Thursday, July 30, 2015

Abiding in Lovingkindness [AUDIO]

In this week's meditation we practice Metta Bhavana (Cultivating Lovingkindness), while contemplating what it means to abide in lovingkindness.

Metta, or lovingkindness, is one of the four Brahma Viharas, or heavenly abodes. We consider what it means to abide in metta as we practice.

As inspiration for this we use the beautiful Karaniya Metta Sutta, which says:
This is what should be done
By one who is skilled in goodness,
And who knows the path of peace:
Let them be able and upright,
Straightforward and gentle in speech,
Humble and not conceited,
Contented and easily satisfied,
Unburdened with duties and frugal in their ways.
Peaceful and calm and wise and skillful,
Not proud or demanding in nature.
Let them not do the slightest thing
That the wise would later reprove.
Wishing: In gladness and in safety,
May all beings be at ease.
Whatever living beings there may be;
Whether they are weak or strong, omitting none,
The great or the mighty, medium, short or small,
The seen and the unseen,
Those living near and far away,
Those born and to-be-born —
May all beings be at ease!
Let none deceive another,
Or despise any being in any state.
Let none through anger or ill-will
Wish harm upon another.
Even as a mother protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all living beings;
Radiating kindness over the entire world:
Spreading upwards to the skies,
And downwards to the depths;
Outwards and unbounded,
Freed from hatred and ill-will.
Whether standing or walking, seated or lying down
Free from drowsiness,
One should sustain this recollection.
This is said to be the sublime abiding.
By not holding to fixed views,
The pure-hearted one, having clarity of vision,
Being freed from all sense desires,
Is not born again into this world.

The audio, including a  fully guided meditation is below.

If the embedded audio player above doesn't work for you, please click here.

translated from the Pali by The Amaravati Sangha. Access to Insight (Legacy Edition), 2 November 2013

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Metta Letter: Stop what you're doing... and breathe!

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Trying Too Hard [AUDIO]

In this meditation we reflect on our tendency to try too hard. This came about because, well, I was trying too hard myself and came to realize that I needed to let go of my hopes of a specific outcome.

You can hear the whole story in the introduction to the meditation.

I used this experience - of realizing I was trying to hard - as the inspiration for the latesr "Metta Letter", You can read the full letter here.

The audio, including a  fully guided meditation is below.

If the embedded audio player above doesn't work for you, please click here.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Meditation: Change and Impermanence

“I consider the positions of kings and rulers as that of dust motes. I observe treasures of gold and gems as so many bricks and pebbles. I look upon the finest silken robes as tattered rags. I see myriad worlds of the universe as small seeds of fruit, and the greatest lake in India as a drop of oil on my foot. I perceive the teachings of the world to be the illusion of magicians.”

- From "Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, attributed to The Buddha

The concept of Impermanence is central to Buddhist thought. While it is easy to understand intellectually that all things change, it is hard for us as human beings to truly internalize this truth and to really live our lives understanding that this is the fundamental nature of all things.

In this meditation we take a gentle look at the nature of change in our lives, in our bodies, and in the world around us.

I am indebted to Bodhipaksa, whose blog post Six ways of reflecting on impermanence was highly influential on the specific form of this meditation.

The full audio, including a  full guided Metta meditation is below.

If the embedded audio player above doesn't work for you, please click here.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Lovingkindness, Weeds and Judgment [AUDIO]

I've always been perplexed by the concept of 'weeds'. The fact that we arbitrarily divide flora into 'good' flowers and 'bad' weeds has always struck me as capricious.

Of course, when we consider Metta or Lovingkindness practice we come up against exactly the same realization - that our division of the world into 'friends' and 'enemies' is equally subjective and unhelpful.

When contemplating this it reminded me of a song I heard in my youth by the Christian singer-songwriter Graham Kendrick. He wrote:

Teach me to love the unlovely O Lord
I don’t know how to do it
Teach me to love the impossible people
I really don’t like
I don’t naturally take to some folks
I can’t make out the way that they are
I just don’t understand other people who aren’t like me at all

Just how radical this acceptance of all beings - including ourselves - is can be seen from the following passage from the Pali Canon:

Loving-kindness ought to be brought to the point where there are no longer any barriers set between persons, and for this the following example is given: Suppose a man is with a dear, a neutral and a hostile person, himself being the fourth; then bandits come to him and say "we need one of you for human sacrifice." Now if that man thinks "Let then take this one, or that one," he has not yet broken down the barriers, and also if he thinks "Let them take me but not these three," he has not broken down the barriers either. Why not? Because he seeks the harm of him who he wishes to be taken and the welfare of only the other three. It is only when he does not see a single one among the four to be chosen in preference to the other three, and directs his mind quite impartially towards himself and the other three, that he has broken down the barriers
You can read the whole teaching here.

The full audio, including a  full guided Metta meditation is below.

If the embedded audio player above doesn't work for you, please click here.

photo credit: P1015405 via photopin (license)