It’s always good to remember that life isn’t easy.
I don’t mean to say that life is always hard in the sense of it always being painful. Clearly there are times when we’re happy, when things are going well, when we feel that our life is headed in the right direction and that even greater fulfillment is just ahead of us, etc.
What I mean is that even when we have times in our life that are good, that doesn’t last. In fact, often the things we’re so excited and happy about later turn out to be things that also cause us suffering.
For example, you start a brand new relationship and you’re in love … Read more »
I’ve had a lot of opportunity to teach metta, or “lovingkindness,” over the last two years. One thing I’m doing differently as a result is referring to metta as “kindness,” rather than “lovingkindness. The “loving” part of “lovingkindness” doesn’t, to my mind, add anything, but rather takes what’s a concrete experience and makes it seem rather abstract. It’s easy to picture what it’s like when someone is kind to you, but it’s harder to imagine someone relating to you in a way that demonstrates lovingkindness.
The simple word “kindness” seems to be an ideal term to translate “metta.” Kindness, after all, is simply relating to another being in a way that respects their desire to … Read more »
Everything changes all the time: our bodies, other people and the world around us. In fact, change and impermanence are the fundamental realities of our lives. Change is often painful, so typically we resist it, and that can cause all sorts of problems.
Mindfulness practice helps each of us to see how we respond to life’s uncertainty. We are more able to explore how our reactions can lead us into difficult states on mind such as stress, anxiety and depression. Mindfulness also helps us to accept impermanence and even embrace it.
Here are some exercises that explore change and how it affects us. These are quite potent and you if you think you will find … Read more »
What kinds of things do we get up to when we are meant to be meditating, but have become distracted? Most people will say they “think” or “fantasize,” but that’s not very specific. What kind of thinking is going on? What kinds of desires drive our fantasies?
There are five traditional hindrances to meditation. Speaking very non-technically, what we tend to do when we’re distracted is one of the following:
These are the five hindrances in very non-technical language. Each of them is a form of mental turbulence … Read more »
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 kindness. When I … Read more »
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 keeping these two phrases going … Read more »
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 we may be looking … Read more »
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 between the two words metta … Read more »
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.
That brings up the question … Read more »
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… Read more »