Lovingkindness meditation, using natural language

November 12, 2015

girl hand giving flowers

When I was first taught the metta bhavana (“development of lovingkindness”) practice, back in the early 1980s, I was encouraged to use these three phrases: “May I be well; may I be happy; may I be free from suffering” (altered to “may you…” or “may all beings…” in the other stages of the practice).

I was told that the exact words weren’t important, and that you could use your own phrases if you wanted. But none of the teachers who led the classes I went to ever offered any alternatives, which sent out a message saying that these were the “proper” and “authorized” ones.

But they worked! I remember the first time that I noticed … Read more »

After meditation, self-critical people ease up

October 15, 2015

wildmind meditation newsAnn Lukits, Wall Street Journal: Self-critical people were significantly kinder and more compassionate toward themselves after practicing lovingkindness meditation compared with a control group, according to a pilot study in Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy. The technique, rooted in Buddhism, may help to reduce symptoms of depression, the researchers suggest.

Lovingkindness is a form of meditation designed to cultivate feelings of warmth and kindness to all people, including oneself, the researchers said. Practicing the technique may activate a soothing-caring regulation system that is probably deficient in chronic self-critics, they suggest.

Self-critical perfectionism is implicated in a number of psychological conditions, such as eating disorders, and can …

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We can teach our brains to feel more compassion

October 23, 2014

wildmind meditation newsMindful.org: Scientific evidence shows that we can train the brain to feel more compassion—for others and for ourselves.

Another science-based reason to try loving-kindness meditation! In a study conducted at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for Investigating Healthy Minds (directed by Dr. Richard J. Davidson, who was featured in Mindful’s August 2014 issue), participants were taught to generate compassion for different categories of people, including both those they love and “difficult” people in their lives.

After only two weeks of online training, participants who practiced compassion meditation every day behaved more altruistically towards strangers compared to another group taught to simply regulate or control …

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The Urban Retreat: Every ending is a beginning

November 26, 2013

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This is not the end, but the beginning.

Here is a summary of where we’ve been, and a list of suggestions for continuing your exploration of meditation.

Where we’re been

We hope you appreciated and benefited from the material we sent you. Remember that even if you didn’t manage to read everything or watch all the videos, they’re always there for you. In fact here’s a handy list of all the posts we sent during the retreat:

  1. Urban Retreat: Day 1: Demystifying lovingkindness
  2. Urban Retreat: Day 2: Authentic lovingkindness
  3. Urban Retreat: Day 3: Lovingkindness: When the Rubber Hits the Road
  4. Urban Retreat: Day 4: Protecting others, you protect yourself.
  5. Urban Retreat, Day 5: Looking with
Read more »

The Urban Retreat, Day 8: Developing compassion

November 25, 2013

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I’m going to write less today, because sometimes I go on a bit, and I know we’re all bombarded with information. So here are just a few words about the practice of compassion, and especially of self-compassion.

What is compassion? Like lovingkindness, it’s a volition (something we desire or will or intend). While lovingkindness is the desire that beings find happiness, compassion is the desire to relieve suffering. Compassion flows directly from lovingkindness; we want beings to be happy, yet they suffer, and so we want their suffering to be relieved so that they can find happiness.

Compassion is not a sentiment. It’s not just a feeling. Volitions are what lead to actions, and so … Read more »

The Urban Retreat, Day 7: The practice of gratitude

November 24, 2013

urban retreat 2013

One quality that’s closely related to metta is appreciation. We often take things for granted when they’re going right, and then focus on what’s not going the way we want it to. And that makes us unhappy and makes our relationships with others less warm and appreciative.

At our worst we’ll say things like “Nothing ever goes right in my life.” And in the moment we’re saying those words we’ll ignore that we have air to breathe, we’re alive, we’re probably healthy, we’re living in a fairly civilized society (it’s far from being Mogadishu), we’re sheltered from the elements, we have water, electricity, the internet, friends, family, etc. The specifics of what we have change … Read more »

The Urban Retreat, Day 6: The tender heart of lovingkindness

November 23, 2013

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In previous posts I’ve suggested an approach to cultivating lovingkindness that begins with contacting our innate lovingkindness. Now the expression “contacting our innate lovingkindness” is a problem for many people, because they look inside themselves, don’t see anything at that moment that they could call “metta” or “lovingkindness,” and then conclude they don’t have these qualities. Which can start a downward spiral of rumination and pain: I don’t feel any love; Therefore I don’t love myself; Therefore I must be unlovable; Therefore no one will ever love me; Therefore my life is horrible.

I think almost everyone has experienced that kind of emotional nose-dive at one time or another.

But I think that when this … Read more »

The Urban Retreat, Day 5: Looking with loving eyes

November 22, 2013

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I’d like 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 recall (or imagine) looking at a beloved child, or a lover, or even a pet. I find that the sense of care, … Read more »

The Urban Retreat, Day 4: “Protecting oneself, one protects others. Protecting others, one protects oneself.” The Buddha

November 21, 2013

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The Buddha said, “Protecting oneself, one protects others. Protecting others, one protects oneself.”

Lovingkindness helps us protect others, and it helps us protect ourselves.

At one time I used to have the New York Times delivered to my house every morning. It was one of my great pleasures to have a leisurely breakfast with a cup of tea, toast, and some intelligent analysis from the Op-Ed pages. But first I had to get the newspaper, which was tossed onto (or near) the front porch every morning by the delivery driver.

It was always an awkward moment for me walking out onto the porch in my bathrobe and slippers, with my hairy legs and knobbly ankles … Read more »

The Urban Retreat, Day 3: When the rubber hits the road

November 20, 2013

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When the rubber hits the road is a great time to practice lovingkindness, and I mean literal rubber and a literal road.

There’s a lot of irritation involved in driving, even far short of the extreme of road rage. It can be irritating to be in slow traffic, or busy traffic, or to be cut off, or to be held up by roadworks, or stuck at traffic lights.

We’re emotionally cut off from other drivers because we’re all in our own semi-private metal boxes, and so we don’t have access (usually) to their body language and facial expressions. So we often take things personally that aren’t necessarily personal. As comedian George Carlin said, “Have you … Read more »