin, find a comfortable position for your body.  This can be on a chair or on the floor.  If you are on a chair, it is good to sit with your spine straight and feet flat on the floor.  Sometimes, it helps to put a pillow behind your back for support or to sit at the leading edge of the chair rather than leaning back.  If you are on the floor, sit cross-legged or in lotus posture.  Make sure to have a cushion or blanket to sit on and adjust your leg position so that you feel comfortable.  Once you come into your sitting position, check that your spine is straight, but not tense; shoulders and stomach relaxed.  Your hands can rest on your knees or your lap.  Allow your chin to tuck slightly toward your chest.   Let the eyes close, or if you prefer, leave your eyes open, gazing softly at the floor in front of you.

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

Bring your breath and awareness to the heart center in the center of your chest.  Notice how it feels to be present in the heart. This is the center of love, compassion, gentleness and mercy for your self and for others.  So, as we begin, we connect with our own heart.  When the Buddha spoke of Metta he used the example of a mother’s love for a child; he taught that we need to love all beings as a mother loves her child.  This is the feeling we are working to cultivate in our practice.

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

This is your formal practice for today.  We are beginning by keeping it simple and developing the essence of Metta, the feeling of loving-kindness.  If the chance arises and you remember, try to connect with this  feeling of loving-kindness as you go about your day.  Bring your breath and awareness to your heart center whenever you feel to.  Just notice how it feels to connect in this new way.  Today is the day to invite loving-kindness and compassion into your life in a more conscious way.

Although not required, it can be helpful to create a journal for this practice period and to spend a few minutes in the evening to reflect on your daily practice and exploration.

Daily Journal Questions:  Did you find time to practice today?  If yes, how did it feel?  If no, what stopped you?  Did you decide on a place to practice? for how long?   What will help you to practice tomorrow?  What does Loving-kindness mean to you?  How does it feel?

An important message from your sponsor:  This practice is about loving-kindness and compassion.  For many of us, our tendency is to be harsh and critical with ourselves.  When we begin a new practice, we set high standards and when we don’t meet them, we tend to beat ourselves up emotionally.  This is an excellent opportunity to change that pattern, to approach change and growth from a place of gentleness and self-love rather than harshness and self-hate.   As Zen teacher, Cheri Huber, says, “If you had a person in your life treating you the way you treat yourself, you would have gotten rid of them a long time ago…”.   So, however your practice unfolds, remember to be gentle and loving with yourself.   This time is a gift you are giving to yourself to support your personal journey of transformation and healing, so let’s allow it to be a space to transform our harshness into gentleness and our self-hate into self-love.  This is the heart of our practice.

Have a beautiful day.

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

Coming Soon To A Cushion Near You – May Is For Metta 2013

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Quanyin - Goddess Of Compassion

“We resonate with one another’s sorrows because we are interconnected.  Being whole and simultaneously a part of  a larger whole, we can change the world simply by changing ourselves.   If I become a center of love and kindness in this moment, than in a perhaps small but hardly insignificant way, the world now has a nucleus of love and kindness it lacked before.  This benefits me and this benefits others.” 

– Jon Kabat-Zinn, excerpt from Wherever You Go There You Are

This is my favorite time of the year on The Heart Of Awakening Blog.  In looking for a quote, I really felt that Jon Kabat-Zinn’s words spoke of the essence of  our community and May Is For Metta.  I am  excited to be preparing and sharing about our upcoming virtual gathering of May Is For Metta 2013: 31 Days Of Loving-kindess Exploration.  Our practice will begin on May 1st and end on May 31st with explorations and guided practices each day during the month of May here on The Heart Of Awakening Blog and via our Facebook page.

2013 marks the third incarnation of May Is For Metta.  Previously this event has happened via a Facebook group and through daily posts on The Heart Of Awakening Blog.  May Is For Metta is a gathering of a virtual sangha (community) with participants from all over the world energetically coming together on May 1st through May 31st with the intention of cultivating greater loving-kindness and compassion for ourselves, others and the world.  Our vehicle for practice is Metta Meditation.

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

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

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

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

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

To receive updates and posts this year, “JOIN” The Heart Of Awakening Blog community through the sign up box on the top right of this page and/or “LIKE” The Heart Of Awakening Facebook page.
I will be sharing daily posts, updates and other inspirations at both locations during the month of May.

Also, if anyone who has participated before would like to drop a note to share or reflect on their experiences, I’d love to hear form you and I am sure folks who are interested would, too.  Also, if you have any suggestions for this year’s gathering, please feel free to drop me a note.  I am planning to do some teleclass gathering as well as a few live events in the MD/DC area, so stay tuned.

I look forward to sharing this sacred journey with all of you who feel called to come together for May Is For Metta 2013.

Love & light,

Beth

Two Birds In A Tree: Knowing Our Essence

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One of my favorite spiritual stories is Two Birds In A Tree which I first read in a book by Swami Vivekenanda.  Vivekenanda was the first Hindu saint to bring India’s ancient spiritual wisdom and Yoga practices to the West at the 1893 Parliament of Religions in Chicago.  He had a major influence on many of India’s modern spiritual leaders including Gandhi, Nehru, Aurobindo and Tagore.  He shares a message of Oneness and universality in a way that is profound and accessible.  Here is the story of “Two Birds In A Tree“:

“Upon the same tree there are two birds, one on the top, the other below.  The one on the top is calm, silent, and majestic, immersed in his own glory; the one on the lower branches, eating sweet and bitter fruits by turns, hopping from branch to branch, is becoming happy and miserable by turns.  After a time, the lower birds eats an exceptionally bitter fruit, and feeling miserable, he looks up and sees the other bird, that wondrous one of golden plumage who eats neither sweet nor bitter fruit, who is neither happy nor miserable, but calm and centered in the Spirit.  The lower bird longs for this condition, but soon forgets it, and again begins to eat the fruit, which makes him once again feel miserable, and he again looks up, and he tries to get nearer to the upper bird.  Once more he forgets, and after a time he looks up again, and so on he goes again and again, until he comes very near to the beautiful bird and sees the reflection of light from its plumage playing around his own body.  He feels a change, and as he comes nearer, he seems to melt away, and everything about him melts away until as last he understands this wonderful change.  The lower bird was, as it were, only the shadow, the reflection of the higher; he himself was in essence the upper bird all the time.  This eating of the fruits, sweet and bitter, this lower little bird, weeping and happy by turns, was merely a vain dream: all along the real bird was there above, calm, and silent, glorious and majestic, beyond grief, beyond sorrow.  The upper bird is God, the Lord of this universe; and the lower bird is the human soul, eating the sweet and bitter fruits of this world.

Now and then comes a heavy blow to the soul.  For a time, he stops eating and goes toward the unknown God, and a flood of light comes.  Yet again the senses drag him down, and begins to as before eat the sweet and bitter fruits of the world.  Again, a hard blow comes.  Again, his heart becomes open to the divine light; thus gradually he approaches God, and as he gets nearer and nearer, he finds his old self melting away.  When he has come near enough, he realizes that he is no other than God, and he exclaims, “He who is the One Life of this universe, as present in the atom as in the suns and moons – He is the basis of my own life, the Soul of my soul and I Am That.

This is what Jnana Yoga (The Yoga of Knowledge/Wisdom) teaches.  It teaches us that we are divine.  It shows to all humanity the real unity of being, that each one of us is a manifestation on earth of the Lord God Himself.   All of us, from the lowest worm to the highest being – all are manifestations of the same God.”

The story really embodies the concept of the shadow, which is a core component in transformation.  (We will explore the concept of shadow more fully in future posts.) It also describes the journey of life, of reaching for the light and falling back down, rising up again and again.  Many traditions speak of this concept of coming back to our infinite nature, which is that light bird at the top of the tree.  It is something that is always there, always a part of us, but often when we get mired down by the experiences of life, we lose sight of our inner essence.  The Sufis speak of polishing the mirror or stone until it is clear, shining and reflecting our truest essence – our self.  The Buddhists speak of the mind being like a sky and clearing of the clouds or obscurations so that we can return to our true Buddha nature, which can be seen as clear sky.

It is an ongoing process.  One of the main lessons I have learned along the way is that the journey of life itself is the path.  Being willing to accept what is and to continue to grow and to reach for the top of the tree, is a lifelong journey.  In many traditions, life on earth is seen as a school or a place of learning; we come here to awaken and to know our true essence even in the midst of maya or illusion.   We forget who we are and where we came from, but as we journey, we begin to remember.  And, then we forget again.  And, then we remember, just as that lower birds does in the story.

Will we ever reach the top of the tree?  We know some incredible beings such as Buddha or Jesus have found a way to hold and embody that light.   In focusing on living the big picture in daily life, it is helpful to remember that the journey is the path.  We cannot know where it will lead or when we might awaken, but we can keep working on becoming more aware, authentic and an embodiment of that light, which is our true nature.  And when I say working, sometimes, for myself this ends up meaning efforting.  However, it is important as we do both our inner work and our outer work to allow.  Life unfolds in it’s own beautiful ways and all the opportunities we need are right before us.

By allowing and staying present in the moment we are able to access the gifts that are already before us.  If something is arising in our life, we know we have work to do with that experience, feeling, person, etc., or it would not be there, it would not be showing up.  Remembering this and embracing the experiences of this very moment with love, compassion, and acceptance are how we move up that tree, one branch at a time.  And, even when we fall back down, we can pause and seek the light within, which is our true essence.

I hope you will take some time to reflect on this story and the journey of life as it is unfolding for you today.

Namaste.

Soham Mantra Meditation: Breathing, Connecting, Being

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“Yat te rūpam kalyānatamam tat te paśyāmi yo ‘sāv (asau purusah) so’ham asmi.”

“The light which is thy fairest form, I see it.  I am what He is.” –The Isha Upanishad

One of the simplest and most beneficial meditation practices I have learned is the Soham mantra meditation.  It is often called the universal mantra because the vibration is naturally resonant with the flow of the breath as it enters and leaves the body.  It is as if this mantra is always happening naturally as we breathe, but as we turn our attention to it, we are able to connect with our breathing pattern, achieve deeper breathing, and gain greater concentration.  If we really tune into the sound of our breath we might actually hear it as:

Sooooo……. on the inhalation.

Hummmm….… on the exhalation.

When I teach meditation I like to share a variety of practices so that each person can find a practice, which is resonant with them where they are in life.  I find that this practice is one that is resonant with most people, most of the time.  It truly is a universal practice that can be a powerful support in developing or deepening in meditation practice.  It can also be beneficial to use as we go about the day to come back to center and enter into greater awareness.

The Sanskrit word Mantra comes from the root, “man”, which means to think and the suffix, “tra”, which refers to instrument or tool.  Literally, mantra is translated as “tool for thinking”.   In many spiritual traditions, the repetition of a word, sound or sacred phrase is used as an anchor or focus for contemplative practices.  It can help to cultivate a deeper, more peaceful state of awareness.  Often, using a mantra gives the mind something more “solid” to hold onto and an additional focus to the breath, which can be subtler and more diffuse.  This can be helpful early on in practice or at anytime when we want to deepen our focus and concentration.

The Soham mantra is considered a universal or natural mantra similar to the well-known mantra Om.  It is referred to in a variety of ways including: Soham, Hamsa, Hansa, So’Hum, So Ham, or So Hum and there are varying translations of this Sanskrit word, which is most often said to originate from the Isha Upanishad.  A basic English translation defines Soham as “I am that” or “That I am”.  When repeated, it declares, “I am that I am that I am…” This is a powerful affirmation, which can help us to connect with our most basic essence.

As with other Sanskrit words, Soham is patterned on the rhythm of the life force and helps to connect with the subtler energies of being.  The repetition of this mantra represents the cosmic circle of life flowing through our individual self and the universal spirit.   It is also suggested that the “ham” refers to our masculine creative energy and the “so” the feminine creative energy.  In this way, the mantra is actually the marriage of the masculine and feminine aspects of self in addition to the individual and universal; it supports  a fully merged self, whole self.

Most mantras can be practiced silently or aloud.  In working with the Soham mantra it tends to be easier to practice silently as we are working with both the inhalation and exhalation.  This can be something for you to explore.  There are a number of ways to practice with the Soham mantra.  Here are a few possibilities:

  • Simple Soham Practice:  Find a comfortable position sitting on a chair or on the floor with a cushion to support you.  Become aware of your spine allowing it to become straight but not tense, shoulders and stomach relaxed.  Allow your hands to rest on your knees or your lap.  Turn your awareness to your breath and begin to repeat the Soham mantra.  Sooooo on the inhalation.  Hummmm on the exhalation.  Continue for as long as you feel to practice.  5 or 10 minutes can be a good beginning.
  • Soham at the Nostrils:  Bring your focus to the base of your nose right at the nostrils.  Attune your attention to the inhalation and exhalation, feeling the breath as it enters and leaves the body.  Really feel the physical sensation that occurs as the breath enters into and out of the nostrils.  In general, this breath practice can help to stabilize the mind and develop one-pointedness.  Once you feel in tune with sensation of the breath at the nostrils, begin to incorporate the Soham mantra.  Soooo on the inhalation and Hummm on the exhalation while staying present with the sensation of the breath as it enters and leaves through the nostrils.  You may notice that you elongate the exhalation as you begin to relax and deepen; this is a natural aspect of the practice.
  • Soham and Diaphragmatic Breathing:  This practice can be done sitting or lying down.  You may wish to place a hand on your upper abdomen near the solar plexus area, in the space below the ribs cage.  Begin to tune into the sensation of ribs and abdomen rising on the inhalation and falling on the exhalation.  Begin to add the Soham mantra as you follow the flow of the breath at the diaphragm.  Sooooo as the ribs and abdomen expand; Hummm as they contract.  Settle into the breath so that it becomes smooth and slow.  It may seem like the breath begins to flow as one continuous cycle of Soham.  This can be very beneficial for deeper relaxation, for easing anxiety and for winding down as one prepares for sleep.

Soham can be a wonderful part of a sitting or structured meditation practice.  It can help to deepen one’s ability to center and to connect more fully with natural rhythm of the breath.  It is also beneficial to work with this mantra during the day.  Just a few rounds of Soham can help to bring one’s attention back to center, to become clearer and more focused.  It can also help to foster a deeply relaxed state prior to going to sleep.  Even if you don’t have time to practice during the day, practicing as you prepare for sleep can be a wonderful way to incorporate meditation practice into your life and have a very restful night’s sleep.

A story is told that Swami Muktananda was asked by one of his followers who was a householder, “How can I practice Seva (Service) when I have so much work to do throughout the day?”  Muktananda’s answer was to focus on Soham as often as possible.  He said it is important to do outer Seva whenever you can such as helping others, giving money, food, etc., but working with Soham consistently allows you to connect with the space of stillness that comes from deep within.  This he referred to as “Inner Seva” or “Great Seva”.  He suggested that as we do this practice we are connecting with the rhythm of Prana (Life Force) as it goes in and out; this can deepen our awareness of consciousness.  As we begin to know and embody the place of stillness that exists between the inhalation and exhalation, between the syllables of So and Ham, we naturally become more conscious and awake.

I hope you’ll take some time to explore the Soham mantra in your meditation practice and in daily life.  Namaste.

Meditation On Actualizing Intention

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I hope you had a chance to read my last post, Actualizing The Power of Intention.  Today’s post offers a guided meditation to support actualizing intention.  It is the first of a series of audio posts I will be offering.  A main intention of The Heart of Awakening blog is to offer inspiration and resources to support the shift into a new paradigm.  My vision is include practical tools that can support transformation.  This meditation is a heart centered practice for actualizing intentions that emerge from deep within ourselves.  It supports moving into greater alignment energetically with our essence and our intentions.  Explore what’s possible!

Click Here to Listen to Meditation on Actualizing Intention.mp3


Day 11 of May is for Metta 2012: Loving-kindness Practice for a Beloved

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Day 11

“We resonate with one another’s sorrows because we are interconnected.  Being whole and simultaneously part of a larger whole, we can change the world simply by changing ourselves.  If I become a center of love and kindness in this moment, then in a perhaps small but hardly insignificant way, the world now has a nucleus of love and kindness it lacked the moment before.  This benefits me and it benefits others.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

As you continue your practice of Metta today, know that you are strengthening the energies of loving-kindness and compassion in the your self, others and the world.

Today we will move our practice of Metta to the category of a Beloved.  This could be a family member or close friend.  Beloveds are those we have built close relationship with, whom we trust and who we feel positive towards.  Take a moment to select a few friends and feel into which one you feel most called to do the practice for today.  Call up the image of each one, feel into your heart and say a round of phrases.  Which one feels most resonant right now?  This practice is helping you to choose but also helping you to experience more of what is in your heart and how to make choices that are in alignment with your heart.  Learning to let your heart be your guide is a part of moving into a way of being.  Once you have chosen, I will ask you to spend our three days on the Beloved working with the same person.

Daily Practice: Do your foundational practices.  We begin again by cultivating loving-kindness and compassion for our own self, as this is 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.  Say a few rounds of phrases for your self.

When you feel centered in the energy of loving-kindness then bring an image of the Beloved you have chosen clearly into your mind.  Let yourself feel what it feels like to be in the presence of that being.  Allow yourself to enjoy being with that person.  Begin by saying to yourself, “Just as I wish to be happy and free from suffering, may you be happy and free from suffering.”  Then begin repeating the phrases for your Beloved:

  • May he/she be safe.
  • May he/she be happy.
  • May he/she be peaceful.
  • May he/she be free from suffering.

Find the language for the phrases that works best for you.  You may wish to refer to other as YOU, talking to them directly, you may wish to use their NAME or you may wish to use the THIRD person, He or She.  Explore this a bit and see what works for you.

Your practice for the Beloved may feel easy for you.  Often, we are deepening the already good feelings we have for this person.  However, sometimes difficult feelings may arise.  You may feel anxiety or worry for your Beloved friend or family member.  You may remember something upsetting that happened awhile ago and feel angry or annoyed.  You may feel envious of some experience your Beloved is having, a happier relationship, a better job or a more carefree life.  These are natural feelings to have as a human being.  When these difficult emotions arise, just notice and gently return to the Metta phrases for your Beloved.  Know it is the nature of the mind to take us to these places in ourselves; it is the practice of meditation to return to the present moment and to the place we choose to place our attention.  Even when it’s challenging, this is the place of freedom, where we just are in the moment, where all of those thoughts, feelings and memories do not define us.  Use the phrases to bring yourself back to the moment and to offering loving-kindness to your Beloved one.

If at any point, difficult emotions continue to dominate your attention, return to repeating the phrases for yourself as this is an important part of practicing loving-kindness – we work with all of who we are, the parts we like and the parts we don’t like.  We are bringing to light those shadow parts that cause us so much pain and suffering.  In response, we are not rejecting ourselves or judging ourselves, but we are accepting and loving ourselves unconditionally.  This is one of the great gifts of Metta and one of the most powerful gifts we can offer to ourselves and to others.

Practice as long as you feel to or have committed to for today.  Take a few moments at the end to dedicate the merit of your practice for all beings. You can do this in any way that feels appropriate to you.

  • May all beings have happiness and it’s cause.
  • May all beings be free of suffering, joyous content and at ease.
  • May all beings be balanced in equanimity towards one and all.
  • May the merit of my practice be for my own benefit and for that of all sentient beings.

Journal Notes: How did it feel to practice Metta for a Beloved?   Was it different from practicing for a Benefactor/Mentor?  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?  Remember, it can be anyway that works for your?  Five minutes will do if that’s all you have.  Research has shown that 15 minutes a day of Loving-kindness practice can create a positive shift in our overall attitude toward life.

May you experience a blessed and joyful day.

Day 7 of May is for Metta 2012: Loving-kindness Practice for Oneself

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Day 7

“We all carry within us our places of exile; our crimes, our ravages. Our task is not to unleash them on the world; it is to transform them in ourselves and others.” – Albert Camus

Today is the last day of practicing Metta solely for ourselves as part of this practice. Today is the day to really embrace the loving-kindness and compassion you have been working to cultivate for your self. The energy and quality you have been generating will be the foundation on which you enter into to extend those qualities to others and the world. And, remember that a big part of the practice is coming back to yourself when you are struggling with difficult feelings or having trouble connecting with a certain category. This heart centered place, your circle of loving beings and repeating the phrases for yourself is the center to return to for connection and renewal both in your practice and in your daily life.

There are four essential ingredients in the practice of Metta. They are positive images, positive words, feelings of loving-kindness and trusting in love. Trust involves trusting in the power of the images, words and feelings of loving-kindness and allows our loving-kindness meditation to be more effective. Trust that you have done the work to connect with these four essentials and have the skills necessary to be an embodiment of loving-kindness in the world.

Daily Practice – Do the foundational practices. Begin by getting comfortable and settling 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 your self to feel enveloped in this love. Hopefully, by now it is getting easier to connect with the energy of loving-kindness and compassion. It is possible there will be some days it is easier than others and some days you struggle more with your practice. That’s okay. Just notice and be with what is arising. Those more difficult days are great days to journal about what you are experiencing.

Once you have generated a deep feeling of loving-kindness, then begin to send Metta to yourself by using the phrases you have chosen to work with. Notice your pace, is if too fast? Do you need to slow it down? Remember you are giving yourself a gift as you offer each of the phrase to yourself.

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

If you notice your mind has wandered, return to the next phrase or begin again. Also, you can always reconnect with your heart center or your circle of loving beings if difficult feelings arise. Practice for as long as you have committed to or as much as you can for today.

Optional Practice – Today, as an option to sitting practice or an additional practice, I invite you to explore Walking Metta. Walking meditation is a wonderful way to take your practice off the cushion, to experience greater awareness with movement and to take your Metta into the world. We will explore this more when we work with the different categories, but for today, just explore doing Walking Metta for yourself. You can do it as a formal practice or as you are going about your day.

Begin by standing still for a few moments and allow your attention to move into your body. Be aware of your standing position and really feel your body. Take a moment standing to generate the feeling of loving-kindness and compassion in whatever way you feel to. You might like to imagine your circle of loving beings walking with you, surrounding you as you move about in the world. When you feel ready, begin walking and stay present with your body as it moves; feel the ground under your feet. Notice your pace, do you need to slow it down to be more present?

When you feel ready, begin repeating the phrases to yourself. You can synchronize repeating the phrases with your steps. One phrase for stepping right, one for stepping left and so on. Or you can just let them have their own rhythm. Just as in sitting meditation, if your mind wanders or difficult feelings arise, just notice, and gently come back to your practice. Connect with the feeling of loving-kindness and continue repeating the phrases as you walk. Notice how it feels to bring loving-kindness to your walking and movement to your meditation.

Journal Notes – How has it felt to dedicate a whole week of your life to cultivating loving-kindness and compassion for yourself? Are you experiencing a deeper feeling of loving-kindness? Do you feel you need to work on connecting with the feeling or quality more? Are you able to be patient with yourself and your practice? If you haven’t done journal notes thus far, now is a great time to reflect on the whole week of practicing Metta for yourself. Did you try Walking Metta? If so, how did it feel to practice in this way? Is there something special or loving you can do today to honor yourself for being present in this way?

May you have a peaceful and happy day!