James returns in The Quieted Mind to set an intention for 2022: widening the circle of our compassion and love for those around us.
The Power of Metta: A Buddhist Story — from MountainHermitage.org
How to Expand Love: Widening the Circle of Loving Relationships by H.H. Dalai Lama
Interact with Fundamental Shift on:
Web | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | 704.665.7473
Interact with The Quieted Mind on:
Web | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube
Music by '86 Aerostar
You're listening to The Quieted Mind on the Fundamental Shift Podcast Network.
Hi, everyone, James here. Happy New Year.
So how are those resolutions going? I have to confess my rebellious side tends to come out at the mention of New Year's resolutions. It's a well intentioned tradition, but let's be honest, most of us end up breaking one or more of them, which can cause us to feel like we failed. The Buddhist in me is quick to remember that desire is the root of all suffering, and that striving and grasping are fruits of the same tree of suffering.
This doesn't mean we shouldn't have goals or strive to improve things. But maybe we need to learn not to become too attached to a specific outcome and to have compassion for ourselves when we don't stick to the plan, or if things don't work out as we may have hoped.
The New Year, while arbitrary and perhaps overrated as a clean slate, or a chance to start over, is as good a time as any to stop, breathe, and practice arriving in the here and now. Even in the face of my own resistance, I recognize that dates on the calendar can function like bells of mindfulness, bringing us back to our true home. And by the same token, the new year can be an opportunity to set intentions for the months ahead and incorporate practices that enlighten our consciousness and water the seeds of understanding and compassion within us. I think most of us agree that understanding and compassion are often in short supply these days.
One practice that can help guide us along that path toward greater understanding and compassion for ourselves and others is Metta or lovingkindness. In the following talk and guided meditation, I hope you'll join me on this path of expanding our capacity for understanding and compassion, starting with ourselves, and expanding ever outward to all sentient beings.
Tradition holds that the Buddha introduced Metta practice, to a group of 500 monks during a three month rainy season retreat. According to the legend, it is said that all 500 monks emerged from the retreat after practicing peacefully and calmly, fully enlightened. Indeed, Metta meditation practice can be a useful technique in breaking down our notions and concepts of separateness and realizing the interconnectedness of all things, particularly all sentient beings. After this guided meditation, we will close with a reading from the Karaniya Metta Sutta, in which the Buddha teaches us Metta. For now, let's begin our guided meditation.
Find a comfortable position, whether it be sitting upright in a chair, or on a cushion, or laying down on your back or side. Once you have found a comfortable and sustainable position, close your eyes and breathe deeply. Hold the breath for a moment and exhale. how does the breath feel as it enters through your mouth or nose into your lungs? How does it feel as your lungs expand to accommodate the breath? As you exhale, take notice of how it feels as your lungs contract, and the breath exits through your nostrils or your mouth. Is it warm or cold? Take a few more deep, mindful breaths as we unite the body and the mind. There is only here, only now, only the breath. In and out. Now, bring your mind to these elements, which will be the focus of our practice in this moment. These things are common to all sentient beings and unite us all In our interdependence, these are the desire to be happy, to be safe, and to live at ease; free from all pain and suffering. To be free from pain and suffering does not mean we cease to experience these things. Rather, our practice is to view suffering through the lens of impermanence, and be liberated from the thought patterns that can often captivate us when we encounter pain and suffering. So let's begin our practice with a focus on our own liberation. Repeat after me, either aloud or silently: May I be safe; May I be happy; May I be free from all suffering. This practice may be difficult at first, especially if you feel unworthy of these things, or that they seem unrealistic. release these notions from your mind as best you can and repeat: May I be safe; May I be happy; May I be free from all suffering. May I be safe; May I be happy; May I be free from all suffering. Sit with this a moment and know that we cannot liberate anyone until we first liberate ourselves.
Next, visualize someone that you love very much. This could be a relative, partner, spouse or a close friend. It could be a pet. as you visualize them, imagine with each breath that you are sending all your love and well wishes to this person. Now imagine that you are in front of them, face to face, looking into their eyes. Now say to this person, "May you be safe. May you be happy. May you be free from all suffering." Take a deep breath and say again to your loved one: may you be safe; may you be happy; may you be free from all suffering. Once again: May you be safe; May you be happy; May you be free from all suffering. Now imagine someone about whom you feel neutral. This could be someone you see regularly, but don't know personally. A grocery cashier, delivery driver, work associate, someone you aren't close to a for whom you have no negative feelings. Although you don't know them well, you are connected in your desire to have a good life, free from the bonds of suffering. With this person in front of you look at them and say: May you be safe; May you be happy; May you be free from all suffering. May you be safe; May you be happy; May you be free from all suffering. May you be safe; May you be happy; May you be free from all suffering. Visualize now someone you dislike or would consider an enemy. This can be someone who has hurt you in some way or simply someone who annoys you or whose personality rubs you the wrong way. This person is also like you in that they too want a good life free of suffering. As the saying goes, hurt people hurt people. If they could just free themselves from the cycle of suffering, they might treat you and others more kindly and have more consideration, compassion. Let us share this intention for them as well. May you be safe; May you be happy; May you be free from all suffering. May you be safe; May you be happy; May you be free from all suffering. May you be safe; May you be happy; May you be free from all suffering.
You may have found that last part of the practice difficult. You may have decided even to sit it out. That's okay. That's understandable. This is a practice after all. As you continue this, you may find it a little less difficult each time to send these intentions to someone for whom you have negative feelings or unpleasant memories. For now, do what you can and continue to practice.
For the final part of our practice, visualize yourself floating up, up, up, high above the trees and mountains, through the clouds, through the atmosphere, and imagine you are suspended in space, looking down at the earth below. Returning momentarily to the breath, with each exhale, imagine you are sending light and love and well wishes and positive energy to all sentient beings everywhere. All sentient beings desire safety, happiness, freedom from suffering, just like you. Send your love to them now. Now, as before, share your intention toward all sentient life: May you be safe; May you be happy; May you be free from all suffering. May you be safe; May you be happy; May you be free from all suffering. May you be safe; May you be happy; May you be free from all suffering. Return once again now to the breath. As you breathe, imagine you are floating downward, back down to the earth, back to where you began this practice. Take a few more breaths. When you hear the sound of the bell, slowly open your eyes.
And now, a reading from the Karaniya Metta Sutta as attributed to the Buddha.
"This is what should be done By one who is skilled in goodness, And who knows the path of peace: Let them be able and upright, Straightforward and gentle in speech. Humble and not conceited, Contented and easily satisfied. Unburdened with duties and frugal in their ways.. Peaceful and calm, and wise and skillful, Not proud and demanding in nature. Let them not do the slightest thing That the wise would later reprove. Wishing: In gladness and in safety, May all beings be at ease. Whatever living beings there may be; Whether they are weak or strong, omitting none, The great or the mighty, medium, short or small, The seen and the unseen, Those living near and far away, Those born and to-be-born, May all beings be at ease! Let none deceive another, Or despise any being in any state. Let none through anger or ill-will Wish harm upon another. Even as a mother protects with her life Her child, her only child, So with a boundless heart Should one cherish all living beings; Radiating kindness over the entire world: Spreading upwards to the skies, And downwards to the depths; Outwards and unbounded, Freed from hatred and ill-will. Whether standing or walking, seated or lying down One should sustain this recollection. This is said to be the sublime abiding. By not holding to fixed views, The pure-hearted one, having clarity of vision, Being freed from all sense desires, Is not born again into this world."
Reference to the historical literature regarding the origins of Metta practice, and the reading from the Karaniya Metta Sutta comes from MountainHermitage.org. For more in depth study on lovingkindness meditation, check out "How To Expand Love: Widening The Circle Of Loving Relationships," by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. It is available through your local library or wherever books are sold. A link to purchase this book can be found in the show notes for this episode at thequietedmind.com.
Thank you for listening and practicing with me. May you be safe. May you be happy. May you be free from all suffering.