We are not currently meeting 'in-person'

We are not currently meeting 'in-person.'
I have made the difficult decision to stop holding our in-person Sunday night meetings - you can read more about this in my post here. I will be continuing to post weekly content here and in our newsletter. Do remember to sign up for the 'Metta Letter' newsletter below as I will be sending out weekly meditations there.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Being Here - Not There
(Meditation for Sunday 26th April)

Being Here - Not There

At the end of the day we all want to be happy.

It's very easy at the moment to get wrapped up in wishing things were different. These are strange times for everyone, whether you are having to stay at home or are needing to put yourself at risk working. Many of us are either fondly remembering times when things were more 'normal' and we could move around freely, or looking forward to some unknown future time when we are out of this situation.

What these have in common is that they are 'not here.' Our memories of the past are unreliable and tainted (Did we really make the most of our freedom? Were we without worry?). Our hopes, fears and wishes for the future are only our own projections, and we cannot know how things will actually play out. All we truly have is the present, the now - yet we seem to be reluctant to honestly spend our time here.

A core part of meditation is to help us train to be fully present. I say 'train' because this doesn't come naturally to us. Our untrained minds seem to want to be anywhere else but here. And often by dwelling in the past or the future we grow in agitation and dissatisfaction.

Learning to be in the present helps us to be calm, content, accepting - in short, to be happy. By practicing the mindfulness of being present we can find a deep happiness that even these trying times cannot dim.

The fully guided audio meditation below gives you the opportunity to practice this presence by becoming aware of when we are not here. This simple approach is a powerful way to become more present and to experience that happiness.

You can of course listen to and practice the meditation at any time, but a number of us have committed to hit 'play' together at 7pm PT on Sunday 26th April. You are welcome to join us if you wish.

As always I would love to hear from you if you find these useful or have questions.

May you be well and happy, Chris.

If the player above doesn't work for you please try clicking here.
Photo by Fallon Michael on Unsplash

Saturday, April 18, 2020

And This Also: Exploring Equanimity
(Meditation for Sunday 19th April)

Exploring Equanimity

It was a beautiful day here yesterday. It was sunny, and with the temperatures in the mid-seventies it felt perfect. Today however it is raining, that drizzly constant rain that ensures that if you do go outside you will get soaked. It is all part of being in this area - that is how the Northwest is.

It might seem strange to be talking about the weather right now when the world seems so difficult. Many people are suffering, are experiencing financial hardship or threats to their health, or are worried about their loved ones or their own future.

But we can learn a lot from the weather. We can choose to let the weather drive our sense of well-being - happy when it's weather we like and miserable when it's weather we don't. Or we can choose to instead recognize that the weather is how it is, and accept it when it comes. When it rains, use an umbrella.

This is a form of equanimity, recognizing that weather we like and weather we don't like happens, and choosing to not allow our own sense of well-being to be dependent on it.

Equanimity can be a difficult concept, often because it is mistakenly associated with indifference or not-caring. Traditionally indifference and not-caring are called the 'near-enemies' of equanimity because while they might look a little like it they are really the opposite. That duck don't quack.

To understand equanimity you have to think of it in the context of the other three brahma-viharas: lovingkindness, compassion and joy. To have equanimity you have to first have compassion for those who experience suffering, joy for those who experience good things, all grounded in a love for all beings.

And that, my friends, is hard.

Which is why we do the practice. It is especially important to do the practice in times like these when it is so easy to get sucked down into the negative spiral of constant online commentary.

I discovered the simplest and most powerful way to practice equanimity from an old audio teaching by the recently-departed teacher Ram Dass. He taught using the simplest of mantras - "And This Also." Starting from a loving heart we can meet things that happen with "And This Also." We can feel compassion or joy, but always starting from love and recognizing that this is how things are.

By practicing in this way we can start to cultivate equanimity even in these difficult times. We can practice on the cushion, or we can use the mantra at any time as we experience things. As long as we are coming from the basis of a loving heart we will avoid indifference and start to experience equanimity.

You can practice equanimity by following along with the fully guided audio meditation below. You can of course listen at any time, but a group of us have committed to press 'play' together at 7pm PT on Sunday April 19th 2020 - you are welcome to join us if you wish.

Please feel free to share with your friends, and do let me know if you join us or have questions or requests. I love hearing from you.

Metta, Chris.

If the above player doesn't work for you try clicking here.

Photo by Jon Flobrant on Unsplash

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Beginning Again in Meditation
(Meditation for Easter Sunday, 12th April)

Beginning Again

This weekend is Easter, the time of the year when many traditions look to the agricultural calendar and celebrate renewal, rebirth and new beginnings. This year, though, it may seem a little strange celebrating the return of light when for many the future seems so uncertain.

The reality is that whatever may be happening we all have an opportunity at every moment to begin again. Thinking about the past, and 'how things were' won't help us. Trying to guess or predict an unknown future doesn't help. What we have is the now, and we can use the 'now' as a place and time to start again.

This is true for every aspect of our lives, but especially so for meditation. The wonderful teacher Sharon Salzberg says this:
"The critical element in meditation practice is beginning again. Everyone loses focus at times, everyone loses interest at times, and everyone gets distracted over and over again. What is essential, and also incredibly transforming, is realizing that we have the ability to begin again, without blaming or judging ourselves, without thinking we have failed, without losing heart, we can, and need to, constantly be beginning again."
 The wonderful thing about this is that we can apply this to wherever we are in our practice. While sitting, we can begin again when we get distracted. If our practice flags, we can begin again. And if we haven't practiced for years or decades, we can still begin again. No judgement, no need to criticise yourself, you just begin again.

There's an old saying that the second-best time to plant a tree is now (the best time being fifty years ago). Now really is all we have, and no mater what craziness there is in the world we can choose now to begin again, and to cultivate mindfulness.

The audio link below is for a fully guided meditation on beginning again. You can of course listen to it at any time, but a group of us have committed to press 'play' together at 7pm PT on Easter Sunday, 12th April 2020. You are welcome to join us if you wish.

Do feel free to forward this to fiends too. May you and your loved ones have a happy Easter,


If the above player doesn't work for you please try clicking here.

Photo by Artem Sapegin on Unsplash

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Choosing to Cultivate Joy
(Meditation for Sunday 5th April)

Choosing Joy

With everything that is going on right now many of us are experiencing a roller-coaster of emotions. A lot of people are suffering through illness or loss of livelihood. Many are scared that they or their loved ones will be harmed or affected. Many more are simply confused, what exactly is going on right now?

So it may seem strange that this week I am suggesting that we focus on choosing and cultivating joy. Surely this isn't the time?

The key is understanding that while wonderful things may happen, and unpleasant or awful things may happen, our feelings are still a choice. I am sure you have come across people who are experiencing life-changing troubles but who still act with grace, joy and humor. They have done the hardest thing of all, to choose joy in adversity.

We can practice cultivating joy in all circumstances, and traditionally this is done through the practice of Mudita Bhavana.

We are taught to cultivate four qualities, collectively known as the Brahma Viharas or 'heavenly abodes.' These are the universal qualities that we should all develop. The four qualities roughly translate to Lovingkindness, Compassion, Joy and Equanimity.

Cultivating joy can be hard, especially in trying times - but these are the times when the practice is most important. Below is a fully guided thirty minute meditation on cultivating joy that may help you with this practice.

You can of course listen to this at any time. If you wish, however, a group of us have committed to sit and press 'play' on this at 7pm Pacific Time, Sunday April 5th 2020.

Please feel free to share this with your friends.

May you all experience joy, Chris.

If the above doesn't work for you please try clicking this link.

Photo by Huyen Nguyen on Unsplash