Apr 25, 2013
The other day I found myself having one of those odd, but common, daydreams where I was complaining to one friend about another friend. I was telling him about a situation where this third party was emotionally cutting me off. The conversation went on for a minute or so, and then I slipped from my daydream back into a more mindful state and realized that what I was saying wasn’t even close to being true. It was almost totally a fabrication. There was a tiny grain of truth, but the reality was completely different from how I was presenting it. I think what was happening was that I was …
Apr 24, 2013
We’re almost two weeks into this 100 Days of Lovingkindness, but even after just five or six days the quality of my experience was radically different from usual.
I’ve felt considerably happier than I normally do. Blissfully happy, often. I’ve been much more patient with my children. I’ve been buffered from things that would normally press my buttons. I’ve been cocooned in lovingkindness.
To give you an example, last week I dropped my beloved iPad mini as I was putting it into my bag to head to work. I didn’t notice until I actually arrived at the office, but there was a huge crack right across the screen. Normally I’d …
Apr 23, 2013
Do you find it a bit much doing lovingkindness practice every day? Do you feel the need to stay in balance by doing other practices, like mindfulness of breathing? I don’t blame you!
In our last special project, which was to meditate for 100 days (the 100 Day Meditation Challenge) we got about a week into it and then I realized I’d become a bit clearer about the intention behind the challenge. It’s happened again!
Someone wrote in our Google+ Community (a place where people are sharing their experiences of participating in 100 Days of Lovingkindness and giving each other support and encouragement) saying that she was getting a bit …
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
Your brain evolved in three stages (to simplify a complex process):
Reptile – Brainstem, focused on AVOIDING harm
Mammal – Limbic system, focused on APPROACHING rewards
Primate – Cortex, focused on ATTACHING to “us”
With a fun use (to me, at least) of animal themes, the first JOT in this series – pet the lizard – was about how to soothe the most ancient structures of the brain, the ones that manage the first emotion of all: fear. The next one – …
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
Our mindfulness practice is not about vanquishing our thoughts. It’s about becoming aware of the process of thinking so that we are not in a trance—lost inside our thoughts. That’s the big difference. To train in becoming mindful of thoughts can help us to notice when your mind is actively thinking, either using the label “thinking, thinking,” or identifying the kind of thought—“worrying, worrying,” “planning, planning.” Then, becoming interested in what’s really happening right here. Coming home to the sensations in your body, your breath, the sounds around you, the life of the moment.
As our mindfulness practice deepens we become more aware of our thoughts. This offers us the opportunity to assess …
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 …