Insight Meditation Houston

Metta Practice – 8/6/2018

As most of you know, Metta (or Loving Kindness) is one of four Brahma Viharas (or Divine Abodes), along with Compassion, Sympathetic Joy, and Equanimity. We practice cultivating these virtues in order to open and balance the heart.

Metta is a mental state more than a feeling or a reaction. Practicing Metta purifies the mind, releasing fears and doubts. Over time, we develop unconditional friendliness and let go of negative judgments about ourselves and others. We learn to receive life as it is, without trying to manipulate it or to change it according to our preferences.

For tonight’s Brahma Vihara practice, I have adapted a guided Metta meditation from the appendix to Noah Levine’s book Against the Stream.

Sit comfortably and close your eyes.
Settle into the present-time experience of your body.
Relax any physical tension that is held in the eyes, jaw, shoulders and belly.

Reflect upon your deepest desire for happiness and freedom from suffering.
Be aware of your heart’s sincere longing for wellbeing.
With each breath, sense your wish to be safe and protected and to experience love and kindness.

With an intention to uncover the heart’s deepest loving responses, begin to offer yourself kind and friendly 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.

You may notice distracting thoughts and judgments arising about the practice or about your capacity for love. With a gentle and persistent effort, bring your attention back to the phrases. Repeat them like a mantra or statement of positive intention. Feel the breath and the body’s response to each phrase.

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.

Allow the mind and body to relax into the reverberations of each phrase. Don’t expect to feel loving instantly. Sometimes we perceive our lack of kindness and sense resistance to Metta practice.

Resisting is a normal part of the purification process. Simply acknowledge whatever is happening, and continue to repeat the phrases in as merciful and friendly manner as possible.

After a few minutes of sending loving phrases to yourself, bring attention to your breath and body, relaxing the posture.

Then bring to mind someone who has touched you with great kindness.
Visualize or have a felt sense of this benefactor’s presence.
Recognizing that just as you wish to be happy and peaceful, the benefactor shares a universal desire for wellbeing and love. Offer Metta phrases to your benefactor:

Just as I wish to be happy, may you be peaceful and happy.
May you be healthy in body and mind.
From inner and outer harm, may you be safe.
From all suffering, may you be free.

Continue offering these heartfelt phrases to your benefactor. Whenever your mind gets lost in a story, memory or fantasy, simply return to the practice and begin again.

Just as I wish to be happy, may you be peaceful and happy.
May you be healthy in body and mind.
From inner and outer harm, may you be safe.
From all suffering, may you be free.

After a few moments of this practice, let go of the image or felt sense of the benefactor, and return to your direct experience of the breath and body. Pay special attention to how your heart feels.

Then bring to mind someone whom you do not know well, someone who is neutral, whom you neither love nor hate—perhaps a person you don’t know at all, a passerby on the street or somebody waiting with you in a line. With the understanding that the desire for happiness and love is universal, begin offering the neutral person loving-kindness.

May you be peaceful and happy.
May you be healthy in body and mind.
From inner and outer harm, may you be safe.
From all suffering, may you be free.

Release the image of the neutral person, and bring attention back to your breath and body. Then extend the practice to include family and friends toward whom you might have a mixture of feelings—both judgmental and loving.

May you be peaceful and happy.
May you be healthy in body and mind.
From inner and outer harm, may you be safe.
From all suffering, may you be free.

After a few minutes of practice with the mixed category, return to the sensations of your breath and body.
Then include difficult people in your life and in the world. Choose someone whom you resent or you have cut out of your heart. Remember that all beings wish to be met with love and kindness. Even those who are annoying, unskillful, violent, confused and mean wish to be happy.

With the intention to free yourself from hatred, fear and ill will, direct Metta phrases towards a person who is a source of difficulty in your mind or heart.

May you be peaceful and happy.
May you be healthy in body and mind.
From inner and outer harm, may you be safe.
From all suffering, may you be free.

Pay close attention to your visceral responses. If this part of the practice feels overwhelming, choose someone less toxic, or take a break and mercifully redirect the phrases towards yourself for a while.
After a while, release the image of the difficult person, and return to the sensations of the breath and body.

Now expand the field of loving-kindness to include everyone in our sangha. Gradually expand positive thoughts to all those in the city of Houston, the state of Texas, the whole United States, the hemisphere, and the entire world.

Send loving-kindness to the north and south, east and west. Radiate an open heart to all beings in existence—those above and below, the seen and unseen, those being born and those who are dying.

May all beings be peaceful and happy.
May all beings be healthy.
From inner and outer harm, may all beings be safe.
From all suffering, may all beings be free.

After a few moments of sending loving-kindness out to all beings everywhere, let go of the phrases and bring attention back to the breath and body. Be aware of the sensations and emotions that are present.

Whenever you are ready, allow your eyes to open, and bring your attention back to your surroundings.

8/6/2018

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