On the first Monday of each month, we have established a tradition for Insight Meditation Houston sangha of practicing one of the heart-opening practices that the Buddha learned from spiritual masters in northern India, before he was enlightened under the Bodhi tree. Afterwards, he taught his disciples four Brahma Vihara or Divine Abode practices: Metta or loving kindness, Karuna or compassion, Mudita or sympathetic joy, and Upekkha or equanimity
Tonight I will guide you in my version of Howie Cohn’s Metta meditation phrases, which soothed me greatly on our recent retreat at the Margaret Austin Center in the Texas Hill Country. Howie refers to Metta as “kindfulness”—a mixture of mindfulness and kindness:
Sit in a comfortable position and close your eyes. Be aware of any sensations in the area of your heart, accepting them just as they are right now. Direct your heart’s energy to the top of your head and scalp.
Imagine heartfelt, kindly attention flowing down and caressing your head and face, tenderly touching skin, sinews, muscles, and bones in that area of your body. Receive those caresses graciously.
Imagine heartfelt, kindly attention caressing your neck and shoulders, tenderly touching skin, sinews, muscles, and bones in that part of the body. Receive the caresses gratefully.
As the kind attention moves down your arms, wrists, hands and fingers, sense a tender touch on the skin, sinews, muscles and bones of those body parts. Receive that caring fully.
Sense the kindly attention caressing the back and front of your torso, tenderly brushing along skin, sinews, muscles and bones in that section of the body. Absorb that kindness.
And now imagine the kind attention wafting around your pelvis and hips, treating skin, sinews, muscles and bones in that area with gentle tenderness.
Be receptive to the gentleness.
Sense the kindly attention pouring down your legs, knees, ankles, feet and toes, bathing in tenderness the skin, sinews, muscles and bones in the lower part of the body. Open to that “kindfulness.”
Scanning your whole body from head to toe, wish yourself inner and outer wellbeing and strength, while accepting the limits of the body just as it is.
Acknowledge with tender attention the sensitivity of the heart, solar plexus and abdomen, and silently repeat the following phrases:
May I be peaceful and happy.
May I be healthy in body and mind.
From inner and outer harm, may I be safe.
From all suffering, may I be free.
Just as we wish ourselves peace, happiness, good health and safety, we wish the same for all those in this sangha. Let us especially hold in our hearts John Howard, who is recovering from successful surgery, Mel Gallagher’s husband Ron, and Satya’s wife Leah, who have serious health concerns.
May everyone in this circle and those we love be peaceful and happy.
May we be healthy in body and mind.
From inner and outer harm, may we be safe.
From all suffering, may we be free.
Sensing our hearts opening and expanding in “kindfulness,” let us extend our prayers to all beings everywhere:
May all beings be peaceful and happy.
May all beings be healthy in body and mind.
From inner and outer harm, may all beings be safe.
From all suffering, may all beings be free.
From this moment forward, may our thoughts, words and deeds be imbued with loving kindness towards ourselves and others.
Place a hand on your heart, sensing ease and release as it opens lovingly. Gently open your eyes and be aware of the presence of our sangha, this community of kindred spirits that supports your practice.