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 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 …
Apr 13, 2013
Today, as part of 100 Days of Lovingkindness, where we focus on the development of basic kindness and compassion, we’ll continue with the practice of self-metta.
I’m suggesting a simple practice today to help you bring a more kindly attitude into your daily life.
It’s simply this: be aware of your heart.
I’m not talking about noticing your heart beating, but about bringing awareness to the central part of your chest, and coming back to that over and over again during the day.
This area of the body is very important in terms of emotion, which is why “emotion” and “the heart” are virtually synonymous. And even more crucially, “love” and “the heart” …
Apr 12, 2013
Welcome to Day 1 of 100 Days of Lovingkindness!
So, what’s this 100 Days of Lovingkindness about?
We have a thriving community of practitioners over on Google Plus (do feel free to join us). We discuss our meditation practice and our lives, and we give each other support and encouragement. It’s wonderful. And late last year someone said they’d just meditated for 100 straight days and someone else suggested that we should all commit ourselves to sitting for 100 straight days in the New Year, and that turned more into the idea of establishing a habit of daily sitting over 100 days, and so we did the 100 Day Meditation Challenge …
Apr 11, 2013
Yesterday we finished up our 100 Day Meditation Challenge, which was an opportunity to build up a habit of meditating daily over a period of 100 days. Many people managed to sit every day, and many others made substantial progress in sitting daily. That makes today Day 101 of our 100 Day Challenge.
So what’s next?
Tomorrow we’re starting 100 Days of Lovingkindness. I’m not calling this a “challenge” since I’m not too fond of that word. You can take it as a challenge to sit daily if you want. I’m framing it as an opportunity to focus on the cultivation of lovingkindness (metta).
It’s not just about meditation either — it’s …
Mar 18, 2013
I often forget the importance of physical relaxation at the start of a sit. Softening the eyes, relaxing the jaw, and letting that relaxation run downwards through the rest of my muscles. Today I was more attentive to this process and found myself running through it several times during the course of the Metta Bhavana (development of lovingkindness). The physical relaxation triggers a softness of attitude in general and feels like what Pema Chodron describes as “taking off the armour”.
After the eyes and the jaw, I used the outbreath to relax the chest and abdomen, imagining the same wave of relaxation I felt in my face now moving down the …
Mar 16, 2013
This week one of my students described how she tends to talk to herself in a very harsh tone of voice — much harsher than she’d ever use with other people. And that’s a very common experience. In our own minds we often describe ourself as “an idiot,” tell ourselves that our actions were “stupid,” or limit ourselves by telling cruel stories about how people don’t like us and how we’ll never be good at the things we do.
We tend not to talk this way to others, or at least to a much lesser extent. Of course if we do there tends to be a backlash. We cause hurt, anger, …
Feb 02, 2013
Sometimes people have problems with the final stage of lovingkindness practice — developing goodwill for all beings. Because how can you possibly relate to all beings! It’s impossible!
I think the language of “all beings” can be misleading. We can’t literally have metta for all beings because we don’t know who they are, or where they are, or even if they are!
The final stage is called, in the commentaries, “breaking the bounds” and I see it as breaking the bounds of one-to-one relationships. The middle three stages all include a one-to-one relationship with someone: a friend, a neutral person, and someone you have difficulty with. A visual comparison …