Thursday, December 31, 2015

Metta Letter: Forget the New Year Resolutions and Do Nothing Now!

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Friday, December 18, 2015

Just Sitting: Doing Nothing for the Holidays

What is the best gift you can give yourself for the Holidays?


The holidays are, for many of us, a mixed experience. There is joy and friendship, coupled with stress and good old fashioned consumerism. Striking a balance can be hard.

And then there's the question of what can you give yourself?

I often refer to meditation as a 'gift' you can give yourself. There is an apocryphal story of a meditation teacher who was asked how often you should meditate. His answer was simple: "Once a day, unless you are busy, in which case twice a day."

So this holiday be sure to give yourself the gift of doing noting - as often as you need it!


The following audio is a short introduction to 'Just Sitting' meditation, together with a fully guided 30 minute sit.


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

photo credit: Creepy Santa via photopin (license)

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Lovingkindness as a Radical Act [AUDIO]


Is practicing Lovingkindness the spiritual equivalent of rainbows and ponies, or is it a truly radical act?


In this week's meditation we cut through the tendency to equate generating Metta (lovingkindness) with simple positive thinking. Metta is not simply repeating aphorisms, or striving to be 'nice'. At it's heart it is a truly radical stance, that is at complete odds with our culture and society.

Choosing to follow the path of lovingkindness is hard, and sets you apart from the norms most live by.

As Chögyam Trungpa says in "The Sacred Path of the Warrior";
“The essence of warriorship, or the essence of human bravery, is refusing to give up on anyone or anything.” 
That's refusing to give up loving yourself, your friend, the neutral person, your enemy - and all sentient beings.

And that is radical.

In the audio below we have a short introduction, together with a fully guided 30 minute Metta (Lovingkindness) Meditation.




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

Monday, August 31, 2015

Working With Anger [AUDIO]


One of the traditional five hindrances to our meditation is ill-will, the hatred that is often the product of anger. Most of us have not reached the level of equanimity we strive for and often experience anger. What is critical then is whether we allow the anger to poison and consume us, or whether we can recognize it and channel it into more positive emotions, such as loving-kindness.

The teacher Phillip Moffitt says:
…the antidote to anger is loving-kindness and compassion. If you’re angry with someone, you hold them in your heart with loving-kindness and compassion; if you’re angry with yourself, you do the same. But because you sometimes get swept away by anger, you forget your intention to respond with loving-kindness and compassion. Also, anger isn’t always so easy to recognize—sometimes it’s disguised as numbness, depression, helplessness, or fear. By applying mindfulness to your moments of anger, you can begin to see anger as it is arising and its harmful effects. As you continue to stay present to the anger, you realize that “This anger is not me, nor mine. It is just a mind state that like the weather will change before long.” This insight releases you from the prison of your anger. Although this may sound simplistic, it truly works.

In the audio below we discuss how we can change how we can work with our anger by practicing the cultivation of loving-kindness, together with a fully guided 30 minute Metta (Loving-kindness) Meditation.




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

Phillip Moffitt quote from "Working Mindfully with Anger"
photo credit: (d)anger via photopin (license)

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Finding Meditation Hard? That's Good! [AUDIO]


It should all be so easy. You just sit, do nothing for 20 minutes, thirty minutes, an hour. How hard can that be?

Sometimes it can be a shock that meditation is so hard. It is easy when that happens to assume that somehow you are a lousy meditator. Yet when we do this we are missing the point. Meditation is hard. We should expect it to be so. An athlete who sweats is getting a great workout. A meditator who struggles is doing real work.

The individual struggle with meditation is not new, and The Buddha spoke much about it. Remember, he was mostly speaking to monks who had devoted their whole lives to meditation - and they still had the same difficulties we do. He identified five key 'hindrances' to meditation, as described in the passage below:

There are five impediments and hindrances, overgrowths of the mind that stultify insight. What five?
Sensual desire is an impediment and hindrance, an overgrowth of the mind that stultifies insight. Ill-will... Sloth and torpor... Restlessness and remorse... Sceptical doubt are impediments and hindrances, overgrowths of the mind that stultify insight.

In the audio below we have a short introduction to the traditional five hindrances to meditation, together with a fully guided 30 minute Mindfulness Meditation.




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

Quote from "The Five Mental Hindrances and Their Conquest: Selected Texts from the Pali Canon and the Commentaries", compiled and translated by Nyanaponika Thera. Access to Insight (Legacy Edition), 30 November 2013

photo credit: snagglewood via photopin (license)

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Lessons from the Bamboo Acrobat [Audio]



Is meditation practice ultimately selfish? Is it right to spend our energy focused on ourselves when there is so much pain and suffering in the world?

This dilemma is not a new one, and is explored in one of my favorite stories - the story of The Bamboo Acrobat. Here is what it says:

[The Buddha addressed the monks:]
Once upon a time, monks, a bamboo acrobat, setting himself upon his bamboo pole, addressed his assistant Medakathalika:
"Come you, my dear Medakathalika, and climbing up the bamboo pole, stand upon my shoulders."
"Okay, master" the assistant Medakathalika replied to the bamboo acrobat; and climbing up the bamboo pole she stood on the master's shoulders.
So then the bamboo acrobat said this to his assistant Medakathalika: "You look after me, my dear Medakathalika, and I'll look after you. Thus with us looking after one another, guarding one another, we'll show off our craft, receive some payment, and safely climb down the bamboo pole."
This being said, the assistant Medakathalika said this to the bamboo acrobat: "That will not do at all, master! You look after yourself, master, and I will look after myself. Thus with each of us looking after ourselves, guarding ourselves, we'll show off our craft, receive some payment, and safely climb down from the bamboo pole. That's the right way to do it!"
[The Buddha said:]
Just like the assistant Medakathalika said to her master: "I will look after myself," so should you, monks, practice the establishment of mindfulness. You should (also) practice the establishment of mindfulness (by saying) "I will look after others."
Looking after oneself, one looks after others.
Looking after others, one looks after oneself.
And how does one look after others by looking after oneself?
By practicing (mindfulness), by developing (it), by doing (it) a lot.
And how does one look after oneself by looking after others?
By patience, by non-harming, by loving kindness, by caring (for others).
(Thus) looking after oneself, one looks after others; and looking after others, one looks after oneself.

I love the lines "Looking after oneself, one looks after others. Looking after others, one looks after oneself." This is a mantra we can all live by.

In the audio below we have a short exploration of what this story means to those of us who meditate, together with a fully guided 30 minute Mindfulness Meditation.




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


photo credit: bamboo via photopin (license)

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Gratitude Meditation [AUDIO]


In his classic 'The Gospel of The Buddha', Paul Caras recounts this tale:
On a certain day when the Blessed One dwelt at Jetavana, the garden of Anathapindika, a celestial deva came to him in  the shape of a Brahman enlightened and wearing clothing as white as snow.
The deva asked,
What is the sharpest sword? What is the deadliest poison?
What is the fiercest fire? What is the darkest night?
The Blessed One replied,
The sharpest sword is a word spoken in wrath; the deadliest poison is covetousness;
the fiercest fire is hatred; the darkest night is ignorance.
The deva said,
What is the greatest gain? What is the greatest loss?
Which armor is invulnerable? What is the best weapon?
The Blessed One replied,
The greatest gain is to give to others; the greatest loss is to greedily receive without gratitude;
an invulnerable armor is patience; the best weapon is wisdom.
I find it interesting that of all the things that The Buddha could have listed as 'the greatest loss' he specifically chose receiving without gratitude. When we are lacking in gratitude it is our own lives that are the poorer.

The teacher Philip Moffat says the following:
Gratitude for the grace of conscious embodiment evolves into the practice of selfless gratitude, in which your concerns slowly but surely shift from being mostly about yourself and those close to you to being about all living beings. As this occurs, you need less and less in the way of good fortune. It becomes enough that there are those who are happy, who are receiving love, who are safe, and who have a promising future. It is not that you would not prefer good things for yourself, but your sense of well-being is no longer contingent on external circumstances. You are able to rejoice that amidst all life's suffering there exists joy. You realize that pain and joy are part of a mysterious whole. When this state of selfless gratitude starts to blossom, your mind becomes more spacious, quieter, and your heart receives its first taste of the long-sought release from fear and wanting. This is grace. 
In this meditation we practice cultivating gratitude in our own lives. The form of the meditation we use is based on one suggested by Jack Kornfield. I highly recommend you read the whole article that this is based on, it is an excellent teaching.

The audio, including a  fully guided meditation is below.



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


photo credit: Hungry minds via photopin (license)

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!

If you are not on the 'Metta Letter' mailing list you can read the latest tiny newsletter by clicking here. You can also subscribe to future mailings here. I promise to keep them short, interesting and infrequent!

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)

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Reading: A Mind like Sky


In this evening's meditation we contemplated passages from Jack Kornfield's teachings on "A Mind Like Sky". You can read the full teaching here.

The passages I read were:
Meditation comes alive through a growing capacity to release our habitual entanglement in the stories and plans, conflicts and worries that make up the small sense of self, and to rest in awareness. In meditation we do this simply by acknowledging the moment-to-moment changing conditions—the pleasure and pain, the praise and blame, the litany of ideas and expectations that arise. Without identifying with them, we can rest in the awareness itself, beyond conditions, and experience what my teacher Ajahn Chah called jai pongsai, our natural lightness of heart. Developing this capacity to rest in awareness nourishes samadhi (concentration), which stabilizes and clarifies the mind, and prajna (wisdom), that sees things as they are.
[...]
We may find ourself caught in the grip of some repetitive thought pattern or painful situation, or lost in great physical or emotional suffering. Perhaps there is chaos and noise around us. We sit and our heart is tight, our body and mind are neither relaxed nor gracious, and even the witnessing can seem tedious, forced, effortful.
In this circumstance we can open the lens of attention to its widest angle and let our awareness become like space or the sky. As the Buddha instructs in the Majjhima Nikaya, “Develop a mind that is vast like space, where experiences both pleasant and unpleasant can appear and disappear without conflict, struggle or harm. Rest in a mind like vast sky.”
[...]
The Buddha said, “O Nobly Born, remember the pure open sky of your own true nature. Return to it. Trust it. It is home.”

Photo credit: Touch via photopin (license)

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Walking Meditation [AUDIO]


Meditation isn't something that only happens seated on the cushion. There are many 'formal' forms of meditation, including seated and walking, but in truth any activity can become a meditation if we are fully present and aware. One of the great learnings from this meditation can be how a simple activity - such as walking - can become a powerful opportunity to be present.

In this meditation we mix a seated breath meditation with a short walking meditation. To guide us on our way we use some words and suggestions from the great teacher Thich Nhat Hahn. You can read the full instruction here. Thay suggests we use the following 'gatha' or verse:

(Breathing in) “I have arrived”; (Breathing out) “I am home”
(Breathing in) “In the here”; (Breathing out) “In the now”
(Breathing in) “I am solid”; (Breathing out) “I am free”
(Breathing in) “In the ultimate”; (Breathing out) “I dwell”

For those of you using the audio in your own practice there are three phases separated by bells. The first phase is a simple breath meditation, seated. We then transition to walking. If you are at home you can simply walk around your home, or out in the yard. If you are in an open area you can walk around and use a bench as your seated place. Wherever you are you should be able to meditate with us.

The full audio, including a 35 minute guided meditation is below.



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


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Cultivating Lovingkindness for All Beings [AUDIO]


When we think about the concept of Metta - Lovingkindness - we often say that it is unconditional. In other words, that our love for the person is not dependent on whether we like them or not, or whether we judge them to be 'good' or not, or even whether we know them or not.

As we move deeper into the practice we also realize that true metta is not even dependent on whether they are human. We soon recognize that all sentient beings can suffer, and that all wish to be happy. As we begin to realize this we can start to include all creatures into our meditation. Traditionally we don't even stop at humans and animals, but include all beings in all realms, known or unknown.

In this guided meditation we cultivate metta as we normally would, but you are encouraged to widen your loving heart beyond just people and to all living beings.

The full audio, including a 30 minute guided meditation is below.



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

Friday, May 1, 2015

Metta Letter: Excellent Practice (with added Daleks!)

If you are not on the 'Metta Letter' mailing list you can read the latest tiny newsletter by clicking here. You can also subscribe to future mailings here. I promise to keep them short, interesting and infrequent!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Meditation: Generating Bodhicitta (Awakened Heart) [AUDIO]

In this meditation we contemplate Bodhicitta. Literally, this means 'Awakened Heart-Mind', which is the state of wishing to be enlightened not for our own personal gain, but for the love of all beings.

When we meditate we are encouraged to approach our practice using the 'Three Excellences' - firstly by starting with an attitude of Bodhicitta, then while practicing we should have no attachment to results, and finally when we have finished our practice we offer any achievement ('merit') for the benefit of others.

The concept of Bodhicitta was most famously taught by the 8th Century monk Shantideva. He was an interesting and colorful character, as you can read here. Here are some of his words on Bodhicitta:

"Whatever joy there is in this world
All comes from desiring others to be happy,
And whatever suffering there is in this world,
All comes from desiring myself to be happy.
But what need is there to say much more?
The childish work for their own benefit,
The Buddhas work for the benefit of others.
Just look at the difference between them!"
There are traditional ways of generating Bodhicitta that are beyond the scope of a short 30-Minute introductory meditation. However we can still start to align our hearts towards the benefit of others by meditating on the simple 'Bodhicitta Prayer':

May the supreme jewel bodhicitta
that has not arisen arise and grow,
and may that which has arisen not diminish,
but increase more and more.

The full audio, including a 30 minute guided meditation is below.



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

POSTPONED: Tibetan Sand Mandala at Clark College, Vancouver

According to the Clark College Website this event has unfortunately be postponed. They say:
Important Update: The monks have not received their visa yet. At this time, their visit has been postponed to an undetermined date and may in fact be cancelled. We certainly hope that they will be able to come and we will update here and at the International Events website if/when they are able to reschedule. (4/29/15 4:26 p.m.)
There is another opportunity to experience the creation (and destruction) of a beautiful sand mandala at Clark College next week (May 4th - 8th). Watching this powerful meditative form is a wonderful experience and we are truly blessed to be able to witness it. If you have seen this before you will know why I am encouraging you all to go and see it. Meditation doesn't only (or even mainly) happen on the cushion!

The details can be seen at the Columbian Newspaper here.

For a taster, here is some video of when the monks did this three years ago:


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Meditation and the Art of Beginning Again [AUDIO]

Too often in our meditations we strive towards some self-imposed picture of progress, and in doing so we miss the point of simply sitting and being present in the moment. Clinging to 'results' and 'achievement' in meditation is just as problematic as clinging to material things.

Instead, if we recognize that 'beginning again' is a natural part of our practice then we can calm our minds and stay present. Sharon Salzberg puts it like this:
The moment you realize you’ve been distracted is the magic moment. It’s a chance to be really different, to try a new response. Rather than tell yourself you’re weak or undisciplined, or give up in frustration, simply let go and begin again. In fact, instead of chastising yourself, you might thank yourself for recognizing that you’ve been distracted, and for returning to your breath. This act of beginning again is the essential art of the meditation practice.
So, rather than feeling that you are somehow 'doing it wrong' when you get distracted or wander off, instead recognize that this is the meditation, and gently bring your attention back to the breath.

You can read the full article by Sharon Salzberg here.

This meditation was recorded on Easter Sunday, 2015.

 The full audio, including a 30 minute guided meditation is below.



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

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Meditation on The Four Foundations of Mindfulness [AUDIO]

Mindfulness as a concept has become very trendy, with self-help gurus proclaiming it as the next big thing in Management Training. Certainly mindfulness as a technique is highly valuable and can have many benefits. I do worry, however, that thinking that mindfulness is all about personal material gain is completely missing the point.

What mindfulness really does for us is open our eyes (and hearts) to the way the world really is, to see beyond the delusions of our ego and to see things as they actually are.

In this meditation we get a brief taster of what it means to practice the Four Foundations of Mindfulness. The Four Foundations were taught by the Buddha as a sure way to attain enlightenment. I would highly recommend before listening to the meditation reading the excerpt from the original teachings in our previous post.

 The full audio, including a 30 minute guided meditation is below.



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

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Reading: The Four Foundations of Mindfulness (The Satipatthana Sutta)

Over the next few weeks we are going to look at The Four Foundations of Mindfulness. This evening we meditated on Mindfulness of the Body*.

In introducing it I read the following passages from The Satipatthana Sutta. The full sutta can be found here. I highly recommend reading through it all.

“Bhikkhus, this is the direct path for the purification of beings, for the surmounting of sorrow and lamentation, for the disappearance of pain and grief, for the attainment of the true way, for the realisation of Nibbāna—namely, the four foundations of mindfulness.  
“What are the four? Here, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu abides contemplating the body as a body, ardent, fully aware, and mindful, having put away covetousness and grief for the world. He abides contemplating feelings as feelings, ardent, fully aware, and mindful, having put away covetousness and grief for the world. He abides contemplating mind as mind, ardent, fully aware, and mindful, having put away covetousness and grief for the world. He abides contemplating mind-objects as mind-objects, ardent, fully aware, and mindful, having put away covetousness and grief for the world.
[...] 
“Again, bhikkhus, when walking, a bhikkhu understands: ‘I am walking’; when standing, he understands: ‘I am standing’; when sitting, [57] he understands: ‘I am sitting’; when lying down, he understands: ‘I am lying down’; or he understands accordingly however his body is disposed. 7. “In this way he abides contemplating the body as a body internally, externally, and both internally and externally … And he abides independent, not clinging to anything in the world. That too is how a bhikkhu abides contemplating the body as a body.

Passages © Bhikkhu Bodhi, The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha (Wisdom Publications, 2009)

(*) Unfortunately the audio for the meditation for that evening is not available.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Metta Letter: Happiness

If you are not on the 'Metta Letter' mailing list you can read the latest tiny newsletter by clicking here. You can also subscribe to future mailings here. I promise to keep them short, interesting and infrequent!

Generating Metta (Lovingkindness) for a Benefactor [AUDIO]

In this meditation we focus on generating lovingkindness (Metta) for a 'benefactor' - someone who we feel deep gratitude towards.

When we do the full Metta Bhavana (Cultivation of Lovingkindness) practice we usually just use four specific people to practice with:

  • Our self
  • A friend
  • A 'neutral' person
  • An 'enemy', or difficult person
We have covered these all in detail in previous posts. However, traditionally there was an extra person introduced. This person was the 'benefactor' - someone who you had a deep feeling of gratitude towards. When the meditation was originally taught it was within a monastic tradition, and the monks would have taken a brave step of depending on the kindness of others to live. Thus the importance of the benefactor.

For us we still have many people who we owe gratitude towards. Whether it be our parents who gave us life, our teachers along the path or even those who did things to us we disliked but we learned from. Whoever they are, we introduce them in this meditation and practice both gratitude and deep, unconditional love.


The full audio, including a 30 minute guided meditation is below.



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

Friday, March 6, 2015

Generating Lovingkindness for an Enemy [AUDIO]

In this meditation we focus on generating lovingkindness (Metta) for an 'Enemy' or difficult person.

As you may have seen from my previous post, I was unable to use the audio from our meditation session in the studio, so instead I chose to re-record the introduction based on my notes. So this isn't exactly what I said in class, but it is close!

The full audio, including a 30 minute guided meditation is below.



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

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Yangsi: Movie Recommendation


I today watched the beautiful documentary "Yangsi", and would like to recommend it to all of you who are interested in other meditation cultures. It is a 'fly on the wall' movie about the life of Khyentse Yangsi Rinpoche, a young boy who at the age of four was recognized as the rebirth of the great teacher Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. The film follows him from the age of four through to his first teaching at seventeen.

For me I found this at first fascinating, and then incredibly moving as you saw him blossom into his life as a teacher. The film is very honest about his humanity, and I came away with a profound feeling of devotion to the young master.

If (like me) you enjoyed the movie "Boyhood," which showed an ordinary boy in America growing up you won't fail to find interesting parallels in this movie about a very different boyhood.

Tibetan beliefs and rituals can seem very foreign to us in the West, and it is fascinating when the movie covers his first teaching tour of the US. The cultural difference is palpable, and yet at the same time you can see how we are all seeking the same happiness.

This is a short documentary of about 80 minutes, and I highly recommend it if you would like a glimpse into the inner workings of Tibetan practices.

You can read more about the movie here. The movie is available on Netflix or on DVD or streaming from Amazon.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Audio Experiment So Far...



Unfortunately there won't be audio from last week's meditation, where we covered "Generating Metta for an Enemy." There were technical problems - long story short the microphone wasn't plugged in correctly. My apologies.

Anyway, this is a good opportunity to ask how you feel the experiment in recording the sessions has been. Do you have any suggestions or comments? Thanks to those of you who have already reached out, your encouragement has been much appreciated.

Feel free to comment below, or send a message to me directly. Thanks!


Sunday, March 1, 2015

Generating Metta for the 'Neutral' Person [AUDIO]

In this meditation we look a little deeper at cultivating Metta for a neutral person. There is very little written or discussed about this step in the traditional Metta Bhavana (Cultivation of Lovingkindness) practice, and yet for me this is in many ways the critical step. If you can truly say that your deep feelings of love for a person would not change if you learned more about them, then that indicates that your love is unconditional.

The full audio, including a 30 minute guided meditation is below.



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

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Remembering Ruth Denison


The great Dharma teacher Ruth Denison passed away at 3am this morning (PST), ten days after having a severe stroke. She was accompanied as she left us by a small loving group of close students, friends and carers.

For me I am on the one hand sad that she has moved on, but on the other hand I feel so extraordinarily blessed and grateful that she chose to share her gifts and insight with the world.

While Ruth was not my first teacher, she is my "Root Teacher," the one I first took refuge with and embarked on the path in a serious way. I know this because she told me. "I am your root teacher, I am Ruth!" She delighted in the fact that in her lovely German accent 'root' and 'Ruth' sounded identical.

It is likely that many of you reading know little or nothing about Ruth. This is because unlike many teachers of our age she focused on the joy of spreading the Dharma personally. Despite the fact that she is a key figure in the development of Buddhism in the West, she chose not to promote herself, but instead to focus on a very intimate style of teaching. She didn't write books or go on press tours. There was no ego at all. Just determination, honesty and a wicked sense of humor.

I would love for more people to know about the great work Ruth did. If you would like to know more, this Spirituality and Health article is a good starting point. There are also many pictures, audio and video links at the site "RuthDenison.com", maintained by local teacher Robert Beatty. Robert was with Ruth when she died, so I am sure there will be more tributes posted there. I can also highly recommend the book "Dancing in the Dharma" by Sandy Boucher. This gives great details of Ruth's extraordinary life and contribution.

Above all I want to say to Ruth: Thank you, for all you gave us. You will always be in our hearts.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Metta Letter: Losar, Our Teachers and Bunnies

If you are not on the 'Metta Letter' mailing list you can read the latest tiny newsletter by clicking here. You can also subscribe to future mailings here. I promise to keep them short, interesting and infrequent!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Metta Meditation - For A Friend [AUDIO]

In this meditation we look a little deeper at cultivating Metta for a friend. The full audio, including a 30 minute guided meditation is below.



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

If you want to read more, there is an older post with some extra pointers here.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Generating Metta for Ourselves [UPDATED with AUDIO]

The full audio for this meditation is now available below.



If the controls above don't work for you, please try clicking here.

In this meditation we explore generating Metta (Lovingkindness) for ourselves. The passage I quote is by Bhante Gunaratana:

We must start the practice of loving-kindness with ourselves first. Sometimes some of you may wonder why we have to love ourselves first. Wouldn’t that amount to self love and lead to selfishness? When you investigate your own mind very carefully, however, you will be convinced that there is no one in the whole universe that you love more than yourself. The Buddha said, “Investigating the whole world with my mind never did I find anyone dearer than oneself. Since oneself is dearer than others, one who loves oneself should never harm others” One who does not love oneself can never love another at all. By the same token one who loves oneself will feel the impact of loving-kindness and then can understand how beautiful it is if every heart in the whole world is filled with the same feeling of loving-kindness.
You can find the full article that it comes from here.

Mindfulness Meditation [AUDIO]

For this week's meditation we contemplate the subject of Mindfulness. The complete audio of the meditation and introduction is below. If you want to skip straight to the meditation itself it is at the Ten Minute mark.



If you cannot use (or see) the audio controls above,  please click here. Note that this is a little different to the audio I have been posting up to now -- I have run out of space in SoundCloud, so I am researching other options. For now hopefully this plain link will work for you. Let me know if you have any issues with this.

I posted the text to the passages I read in a previous post.

    Metta, Chris.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Mindfulness Quotes from Joseph Goldstein

In today's meditation on Mindfulness I use the following quotes from Joseph Goldstein:

Mindfulness is the key to the present moment. Without it we cannot see the world clearly, and we simply stay lost in the wanderings of our minds. [...] 
Mindfulness is the quality and power of mind that is deeply aware of what’s happening—without commentary and without interference. It is like a mirror that simply reflects whatever comes before it. It serves us in the humblest ways, keeping us connected to brushing our teeth or having a cup of tea. 
Mindfulness also keeps us connected to the people around us, so we don’t just rush by them in the busyness of our lives. [...] 
Mindfulness is the basis for wise action. When we see clearly what is happening in the moment, wisdom can direct our choices and actions, rather than old habits simply playing out our patterns of conditioning

You can read the whole article by Joseph Goldstein here.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Meditation with Dedication of Merit [AUDIO]

We usually end our meditations with the following short 'Dedication of Merit':

May all beings - without limit, without end -
have a share in the merit just now made,
and in whatever other merit I have made.
May they attain liberation,
and their radiant hopes be fulfilled.

This is actually a shortened version of a longer traditional chant. In this week's meditation we discuss why we Dedicate Merit, and we use the longer version of the dedication at the end of the 30 minute meditation period.



If you wish to jump straight to the meditation period it starts 13 minutes in. The full text of the chant is given below.

Dedication of Merit 
May all beings - without limit, without end -
have a share in the merit just now made,
and in whatever other merit I have made.

Those who are dear and kind to me -
beginning with my mother and father -
whom I have seen or never seen;
and others, neutral or hostile;

beings established in the cosmos -
the three realms, the four modes of birth,
with five, one, or four aggregates -
wandering on from realm to realm:  
If they know of my dedication of merit,
may they themselves rejoice,
and if they do not know,
may the devas inform them.

By reason of their rejoicing
in my gift of merit,
may all beings always live happily,
free from animosity.
May they attain the Serene State,
and their radiant hopes be fulfilled.


Monday, January 12, 2015

Mindfulness of Breathing [AUDIO]


A Mindfulness of Breathing meditation, using counting of the breath. Recorded 11 Jan 2015 at Camas Meditation Group. It starts with a short introduction. If you are familiar with meditating by counting breaths you can skip to 11:00 where the meditation begins.

Must Hear: Sharon Salzberg and Robert Thurman on NPR's "On Being"

I caught this program while I was driving home from last week's Metta Meditation, listening to "On Being" on NPR as I usually do. It was especially poignant given the fact that I had quoted Sharon Salzberg during group - and here she is talking about metta!

This is a great interview from Krista Tippett with Sharon Salzberg and Robert Thurman - two of the greatest teachers in the US today. I strongly recommend setting some time aside to listen to this - maybe with a nice cup of tea.


Monday, January 5, 2015

Metta (Lovingkindness) Meditation [AUDIO]

This is a full 35 Minute fully guided Metta (Lovingkindness) meditation. If you are new to Metta, read this introduction or listen to the short introduction recorded before this.

Recorded at Breathe Massage and Yoga, Vancouver WA on 4th Jan 2015.

As always, I'd love to hear what you think of these recordings. Are they useful?

    Metta, Chris


Introduction to Metta [AUDIO]

The audio recording experiment continues! Here is a recording of the comments made before we did Metta meditation at our meeting on 4th January 2015. The recording of the meditation itself will be posted after this.

The Pema Chodron passage I read can be found here.

I hope you find this useful and interesting. I'd love to hear your feedback.

    Metta, Chris