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Brief Instructions for Loving-Kindness Meditation

METTA MEDITATION

The practice of Metta meditation is a beautiful support to other awareness practices. One recites specific words and phrases evoking a “boundless warm-hearted feeling.” The strength of this feeling is not limited to or by family, religion, or social class. We begin with our self and gradually extend the wish for well-being happiness to all beings.

There are different descriptions of the practice. The following is a basic set of instructions from the book “The Issue at Hand” by Gil Fronsdal written as a gift to the community. It is freely given.

To practice loving-kindness meditation, sit in a comfortable and relaxed manner. Take two or three deep breaths with slow, long and complete exhalations. Let go of any concerns or preoccupations. For a few minutes, feel or imagine the breath moving through the center of your chest – in the area of your heart.

Metta is first practiced toward oneself, since we often have difficulty loving others without first loving ourselves. Sitting quietly, mentally repeat, slowly and steadily, the following or similar phrases:

May I be happy. May I be well. May I be safe. May I be peaceful and at ease.

While you say these phrases, allow yourself to sink into the intentions they express. Loving-kindness meditation consists primarily of connecting to the intention of wishing ourselves or others happiness. However, if feelings of warmth, friendliness, or love arise in the body or mind, connect to them, allowing them to grow as you repeat the phrases. As an aid to the meditation, you might hold an image of yourself in your mind’s eye. This helps reinforce the intentions expressed in the phrases.

After a period of directing loving-kindness toward yourself, bring to mind a friend or someone in your life who has deeply cared for you. Then slowly repeat phrases of loving-kindness toward them:

May you be happy. May you be well. May you be safe. May you be peaceful and at ease.

As you say these phrases, again sink into their intention or heartfelt meaning. And, if any feelings of loving-kindness arise, connect the feelings with the phrases so that the feelings may become stronger as you repeat the words.

As you continue the meditation, you can bring to mind other friends, neighbors, acquaintances, strangers, animals, and finally people with whom you have difficulty. You can either use the same phrases, repeating them again and again, or make up phrases that better represent the loving-kindness you feel toward these beings. In addition to simple and perhaps personal and creative forms of metta practice, there is a classic and systematic approach to metta as an intensive meditation practice. Because the classic meditation is fairly elaborate, it is usually undertaken during periods of intensive metta practice on retreat.

Sometimes during loving-kindness meditation, seemingly opposite feelings such as anger, grief, or sadness may arise. Take these to be signs that your heart is softening, revealing what is held there. You can either shift to mindfulness practice or you can—with whatever patience, acceptance, and kindness you can muster for such feelings—direct loving-kindness toward them. Above all, remember that there is no need to judge yourself for having these feelings.

Excerpts gratefully reprinted from the book The Issue at Hand by Gil Fronsdal, guiding teacher of Insight Meditation Center. 

click here to view the full text or download a pdf format

Working with the body

Following the Buddha’s instructions, you can work with the body and body awareness as part of your own spiritual path, most fundamentally as a means for learning to stay present. This is called mindfulness of the body, which the Buddha taught as the First Foundation of Mindfulness practice. When you first begin to meditate, it becomes immediately obvious why the Buddha started with the body-you continually get lost in your thoughts.

~NewBuddhist.com comment

Seeing life

In vipassana meditation we cultivate this special way of seeing life. We train ourselves to see reality exactly as it is, and we call this special mode of perception mindfulness. This process of mindful- ness is really quite different from what we usually do. We usually do not look into what is actually there in front of us. We see life through a screen of thoughts and concepts, and we mistake those mental objects for reality. We get so caught up in this endless thought-stream that reality flows by unnoticed. We spend our time engrossed in activity, caught up in an eternal pursuit of pleasure and gratification and eternal flight from pain and unpleasantness. We spend all of our energies trying to make ourselves feel better, trying to bury our fears, endlessly seeking security. Meanwhile, the world of real experience flows by untouched and untasted. In vipassana meditation we train ourselves to ignore the constant impulses to be more comfortable, and we dive into reality instead.

~Bhante Gunaratana, “Mindfulness in Plain English”

http://www.wisdompubs.org/author/bhante-gunaratana

Mindful Breathing

Ancient Pali texts liken meditation to the process of taming a wild elephant. The procedure in those days was to tie a newly captured animal to a post with a good strong rope. When you do this the elephant is not happy. He screams and tramples, and pulls against the rope for days. Finally it sinks through his skull that he can’t get away, and he settles down. At this point you can begin to feed him and to handle him with some measure of safety. Eventually you can dispense with the rope and post altogether, and train your elephant for various tasks. Now you’ve got a tamed elephant that can be put to useful work. In this analogy the wild elephant is your wildly active mind, the rope is mindfulness, and the post is our object of meditation– breathing. The tamed elephant who emerges from this process is a well trained, concentrated mind that can then be used for the exceedingly tough job of piercing the layers of illusion that obscure reality. Meditation tames the mind.

Bhante Gunaratana
“Mindfulness in Plain English”

HOW TO DO IT
The most basic way to do mindful breathing is simply to focus your attention on your breath, the inhale and exhale.

Find a relaxed, comfortable position. You could be seated on a chair or on the floor on a cushion. Keep your back upright, but not too tight. Hands resting wherever they’re comfortable. Tongue on the roof of your mouth or wherever it’s comfortable.

Notice and relax your body. Try to notice the shape of your body, its weight. Let yourself relax and become curious about your body seated here—the sensations it experiences, the touch, the connection with the floor or the chair. Relax any areas of tightness or tension. Just breathe.

Tune into your breath. Feel the natural flow of breath—in, out. You don’t need to do anything to your breath. Not long, not short, just natural. Notice where you feel your breath in your body. It might be in your abdomen. It may be in your chest or throat or in your nostrils. See if you can feel the sensations of breath, one breath at a time. When one breath ends, the next breath begins.

Now as you do this, you might notice that your mind may start to wander. You may start thinking about other things. If this happens, it is not a problem. It’s very natural. Just notice that your mind has wandered. You can say “thinking” or “wandering” in your head softly. And then gently redirect your attention right back to the breathing.
Stay here for five to seven minutes. Notice your breath, in silence. From time to time, you’ll get lost in thought, then return to your breath.

After a few minutes, once again notice your body, your whole body, seated here. Let yourself relax even more deeply and then offer yourself some appreciation for doing this practice today.

http://ggia.berkeley.edu/practice/mindful_breathing

 

 

 

 

 

The Power of Kamma

“We live a life full of the power of kamma — old kamma and new. You can’t do anything about old kamma. You have to accept it like a good sport. That’s why you practice equanimity. But as for the new kamma you’re creating right now, you can’t practice equanimity with that. You have to be very concerned about what you’re putting into the system because you realize that this is the only chance you get to make the choice. Once the choice is made and it gets put into the system, then whatever the energy — positive or negative — that’s the sort of energy you’re going to have to experience. So pay attention: What are you putting into the system right now? This is the important thing to focus on.”

~ Thanissaro Bhikkhu “Skills to Take with You”, Meditations1,

Read more:

https://www.dhammatalks.org/Archive/Writings/CrossIndexed/Published/Meditations/961112%20M1%20Skills%20to%20Take%20with%20You.pdf

The Most Important Issue in Life

“This is why the Buddha says that uncertainty is overcome by looking at skillful and unskillful qualities in the mind. To begin with, you’re focusing your attention on the most important issue in life, which is what sort of impact your actions are having, and particularly what kind of impact your mind states are having. After all, the source of action is in the mind. If you’re uncertain about different mental qualities, then watch. Try developing goodwill; try being generous; try observing the precepts. See what kind of impact these qualities have on your life.”

~ Thanissaro Bhikkhu “Virtue Contains the Practice”| Read full Dhamma talk

 

Patient endurance

When the Buddha was giving his very first instructions on monastic discipline, and this was to a spontaneous gathering of 1,250 of his enlightened disciples at the Bamboo Grove, his first words were: “Patient endurance is the supreme practice for freeing the heart from unwholesome states.”

So when someone would come to Ajahn Chah with a tale of woe, of how their husband was drinking and the rice crop looked bad this year, his first response would often be: “Can you endure it?” This was said not as some kind of macho challenge, but more as a way of pointing to the fact that the way beyond suffering is neither to run away from it, wallow in it, or even grit one’s teeth and get through on will alone—no—the encouragement of patient endurance is to hold steady in the midst of difficulty, to truly apprehend and digest the experience of dukkha, to understand its causes and let them go.

~From “Food For the Heart: The Collected Teachings of Ajahn Chah”

An Auspicious Day

 

You shouldn’t chase after the past
or place expectations on the future.
What is past
is left behind.
The future
is as yet unreached.
Whatever quality is present
you clearly see right there,
right there.
Not taken in,
unshaken,
that’s how you develop the heart.
Ardently doing
what should be done today,
for — who knows? — tomorrow
death.
There is no bargaining
with Mortality & his mighty horde.

Whoever lives thus ardently,
relentlessly
both day & night,
has truly had an auspicious day:
so says the Peaceful Sage.

Bhaddekaratta Sutta: An Auspicious Day” (MN 131), translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight (BCBS Edition), 30 November 2013,

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.131.than.html

Mindfulness Defined

What does it mean to be mindful of the breath? Something very simple: to keep the breath in mind. Keep remembering the breath each time you breathe in, each time you breathe out. The British scholar who coined the term “mindfulness” to translate the Pali word sati was probably influenced by the Anglican prayer to be ever mindful of the needs of others—in other words, to always keep their needs in mind. But even though the word “mindful” was probably drawn from a Christian context, the Buddha himself defined sati as the ability to remember, illustrating its function in meditation practice with the four satipatthanas, or establishings of mindfulness.

“And what is the faculty of sati? There is the case where a monk, a disciple of the noble ones, is mindful, highly meticulous, remembering & able to call to mind even things that were done & said long ago. (And here begins the satipatthana formula:) He remains focused on the body in & of itself — ardent, alert, & mindful — putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world. He remains focused on feelings in & of themselves… the mind in & of itself… mental qualities in & of themselves — ardent, alert, & mindful — putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world.”

— SN 48.10x

Mindfulness Defined”, by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight (BCBS Edition), 1 December 2012,

To read more about Sati:

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/mindfulnessdefined.html

Continue reading Mindfulness Defined

Educating fear

“.. Don’t hate your fears or fear your fears. Learn how to educate them. When they’re educated and trained, they’re part of the path to the end of suffering. This is part of the Buddha’s genius: He took things that many of us don’t like about the mind, things that actually cause trouble in the mind, and learned how to tame them, to train them, so that they actually become part of the path to the end of suffering. In this way, you can reach a place in the mind where there really is no more reason to fear. As Ven. Ananda said, you use desire to come to the end of desire. In the same way, you can use fear, treating it wisely, to bring yourself to the end of fear. And as it turns out, that’s the only way you can get there.”

~ Thanissaro Bhikkhu from “The Uses of Fear”

 

 

Like a cup of water

“Many of those who come to see me have a high standing in the community. Among them are merchants, college graduates, teachers, and government officials. Their minds are filled with opinions about things. They are too clever to listen to others. It is like a cup of water. If a cup is filled with stale, dirty water, it is useless. Only after the old water is thrown out can the cup  become useful.

“You must empty your minds of opinions, then you will see. Our practice goes beyond cleverness and stupidity. If you think that you are clever, wealthy, important, or an expert in Buddhism, you cover up the truth of non-self. All you will see is self — I and mine. But Buddhism is letting go of self. Those who are too clever will never learn. They must first get rid of their cleverness, first empty their ‘cup.'”

~ Ajahn Chah

The Path of Practice is Nothing Far Away

DHAMMATALK

Ajahn Chah

Ajahn Chah was one of the great Buddhist masters of the 20th century. The following is a vintage talk given by him in his direct and unadorned style of teaching. The aside (“Whose parents are these?”) is quite charming and the extemporaneous talk he gives turns into an illuminating seminar on sitting meditation practice. Translated from the Thai by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

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This was a public talk by Ajahn Chah given on October 10, 1977, addressed to the parents of a monk who had come from France to visit their son at his Thai monastery. From “Still Flowing Water”

SO NOW… There’s been not enough time…. too little time…. You’ve been visiting for many days now, and we haven’t had the chance to talk, to ask questions, because here at Wat Nong Pa Pong there’ve been many visitors, both day and night. So we haven’t had the opportunity to talk.

[Aside: Whose parents are these?]

[Answer: Ṭhitiñāṇo’s.]

Ṭhitiñāṇo’s parents have come to visit from Paris for several days now, staying three nights at Wat Pa Pong and three nights at Wat Pa Nanachat. In two days you’re going to leave. So I’d like to take the opportunity to tell you how glad I am that you made the effort to come here to Wat Nong Pa Pong and that you’ve had the chance

to visit with your son, the monk. I’m glad for you, but I don’t have any gift to give to you.

There are already lots of material things and whatnot in Paris. Lots of material things. But there’s not much Dhamma to nourish people’s hearts and bring them peace. There’s not much at all. From what I observed when I was there, all I could see were things to stir up the heart and give it trouble all the time. From what I observed, Paris seems to be very advanced in terms of all kinds of material things that are sensual objects—sights, sounds, smells, tastes, tactile sensations, and ideas that act as temptations for people who aren’t familiar with the Dhamma, getting them all stirred up. So now I’d like to give a gift of Dhamma that you can put into practice in Paris after you leave Wat Nong Pa Pong and Wat Pa Nanachat.

The Dhamma is a condition that can cut through and reduce the problems and difficulties in the human heart—reducing them, reducing them until they’re gone. This condition is called Dhamma. So you should train yourself in this Dhamma in your daily life. When any preoccupation strikes and disturbs the mind, you can then solve the problem, you can resolve it. That’s because problems of this sort, everyone—whether here in Thailand, abroad, everywhere: If you don’t know how to solve this problem, it’s normal that you suffer.

When this sort of problem arises, the way to solve it is discernment:

building discernment, training discernment, making discernment arise from within our heart. As for the path of practice, it’s nothing far away. It’s right within you: in your body and mind. It’s the same whether you’re Thai or from abroad. The body and mind are what stir up trouble. But the body and mind can bring peace.
Continue reading The Path of Practice is Nothing Far Away