The Practice of Metta Meditation

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Introduction to Metta Meditation

The Buddha assures us that it is possible to change our habits or thought and behavior: We can abandon the negative and cultivate the positive.

Abandon what is unskillful. One can abandon the unskillful. If it were not possible, I would not ask you to do it..... Cultivate the good. One can cultivate the good. If it were not possible, I would not ask you to do it...?

How is this transformation possible? There are 4 psychological laws which serve as the groundwork for the efficacy of the Buddha’s spiritual path:

1. The first is the law that only one state of consciousness can occur at a time.
There is the analogy of the film strip it appears that as we watch a movie, it is unfolding seamlessly while in reality, we are seeing a series of individual photos passing by at a high rate of speed. Our consciousness likewise appears to be seamless but it is not.

2. The second holds that states of consciousness with mutually opposed ethical qualities cannot coexist. These qualities can be either wholesome or unwholesome, but not both.

3. The third stipulates that all the factors of consciousness -- feeling, perception, volition and the remaining states included in the "aggregate of mental formations" -- must partake of the same ethical quality as the consciousness itself.

The ethical quality flavors the consciousness and thereby the experience itself.
Thus, a moment of wholesome thought, speech or action produces a moment of purification; an unskillful moment produces a moment of defilement.

4. The forth law now becomes important. It is that repetition confers strength.
There is the analogy of exercise of a particular muscle and that muscle gets stronger. When we exercise our individual mental qualities, those too become stronger.

One of the most powerfully disruptive mental habits we can have is aversion or hatred, ill will.

Hatred tightens the body and closes the mind - we are miserable in this state. The Buddha tells us: “Hatred can never cease by hatred. Hatred can only cease by love. This is an eternal law.” We are encouraged to practice sending metta to those with whom we are struggling.

Metta is generally translated as Lovingkindness or by some as lovingfriendship. It allows us to be and feel our connection with others and with all of life. Metta is love without attachment, without a desire to possess.

Near and far enemies of Metta: near: Greed with it’s tone of attachment and possessiveness. far enemy of Lovingkindness is: Hatred

By practicing Metta meditation, we are creating a skillful habit of mind, one which allows us to soften into the deeper experiences of our lives, the chances to connect with all that is around and within us.... to live more fully. It allows a spaciousness to develop in the mind allowing us to be less reactive, less stressed out, more calm in the face of challenges, losses, injustices.

At the same time, we are breaking the unskillful habit of mind associated with greed: possessiveness, fear, separateness, hatred. We are moving away from the habits of anger and aversion, rage, despair, disappointment.

As we will explore further during this retreat, a necessary condition for insight meditation is concentration. A necessary condition for concentration is happiness, Metta prepares the mind to be happy, not by pursuing sense pleasures but by connecting with the love that is available to us in any moment.

WHERE DO WE BEGIN?

The proximate cause of Metta is seeing goodness. By seeing goodness in ourselves and others, we move into a space that allows feelings of Lovingkindness to blossom. Sometimes it’s difficult to see goodness in others and sometimes it’s even difficult to see goodness in ourselves. If this is the case, we can remind ourselves that all beings are seeking to be happy just as we are and feel some connection with them in this common struggle.

Guilt is another barrier to Metta practice. Guilt has an element of self-hatred in it, it drains energy, it paralyzes us. Remorse is freeing, we forgive ourselves for the harm we have done to self or others and use the freed energy to work to improve ourselves, make sure we don’t repeat the offense. We need all of our energy if we’re to overcome our unskillful habits especially aversion and hatred. We need to move from the trap of guilt to the freedom of remorse; forgive ourselves and move on.

THE PRACTICE

To practice Metta, we simply repeat phrases to ourselves over and over at a comfortable pace while holding the image of the receiver of our Lovingkindness in our mind. Don’t worry if you don’t get a clear picture, the strong intention to do so will be enough. Try to send the metta from your heart area; just imagine the thoughts coming from within your chest.

Avoid the tenancy to rush the words, like when you say them a hundred times you can stop. Find a pace that’s not so fast that you lose the meaning of the words nor so slow that you lose interest and drift off task.

Hold the person you’re focusing on gently in the mind, like holding a fragile object: too tight and it will break, too loose and you will drop it.

We begin by developing and deepening our Self Love, no one is closer to us than we are to ourselves, if we don’t love ourselves, we have little hope of loving another.

We then focus our attention on sending Lovingkindness to a benefactor, someone who has been helpful to us, a teacher, a mentor.

In each of these meditations, we are to focus on someone who is alive and toward whom we have no physical attraction as that may lead to craving and to a desire to possess... lust and the rest.

Take some time to find an appropriate recipient for your meditations. This may become clear as you are practicing: leaving one object for another as the mind finds someone more suitable. Once you’ve settled on someone, stay with this person for the 20 minutes we’ll be focusing on them. Drifting about will water down the experience. Use the touch sensation of the breath as a centering device if you find you have drifted off the exercise; gather your concentration and begin again. Stay with it, make an effort to remain alert.

We will go from self to benefactor to friend to a neutral person and then to someone who is difficult or someone we consider an enemy. This is the tough stage and one that some of us may not get to in this abbreviated Metta practice. As I said before, we will need to move into forgiveness. We end the exercise by sending Metta to All Beings

Difficulties: If you find you are simply unable to hold the person who came to mind while sending Metta, let them go and go back to neutral person for a bit and try again. If you still can’t stay with the person chosen, go back to what you were doing just before and stay with that practice for the remainder of the time.

If the process becomes too tiresome or difficult, simply shift into following your breath or go back to the concentration exercises. You can always do walking meditation as long as it’s in a location where it won’t disturb those who are sitting or you can sit in your room.

You may also wish to practice with the other 3 Brahma-viharas, or ‘divine abodes’: Compassion, Sympathetic Joy, Equanimity. I have included a brief exercise for them as well (see "Brahma-viharas")

Enjoy this wonderful practice of centering the mind and opening the heart. It is excellent preparation for insight meditation.

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A metta meditation that came to me on the plane ride back

home following a 10 day wilderness retreat in AZ.

Please just play with this prayer and see how it works best for you. For me, it flows in two word blocks, two words with the IN breath and the next two with the OUT breath. . . Then it's repeated changing the "I" to "supportive other" and on to "difficult person," "neutral person," etc. and ending with "all beings." Often I will say this metta prayer through slowly once and then take some time with each pair, sometimes staying with one or two pairs for quite awhile depending upon what feels best for me at the time. I hope you find it helpful.

Being Nurtured

And Protected

Mind Clear

And Alert

Body Fit

And Strong

Heart Pure

And Open

May I

Dwell Always

In Peace

And Love

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A Metta Meditation

by

Bhante Gunaratana


1. May we be well, happy and peaceful. May no harm come to us. May no difficulties come to us. May no problems come to us. May we always meet with success. May we also have patience, courage, understanding, and determination to meet and overcome inevitable difficulties, problems, and failures in life.

2. May our parents be well, happy and peaceful. May no harm come to them. May no difficulties come to them. May no problems come to them. May they always meet with success. May they also have patience, courage, understanding, and determination to meet and overcome inevitable difficulties, problems, and failures in life.

3. May our teachers be well, happy and peaceful. May no harm come to them. May no difficulties come to them. May no problems come to them. May they always meet with success. May they also have patience, courage, understanding, and determination to meet and overcome inevitable difficulties, problems, and failures in life.

4. May our relatives be well, happy and peaceful. May no harm come to them. May no difficulties come to them, May no problems come to them. May they always meet with success. May they also have patience, courage, understanding, and determination to meet and overcome inevitable difficulties, problems, and failures in life.

5. May our friends be well, happy and peaceful. May no harm come to them. May no difficulties come to them. May no problems come to them. May they always meet with success. May they also have patience, courage, understanding, and determination to meet and overcome inevitable difficulties, problems, and failures in life.

6. May all persons who are strangers to us be well, happy and peaceful. May no harm come to them. May no difficulties come to them. May no problems come to them. May they always meet with success. May they also have patience, courage, understanding, and determination to meet and overcome inevitable difficulties, problems, and failures in life.

7. May our enemies be well, happy and peaceful. May no harm come to them. May no difficulties come to them. May no problems come to them. May they always meet with success. May they also have patience, courage, understanding, and determination to meet and overcome inevitable difficulties, problems, and failures in life.

8. May all living beings be well, happy and peaceful. May no harm come to them. May no difficulties come to them. May no problems come to them. May they always meet with success. May they also have patience, courage, understanding, and determination to meet and overcome inevitable difficulties, problems, and failures in life.

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A Metta Meditation

From Peter Carlson, Orlando Insight


May I be safe
May I be happy
May I be healthy
May I be content
May I love myself completely
And with great kindness
Just as I am now
No matter what happens


May you be safe
May you be happy
May you be healthy
May you be content
May you love yourself completely
And with great kindness
Just as you are now
No matter what happens


May we be safe
May we be happy
May we be healthy
May we be content
May we love ourselves completely
And with great kindness
Just as we are now
No matter what happens


May all beings be safe
May all beings be happy
May all beings be healthy
May all beings be content
May all beings love themselves completely
And with great kindness
Just as they are now
No matter what happens

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A Metta Meditation
For the tragedy in NYC, DC & PA of September 11, 2001


May I be well, safe and peaceful.
May I be free from the suffering of fear, anger and ill will.
May I find forgiveness for the inevitable harms we bring to one another.
May I cultivate lovingkindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity.
May I live in peace and harmony with all beings.


May our families and friends be well, safe and peaceful.
May they be free from the suffering of fear, anger and ill will.
May they find forgiveness for the inevitable harms we bring to one another.
May they cultivate lovingkindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity.
May they live in peace and harmony with all beings.


May all other persons in our lives be well, safe and peaceful.
May they be free from the suffering of fear, anger and ill will.
May they find forgiveness for the inevitable harms we bring to one another.
May they cultivate lovingkindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity.
May they live in peace and harmony with all beings.


May all the victims of this tragedy and their families be well, safe and peaceful.
May they be free from the suffering of fear, anger and ill will.
May they find forgiveness for the inevitable harms we bring to one another.
May they cultivate lovingkindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity.
May they live in peace and harmony with all beings.


May those responsible for this tragedy and their families be well, safe and peaceful.
May they be free from the suffering of fear, anger and ill will.
May they find forgiveness for the inevitable harms we bring to one another.
May they cultivate lovingkindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity.
May they live in peace and harmony with all beings.
.

May all beings be well, safe and peaceful.
May they be free from the suffering of fear, anger and ill will.
May they find forgiveness for the inevitable harms we bring to one another.
May they cultivate lovingkindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity.
May they live in peace and harmony with all beings.

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The Other Three Brahma-viharas

I. Lovingkindness (see Metta meditations above)

II.
Compassion (begin with someone who is suffering greatly)
May he/she be free from your pain and sorrow.
Or ..... May he/she find peace.
May ______ be free from pain and sorrow.
(Then go to yourself, a benefactor... a friend... a neutral person... a difficult person... all beings... all beings in the 10 directions (N, NE, E... Above & Below)... all persons on this retreat.... all persons in Florida.... America... all males... all females... Those who cause harm.)

III.
Sympathetic Joy (begin with a friend or loved one)
May your happiness and good fortune continue.
Or ..... May his happiness not diminish.
May ______ happiness and good fortune continue.
(Then go to a benefactor... a neutral person... a difficult person... all beings... All beings in the 10 directions (N, NE, E... Above & Below... )

IV.
Equanimity (begin with a neutral person)
Traditionally, the saying for equanimity is:
All beings are the owners of their karma. Their happiness and unhappiness depends upon their actions, not upon my wishes for them.

OR you may choose to say something like:
May we all accept things as they are.
Or .... May we be undisturbed by the comings and goings of events
May ______ accept things as they are.
(Then go to a benefactor... friend... a difficult person... yourself... all beings... all beings in the 10 directions...)

For more information about Metta Practice check out:

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/bps/wheels/wheel007.html

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