Apr 22, 2013
You know when you’re sitting on a subway and there’s someone sitting directly opposite? It’s kind of awkward — all that trying not to make eye contact, and those embarrassing moments when we get caught looking at them…
There’s something of this sometimes in the metta bhavana (development of lovingkindness) meditation practice. It’s not so bad with the friend, since you’re used to making eye contact with them, but even there is can feel a bit odd to be mentally “sitting opposite” them for ten minutes or so. It’s just not very natural, is it? It’s rather stilted.
For quite a while now, I’ve been doing the lovingkindness practice in a …
Apr 21, 2013
Look at a statue or painting of the Buddha. You’ll usually find that he’s smiling. And one thing that can help us find a friendly attitude is adopting a smile, even when we don’t feel like it.
I think pretty much everyone now knows that smiling affects our physiology and how we feel. One study, for example, got people to hold chopsticks in their teeth in a way that created an artificial smile. The participants didn’t actually know that they were smiling, and yet their physiology changed. They were able to recover more quickly from stressful situations than non-smiling participants, and had lower heart rates. They were literally able to …
Apr 20, 2013
Yesterday I discussed what “well” means when we say “May you be well.” It’s not as straightforward as “physical health.” Today I’d like to talk about what “happy” means when we say “May you be happy.” Again this isn’t as straightforward as you might think.
I was prompted to think about this because of questions people had about the recent bombings at the Boston marathon, and what it means to cultivate lovingkindness for the bomber or bombers. But this applies to many of the people we find difficult, and whom we bring into the fourth stage of the metta bhavana practice.
One person commented that some of the people he …
Apr 19, 2013
A sticking point some people have with lovingkindness practice is what it means to wish someone “well.” This came up the other day with someone who has health difficulties that just aren’t going to go away. What does it mean for him to wish himself well? He’s not ever going to be completely healthy, so wellness is never going to be attained. What’s the point of wishing yourself something you can’t have? Isn’t that just a source of suffering. Yikes!
And the same applies to others. If you have a friend who’s, say, dying of cancer, what does it mean to wish them well?
There’s a nice little dialog that the …
Apr 18, 2013
A couple of people in Wildmind’s Google+ Community (which currently has over 400 members and is a thriving hubbub of conversation about practice, carried out with love and support) have been really struggling with lovingkindness, and especially with cultivating lovingkindness for themselves.
Here’s what I think often happens when cultivating metta goes wrong.
You start by assuming that metta is an emotion. It’s “universal lovingkindness” and so it must be some kind of powerful, warm, joyful glow: something quite extraordinary. And you’re supposed to have this emotion for yourself. So you start the practice and look for some sign of this emotion, and all you can find is — well, maybe …
Apr 17, 2013
As part of our 100 Days of Lovingkindess we’re focusing on metta (lovingkindness) practice for 25 days, before going on to explore compassion, joy and equanimity (although I prefer to call this “loving with insight”).
People often think that lovingkindness is something hard. I’m going to write more about that tomorrow, but for now I want to stress the naturalness of metta, and how it arises effortlessly from certain reflections.
To begin with cultivating lovingkindness for a friend, let’s just note that the friend is someone for whom we already have metta. The Pali word (or one of them) for friend is “mitta” and you can see the obvious resemblance …
Apr 16, 2013
Yesterday morning, on Google+ (my social network of choice) I shared a newspaper article by novelist Rolf Dobelli, called News is bad for you – and giving up reading it will make you happier.
The lede of the article is “News is bad for your health. It leads to fear and aggression, and hinders your creativity and ability to think deeply. The solution? Stop consuming it altogether.” That’s the story in a nutshell.
Coincidentally, I’d just decided to go on a news fast. I’d been lamenting that I don’t have enough time to read books these days, and yet I commonly spend 20 to 30 minutes in the morning, and a similar …
Apr 16, 2013
There’s a lot of confidence involved in lovingkindness, especially with lovingkindness toward oneself (self-metta), and this confidence is reflected in the body. When we’re feeling loving toward ourselves or others we’re upright, the chest is open — the heart is open — and we’re relaxed. There’s a feeling of softness, but also of stength. Metta is definitely not a weak or passive state. It involves a confident stance.
When we lack confidence, we often slump. The shoulders roll forwards. The chest collapses so that we can’t breathe well. The heart is closed. We look down, limiting our horizons both literally and figuratively. We become inward turned, and we ruminate in …
Apr 15, 2013
A lot of people have trouble feeling lovingkindness for themselves. They’ve been brought up, or have learned, to think of themselves as unworthy of love, or for some reason think it’s wrong to have kind feelings toward themselves.
One way to get round this is to imagine that you’re a wiser, kinder, more compassionate version of yourself — you as you might be after another ten, or fifteen, or twenty years of practice. And you’re thinking of the present day you, with kindness and with a forgiving and understanding appreciation of the conditioning that he or she is struggling with. Perhaps there’s a feeling of tenderness, as you might have …
Apr 14, 2013
For today’s adventure in 100 Days of Lovingkindness I’m going to share a way of relating that I call “loving gaze.” This is borrowed from Jan Chozen Bays, who writes in How to Train a Wild Elephant of the practice of “Loving Eyes.”
In her book she says:
We know how to use loving eyes when we are falling in love, when we see a new baby or a cute animal. Why do we not use loving eyes more often?
So what we can do is to recall, or even just imagine, the experience of looking with loving eyes. You can …