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Student of the Path - Metta: All of Us - Basic Metta Mediation

BhikkhuJayasaraBhikkhuJayasara Bhikkhu Veteran
edited June 2015 in Meditation

This has been recieved pretty well so I've been sharing. It's how I do metta meditation as taught here at Bhavana and personalized by me.

jayantha.tumblr.com/post/122455835694/metta-all-of-us-i-think-im-going-to-do-a-few

Metta: All of Us

I think I’m going to do a few posts in the upcoming weeks on various topics related to metta. There are a variety of methods but only two practiced come close to what the Buddha taught. The method I wanted to describe today is one I use most often, it is part of my daily practice and connects with me most. What I am showing you here is my version of this practice, the great thing about metta is that you can play with it to find what works for you, you can make it your own.

(Just a quick word on translation of Metta.. it is most often translated as loving-kindness, which is an old translation and to myself and many others does not really encapsulate what is meant by metta. I personally prefer boundless or limitless goodwill, as translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu, which to me fits best, Goodwill being defined as - friendly, helpful, or cooperative feelings or attitude. This is not about loving all beings, or even necessarily liking them, this is about good will. )

The Pali term that best describes the method I will be describing is metta-cetovimutti, Translated as the liberation of mind through limitless goodwill.This method was taught to me here at Bhavana as “exalted metta”. I’ve attached the pictures here for visualization help.

So first things first, as with all proper metta, you need to begin with yourself. You cannot possibly hope to have limitless goodwill for all beings if you do not have it for yourself first. I like to use the simile of the oxygen mask. If you’ve ever been on a plane and listened to the safety speech, you know that the attendant always says if you are traveling with children always put YOUR OWN mask on first before assisting other passengers, Metta is just like that.

So you begin by developing thoughts and feelings of goodwill towards yourself, building up a mind state of good will. You can use words, visualizations, self talk, whatever works for you. The important thing is not the words and visualizations, but the mental state itself, the words and visualizations help get you to that state. The more you practice the easier it is to find that mental state and that “feeling” of metta, even sometimes without needing the words and visuals to get you there.

Here is an example of a set of words I’ve developed for my own use:

May (I/we/all beings) find happines
May (I/we/all beings) find Peace
May (I/we/all beings) Live in friendship with(all beings/each other)
May (I/we/all beings) find release

(for self talk I’ll often say things to myself like “ it’s ok jay, you are doing the best you can, you are doing a good thing by doing your practice, etc. focusing on positive thoughts about yourself and giving yourself a little pep talk. This is something I use not just in metta but even when I’m struggling and during many other times.)

I also imagine the metta being a sort of energy that fills me up, it’s color is purple, not for any reason other then it’s the color I thought fit best. This energy created permeates me as I am giving metta to myself. Now however, once I have that feeling of metta for myself, it’s time to launch that metta ever outwards.

I visualize the metta exploding out from me in the shape of a sphere, almost like some magic spell might look. This sphere grows ever larger, with me at it’s center.

Now here is where it gets good. This sphere gradually gets larger so that it encompasses the whole of the building you are in(or if outside the general property), then larger to encompass all beings in your state, ever larger encompassing all beings in your country, then all beings on the planet. Sometimes I have visualizations where images of a large variety of beings flicker through my awareness, especially at the point where I’ve reached the level of earth.

At this point Earth is there, as in the image above, totally encompassed in that purple sphere of metta. I often take a pause here, before heading out into the universe, and so I will take a quick one and explain that you can use words for each level in addition or even instead of visualizations. This is said just like the word phrasing above, starting with "may all” for each group.

May (all beings/all of us) in/on ( this state/country/planet/universe etc):
-find happines
-find Peace
-Live in friendship with(all beings/each other)
-find release

So now It’s time to branch out. I begin the visualization of the purple metta sphere expanding ever outwards as the earth gets smaller and smaller and then disappears as stars turn into the milky way. You can pause at this point to visualize the whole milky way, with it’s hundred billion stars, encompassed in the metta sphere, you can say the words if you wish.

It’s time to move on again, the milky way gets ever smaller and other galaxies come into view which are also getting smaller millions, billions, hundreds of billions, soon you are looking at the universe(the purple web is essentially a “picture” of the universe put forth by astronomy). At the pause you are with the universe, encompassing all of it whole with your limitless goodwill, all beings everywhere in the universe, in any form of existence, you can say the words once more.

But wait.. we aren’t done here just yet. Being an astronomy buff I take it to the next level. The visualization continues to expand with the metta sphere as the universe itself begins to grow smaller… suddenly it’s encompased in a sphere, and as you expand out you see others, dozens, hundreds, thousands, millions of universes. You are now in the multiverse. it is here where that release of mind reaches it’s peak. You are expanding the metta spehere, expanding your limitless good will, beyond the limits of our current experience. You are now encompassing all beings in any form of existence, in any universe or plane of existence, anywhere, and everywhere.

Every single living being that exists, you offer your goodwill, your friendship, your feelings of camaraderie, for all fellow beings who share existence with you… ALL of US, come into existence, live for a time, then pass away, all of us who have physical forms are children of the stars, ie we are made up of material that came from the heart of an exploding star. I’m not talking about a sort of “universal mind” or “universal one-ness”, the Buddha never taught that, but a camaraderie born of siblingship, of being in the same boat(samsara) as it were.

That is basic exalted metta as taught at Bhavana and personalized by me. I do this process while reciting the metta sutta, while looking up at the stars, when I wake up, and when I go to bed. Remember the words ands visualizations are not set in stone, you find what works best for you to develop the feeling of metta. I often describe the feeling as that feeling you get sitting around the table with close family and friends, a feeling of safety, acceptance, friendship, with no emnity or fear.

Metta is not about whether others like you or hate you or care about you. There is nothing magical about metta, you are not sending healing or peaceful waves at people expecting them to “get” the positive thoughts etc. Metta is about developing your own mind to be free of ill-will and negativity, and that is always worth it.

“Happy indeed we live, friendly amidst the hostile. Amidst hostile men we dwell free from hatred. Dhp 15”

To close, I think this Metta practice is perfectly captured in one of my favorite poems “Outwitted” by Edwin Markham:

“He drew a circle that shut me out — Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout. But Love and I had the wit to win: We drew a circle that took him in!”

namarupalobsterCinorjerWalkerfedericaVastmindTravellerEarthninjanakazcid

Comments

  • VastmindVastmind Memphis, TN Veteran

    Bump.

    lobster
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    “He drew a circle that shut me out — Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout. But Love and I had the wit to win: We drew a circle that took him in!”

    Outstanding! Hope they let me in ... wait no one is outside ... HOORAY!

    namarupaBhikkhuJayasara
  • sovasova delocalized fractyllic harmonizing Veteran

    Boundless or Limitless Goodwill. Excellent. I am also in support of the phrase "Loving-heartedness"

    Thanks very much for your excellent contribution @Jayantha
    Just imagine if everyone did this for 20 minutes a day, how lovely the whole world would be!

    lobsternamarupa
  • edited June 2015

    Thanks Jayantha. This is really helpful. I like your translation of metta as "goodwill."

    I really need to start doing this every day.

    I am really struggling with difficult self-hating thoughts and feelings these days. How do you guys recommend fostering limitless goodwill for myself while I cannot currently bear who I am? I am ruminating over recent unskillful actions and I just haven't been able to forgive myself for them. There is a downward spiral that I keep getting sucked into.

    It does seem clear from my current perspective that I need to be able to foster compassion for myself before I will be able to extend it to others.

    I guess I really just need to start a daily metta practice and intend to offer myself goodwill, and worry not about whether or not I am being genuine with it at first. Tomorrow morning will be day one.

    lobstersilvernakazcid
  • sovasova delocalized fractyllic harmonizing Veteran

    @thegoldeneternity said:
    I guess I really just need to start a daily metta practice and intend to offer myself goodwill, and worry not about whether or not I am being genuine with it at first. Tomorrow morning will be day one.

    Awesome attitude.

    In reality we have all done many many many wholesome (and unwholesome) deeds. We have the seeds for both nirvana and samsara within our minds. Don't sweat the unwholesome deeds. If you are a practitioner of Tantra you can check out Vajrasattva Meditation (Dzogchen Ponlop has an excellent writeup on its practice) ... Basically you take refuge, confess (heartfully) your misdeeds, and do the visualization and purification that way. It's actually a really wonderful practice! I did not notice much of a benefit doing it for a few weeks until all the sudden one day.

    Aside from confessing misdeeds, really the best way is to reflect on positive things you have done. Or, reflect on positive things you have witnessed others do. It is one of my most loved teachings of the Buddha that if one rejoices in the positive actions of others, both the doer and the person appreciating the act get the same merit. Really! So just appreciating the good that is in the world -- maybe the kind lad that holds the door open for you, or your friend bringing you a cup of coffee, or the support of someone you know.

    We all share a common heart, in a way, and it really doesn't matter where the good comes from or where it happens as long as it grows.

    One thing I have noticed is that in a downward spiral, one's vision becomes narrow. So you gotta start with small things and gain traction. When I started rejoicing about simple things on my latest music-festival adventure I started to spontaneously recall all the beautiful things that were going on that weekend. Even though one small perturbance can seem like a pebble that's blocking out the light of the sun, if you can focus even for just a few moments on something wholesome, it will let up and you can go from your new view of the horizon.

    There are some guided metta meditations on youtube, and if you are just starting out and trying to get into the habit I highly recommend you just put on some headphones, do some simple tranquil-abiding meditation for 5-10 minutes to calm and clear your mind, and then play the track. Following someone's cue is great and learning new ways of phrasing always helps me keep practice fresh(er). As Jayantha most beautifully says in his write-up, it's all about the mentality -- the mental state of goodwill, so motion in that direction, no matter what words or phrases, is good.

    Another trick I like is, if you know more than one language, try wording it in a different language to yourself. It can be very refreshing, and probably activates regions of your brain that are specific to that vocabulary, increasing your body-connectivity overall. Not a critical thing but something interesting for those multi-linguists of you to try.

    Joy is a matter of the mind. May yours light up the cosmos.

    thegoldeneternity
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    @thegoldeneternity said:

    It does seem clear from my current perspective that I need to be able to foster compassion for myself before I will be able to extend it to others.

    In a formal practice yes but generally, not necessarily. I tend to adapt the tonglen teachings of tantra. For example I feel positive towards negativity because I can use it to feed the [imagined/visualised] hell realms. They love all that, it is only goodwill to keep them happy with what we don't require ... those lucky devils ...

    Here is some methods including the traditional Tonglen
    http://www.lovers-secrets.com/the-tantra-of-emotions-6-techniques-to-master-and-transform-negative-emotions/

  • BhikkhuJayasaraBhikkhuJayasara Bhikkhu Veteran
    edited June 2015

    @lobster said:
    “He drew a circle that shut me out — Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout. But Love and I had the wit to win: We drew a circle that took him in!”

    Outstanding! Hope they let me in ... wait no one is outside ... HOORAY!

    Yes even aliens and invisible beings, beings from the material, fine material, and immaterial planes, limitless means limitless, if you are excluding its not metta, all lobsters are welcomed!

    -

    @thegoldeneternity said:
    Thanks Jayantha. This is really helpful. I like your translation of metta as "goodwill."

    I really need to start doing this every day.

    I am really struggling with difficult self-hating thoughts and feelings these days. How do you guys recommend fostering limitless goodwill for myself while I cannot currently bear who I am? I am ruminating over recent unskillful actions and I just haven't been able to forgive myself for them. There is a downward spiral that I keep getting sucked into.

    If you cannot bear who you are, make small gradual steps to change that so you can become content with yourself. The buddha taught us to start with the practice of generosity and virtuous living as a basis for our practice.At the same time you can practice forgiving yourself, vowing to do better next time, and start taking it easy with the judgement of yourself.this happens naturally through the practice, so keep that up, but also you can use positive self talk like i explained in the article.

    Make this positive self talk a consistent habit and you will see the results. Before I was even a buddhist or a meditator I wanted to start climbing out of the mire of judgement and negativity so I created what I would later call the positive thought mantra that I would say to myself every morning and when I needed a reminder that negative and judgemental thoughts only made any situation worse.

    In tough times remind yourself of the good things you have done, not just good deeds but also that you are a meditator and how far you've come compared to before, regardless of how large or small the progress. Being able to reflect on good deeds is a part of the practice that helps keep us going through tough times, rejoicing in the merit as it were.

    So in summation: generosity, virtuous living, forgiveness, dropping judgement, positive self talk, all the while continuing to practice meditation. You could even try metta sending it out first and try to include yourself after, but just don't ever forget yourself.

    It does seem clear from my current perspective that I need to be able to foster compassion for myself before I will be able to extend it to others.

    I guess I really just need to start a daily metta practice and intend to offer myself goodwill, and worry not about whether or not I am being genuine with it at first. Tomorrow morning will be day one.

    Fake it until you make it. Metta is a practice like anything else, it will take time.

    lobstersilversova
  • Straight_ManStraight_Man Gentle Man Veteran

    @thegoldeneternity said:
    Thanks Jayantha. This is really helpful. I like your translation of metta as "goodwill."

    I really need to start doing this every day.

    I am really struggling with difficult self-hating thoughts and feelings these days. How do you guys recommend fostering limitless goodwill for myself while I cannot currently bear who I am? I am ruminating over recent unskillful actions and I just haven't been able to forgive myself for them. There is a downward spiral that I keep getting sucked into.

    Think maybe you use metta to let go, or help you let go, of self-hatred. Something in you wants to be caring, compassionate. Give yourself a pep talk as @Jayantha said, but do it daily or even as often as you feel self-hatred. Also recognize that the self-hatred will pass.

    lobsterVastmind
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    In the rules of engagement for the Metta Theravadin, dancing is not allowed unless the sun dances for them.

    Metta to the Sun

    silver
  • 0student00student0 Explorer

    First off, I'm glad members are sharing their practice, that makes it easier for newbs like me to get into Buddhism.
    I need to add, though, that seeing metta as lovingkindness also seems to work very well, after seeing videos of Thich Nhat Hanh and the Australian nun (her name escapes me right now).
    Loving the so-called "negative" emotions (fear, anxiety, anger, etc) really helped me to understand where some of my pain comes from and often relieved much of my stress. From my experience, pain is just a voice that wants to be heard.

    So, @thegoldeneternity

    My advice to you is to be compassionate with yourself right now and to try to understand where exactly that self hatred is coming from. It's often much more trivial than you'd expect.

    lobsterTravellersilverVastmind
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Fake it until you make it. Metta is a practice like anything else, it will take time.

    The uniformed branch following the template of the vinaya are an active example of right being, speech and expression. It is why they are a precious jewel.

    Metta to the Sangha ... ooh I feel a touch of self indulgent metta arriving - for real ...

    To the Buddha for refuge I go
    To the Dharma for refuge I go
    To the Sangha for refuge I go

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