Nov 01, 2013
There are many ways to develop metta (kindness, or lovingkindness), which is the desire that beings, ourselves included, be happy. Kindness arises from a basic realization that all beings want to be happy, and that their happiness and suffering are as real to them as our own happiness and suffering are to us. Recognizing those facts, and knowing that we ourselves want to be happy, we naturally wish happiness for others.
Kindness is inherent in us all, and in the meditation practice we’re strengthening what’s already there, not bringing something entirely new into being.
The most well-known way to cultivate metta is drop phrases into the mind that strengthen and develop our …
May 24, 2013
I’d like to suggest a simple practice for you.
For the next hour or so, let the first thought you have when seeing someone or meeting them face-to-face be: “This person suffers just as I suffer. This person, just like me, doesn’t want to suffer.”
“Seeing someone” can include seeing their photograph or seeing them on TV, as well as seeing them in person, or seeing them passing by.
You can try this for a longer period, of course, but I thought it would be good to try it for a very short spell initially, so that you don’t feel you’re taking on a task that’s too big.
I’d advise …
May 03, 2013
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.
But I think that when this happens …
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 …
Mar 06, 2013
One of my online students wrote:
I find that when a dark thought or uncomfortable feeling comes up during meditation, my habitual reaction is to very quickly label it “thinking” and then return to my breath, which feels very much like I am suppressing my emotions and feelings.
And my reply was: This is a great thing to have learned about yourself. It seems that you innately know, with your inner wisdom, that this kind of suppression isn’t the way you want to live your life, and in fact with mindfulness we should be prepared to give our darker feelings room to breathe — or at least some of them.
Jan 04, 2013
Many of us feel that our thoughts are out of our control. We think about work long after we have left, we worry about the future and keep going over things that have gone wrong in the past. Meanwhile, life seems to be slipping by.
Modern psychology also recognises that compulsive thinking can lead us into stress, anxiety and depression. Worrying about our problems seems important, but it leaves us feeling worse and believing we have less power to change things.
Mindfulness helps by giving us the mental space to stand back, recognise what’s happening and explore alternatives. Here are some helpful approaches associated with mindfulness and meditation.
1. Learning to let go of thoughts
Jun 25, 2012
There’s a verse in an ancient Buddhist text that says something to the effect that we all want to be happy, and yet we destroy happiness as if it was an enemy, and we all want to avoid suffering, yet run towards it as if it were a dear friend.
This really resonates with my experience, and recently I’ve been incorporating a reflection based on this into my lovingkindness practice.
I start with myself. I recollect that I do in fact want to be happy and acknowledge how difficult it can be at times to experience joy and wellbeing. And then I ask whether some part of me is prepared …
Nov 09, 2011
Ann Lamott, in her novel Crooked Little Heart, says that holding onto resentment is like eating rat poison and waiting for the rat to die.
Resentment is seductive. We assume on some level that it’s going to help us, but it doesn’t. It just causes us pain.
This is something that just about all of us need help with.
1600 years ago, a compiler and commenter of Buddhist texts called Buddhaghosa put together an extraordinary “tool kit” of ways to deal with resentment. I was recently looking at this guidance, which is part of Buddhaghosa’s encyclopedic work on meditation, The Visuddhi Magga, or Path of Purity, and thought it was so fresh, well …
Dec 29, 2010
At the climax of the 2001 movie Vanilla Sky, Tom Cruise’s character, playboy David Aames, comes to realize that he’s been in suspended animation for 150 years and is trapped in a dream. He makes this discovery on top of an improbably tall building, apparently miles high, with the guidance of Edmund Ventura, a “Support Technician” who is trying to guide him back to waking reality.
Before he entered suspended animation, David had made the decision to awaken from this dream by facing his fear of heights. In order to wake up, he must now leap from the top of the building. Also on the rooftop is someone who …
Sep 16, 2010
About three weeks ago I embarked on a 40 day spiritual programme. It’s a simple thing really –- daily reading, reflecting and writing on the themes –- but the effects have been profound.
I’m no stranger to this sort of thing, having spent my twenties engaged in full time study and practice on the lead up to becoming an ordained Buddhist, but it’s been a while since I’ve taken up a such a purposeful, purely spiritual, exercise.
Recently, things have been very settled for me in my new abode –- a couple of caravans tucked away in the fields of rural Devon, in southwest England. I call it …