Don't Just Do Something
Don't Just Do Something
Metta is a word in the ancient language of the Buddha that means "loving kindness" or "friendliness". It is the first of what we call in Refuge Recovery 'the heart practices" (and elsewhere in Buddhism). There are four of them, Metta, or loving kindness, Koruna, or Compassion, Mudita or appreciative joy and Upekkha or equanimity. These four states of mind are also called the Divine Abodes, because living with such wonderful mind states is divine.
In Sharon Salzberg's book Lovingkindness, she says that Metta is also translated as gentleness. I have also heard it described as goodness, or our original goodness. Either way I think you get the point, the exact translation is less important then just getting on with learning to embody it. The beginning of practicing and cultivating Metta starts with two different things. One is reading the Metta Sutta
https://accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/snp/snp.1.08.amar.html is a ilnk to read it.
It is suggested to read it everyday as it has instructions for living that are incredibly helpful for everyone.
Second it meditating on Metta using the phrases and going through the stages.
Phrases such as "May you be happy", "May you be safe ", "May you live with ease" "May you be free from suffering"
The stages are as follows, we first offer the phrases to ourselves, then to a good friend, a benefactor, a neutral person, a difficult person and then to the entire world. Offering the phrases and paying attention to what we notice, think and feel. Slowly but surely our loving heart opens towards all beings, and especially towards ourselves.
My teacher suggested a meditation cycle of one day breath meditation and one day Metta for myself only. Eventually we add in the others stages.
Please share your experience with Metta in the comments. Questions as well! Thanks for reading and I wish you much Metta!
A daily meditation practice. Why is this important? Everything we do in Refuge is based upon mindfulness. Our mindfulness comes from our meditation practice, also called Vipassana, Insight meditation, or awareness meditation - we increase our mindfulness each time we sit.
Without a daily practice growing your mindfulness is difficult. Mindfulness, also known as self awareness, is required to pay attention to the thought processes that can take us back to our old behaviors. With mindfulness we are able to become aware when negative thoughts arise, and we can choose to not get involved - thereby eliminating a crisis. Self awareness also is required for most other stages on the path to recovery. I’ll discuss more about self awareness and recovery in a future blog post.
So how does one start a daily practice? First, find a place to sit everyday that you can leave your cushion or chair in place, I strongly suggest a sitting posture. Laying down most often leads to falling asleep. You do not need to purchase an expensive meditation cushion. You can pile up some towels or a blanket, just make a comfortable spot to sit for 5 or 10 minutes to start. Other than that all you need is yourself and a little bit of time..
Let others know that this time is your meditation time and to please respect it. Turn off your phone ringer. Choose a regular time each day to sit, having a set time makes it a date with yourself to meditate. If you have this set time it is harder to forget to sit or shrug it off until later. Remember you are creating a new, healthy habit and it will take some effort on your part, but it is worth it.
When to sit? it is best to sit in the morning if you can. By the end of the day the chance for falling asleep or spending much of the meditation going over your day is much greater. Plus it gives you a great start to your day.
How much time to sit? Even if you start with five minutes, do it everyday. Consider an app like Insight Timer to track your progress. It is more important to spend whatever time you choose to sit actually following the practice, rather than logging in a long sit that is simply spaced out time. The real benefits from meditation come when we are aware for as much of our sit time as possible. And remember to always be kind to yourself when the mind does wander or you get sleepy. This is what the mind does, even after years of practice, wandering will happen at times. Quality over quantity.
I also suggest using guided meditations in the beginning , they will give you the fundamentals of what a practice is. Insight Timer has a “learn to meditate in seven days” free course. Obviously I am a big fan of Insight Timer. If you download the free version, the search tab allows you to put in a phrase. For beginners try “breath”, or “body”. You can also try terms like “Metta” or “loving kindness”. “Insight” or “mindfulness” will also bring up some good options. The filter allows you to choose other options. Some like background music others do not. You can save which meditations you like by hitting the tab on the top right. You can also save the teacher so you can listen to more by her/him in the future. There are other meditation apps out there but of the ones I have tried IT is by far the easiest to use and has the most free content, plus a great timer function and a tracking function for your progress. If you want to use another app obviously go for it. Whatever gets you on the cushion and meditating is a plus.
I hope if you aren’t already sitting everyday, you will start today!
Thanks for your practice!
This blog is written by Triangle Refuge Recovery Sangha members and provided for the benefit of the Sangha.