Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Metta Meditation-Love, Kindness-How Appropriate for February!

Sweet February, the month of love. I remember last year my husband asking what I'd like to do for Valentine's Day-I just wanted dinner at home. The recipe was for salmon with curry sauce-easy to follow-lot's of pictures to help him along. 3 hours later I sat down to a salmon cooked in some sauce that had been altered significantly from the recipe-the picture in the cookbook and what was no my plate had no resemblance to each other.

The meal was irrelevant-it was the thoughtfulness that had gone into spending 3 hours cooking fish trying to make a meal I always enjoyed.

Metta signifies friendship and non-violence as well as "a strong wish for the happiness of others." Metta is in fact a very specific form of love -- a caring for another independent of all self-interest -- and thus is likened to one's love for one's child or parent. Understandably, this energy is often difficult to describe with words; however, in the practice of Metta meditation, one recites specific words and phrases in order to evoke this "boundless warm-hearted feeling."

Metta is a tool that permits one's generosity and kindness to be applied to all beings and, as a consequence, one finds true happiness in another person's happiness, no matter who the individual is.

The hard work and repetition required of an individual engaged in Metta practice endows the four universal wishes (to live happily and to be free from hostility, affliction, and distress), with a very personal inner love, and by so doing, it has the power for personal transformation.

Although serious practitioners of Metta meditation offer Metta for an hour or more morning and evening, you may wish to begin by offering Metta for just 10-15 minutes each day. You may do your practice as a formal sitting meditation or while walking (preferably without destination). You may also choose to integrate your Metta practice with daily chores.

To begin, take a few moments to quiet your mind and focus your attention on the experience of loving kindness. You will begin by offering Metta to yourself. If distracting thoughts arise, acknowledge them, make a mental note to return to them after your Metta practice, but quickly move them aside to maintain concentration.

Recite the following phrases to yourself at a pace that keeps you focused and alert.
1. May I be safe and protected.
2. May I be peaceful and happy.
3. May I be healthy and strong.
4. May I have ease of well being (and accept all the conditions of the world)

Continue reciting the phrases in the first person.

Then when you are comfortable, try offering Metta to a beneficiary, someone who supports you, who has always "been on your side", replacing the "I"in the phrase with "He/She".

Once your Metta flows easily to a loved one, begin to include in your practice one or more of the following categories of persons to whom you will offer Metta:
A close friend.
A neutral person (someone you neither like nor dislike)
A difficult person (no need to start with the most difficult person, but someone whom you might find it hard to like)

Awareness of our feelings toward another is always the first step in converting this energy into loving-kindness. Noticing a feeling of aversion, or indecisiveness, when evoking the image of a particular person in your practice does not mean you are failing to offer Metta. Rather, you are leaping forward in your practice.

In the spirit of Metta and since this is the month of love:

May you be safe and protected.
May you be peaceful and happy.
May you be healthy and strong.
May you have ease of well being. (and accept all the conditions of the world)


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