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, November 28, 2020

True Gratitude
(Meditation for Sunday 29th November)


True Gratitude

This week in the US we have celebrated Thanksgiving, our annual holiday where we gather together with family and friends to share a meal, and to express our thanks for each other and all that is good in our lives.

At least that is the theory, but this year has of course been strange. Many people have been unable to meet or have taken the prudent step of not gathering. For some people loss of loved ones, health or livelihood has overshadowed what would traditionally be a joyous time. For many others just the sheer frustration of isolation has made this a difficult time.

We are taught that grasping and aversion are the root of our unhappiness. These really just mean holding on to the wish for things to be other than they are. And right now it is so easy to fall in to the trap of focusing so much on our desire for things to be different that we forget to be happy. The antidote to grasping and aversion is gratitude, because along with gratitude comes a liberating acceptance for how things are - even the things we don't like.

We often think of gratitude in a transactional way - Something good happened so I am grateful for that. This is fine as far as it goes, but what about when that thing goes away, or things are not so good? Do we let go of our gratitude (and so our happiness) then?

We all start on our gratitude journey by being thankful for the benefits and blessings we experience. We know that when we are others fail to be grateful for what we have we become bitter. We should all be grateful for the positives in our lives, and express that to others. The harder part is to allow this experience of gratitude to pervade our whole life, even when things are not as we wish.

There are many things that I am grateful for, and I am grateful specifically for those of you who read this weekly letter. I would like to encourage us all to challenge ourselves beyond mere transactional gratitude - dependent on good things happening - to a deeper sense of gratitude that grounds our being.

With thanks, 


I have linked below a fully guided meditation on unconditional gratitude. You are welcome to listen any time, but a few of us have committed to press 'play' together at 7pm PT on Sunday 29th of November. You are welcome to join us then if you wish.

Photo by Wilhelm Gunkel on Unsplash




Saturday, November 21, 2020

The King
(Meditation for Sunday November 22nd)


The King

It has become almost second-nature to talk about division today. The over-riding narrative is that of conflict and tribalism, where people identify with one group or another and assume that their own group is 'right' and the other group is 'wrong' - on everything.

Of course none of this is new, and while in some areas we have seen progress over the years the rhetoric of 'us' and 'other' has been with us from the dawn of mankind - indeed some see this tribalism as an evolutionary trait.

But we should see it as it is, as part of our delusion. The view that we can partition the world into 'me', 'us' and 'other' only occurs because of our wilful refusal to believe that we all share the human experience. History tells us that if we follow this road it leads to to accepting the de-humanization of whoever is the 'other,' and to catastrophic results. We all know this - yet the huge trap is to say "yes, that's exactly what they are doing!" - which is in itself reinforcing the us/them delusion.

It is right to work for a more loving, accepting and inclusive society, but we must me sure that in our words and actions we are not just perpetuating dehumanizing division. As the old Sting song says rhetorically, "I hope the Russians love their children too."

In the Pāli writings there is a lovely short sutta about a King who asks his wife "is there anyone dearer to you than yourself?"

She replies "No, great king. There is no one dearer to me than myself. And what about you, great king? Is there anyone dearer to you than yourself?"

The King agrees saying "there is is no one dearer to me than myself."

The King then contemplates this exchange - and it is worth us contemplating this too. We would agree that we are the most dear to ourselves - but what do we take away from that? Some focus only on that and choose to act selfishly. Others, like the king, realize that the same is true for all beings, whoever they are. The king shares this realization with the Buddha who exclaims:

Searching all directions
with your awareness,
you find no one dearer
than yourself.
In the same way, others
are thickly dear to themselves.
So you shouldn’t hurt others
if you love yourself.

This is a great time for us all to meditate on this. We are all dear to ourselves, we all love our children, we all wish to be well, happy and free from suffering. In these things there is no 'other,' only 'us.'

Metta, Chris

 I have linked below a fully guided 30-minute meditation on the story of The King (Rājan Sutta). A few of us have committed to press 'play' at 7pm PT on Sunday 22nd November - you can of course listen at any time, but you are welcome to join with us then.

If the player below doesn't work for you please click here instead.

Rājan Sutta Translated from the Pāli by Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu, retrieved from


Saturday, November 14, 2020

The Strawberry
(Meditation for Sunday November 15th)


The Strawberry

This week I have been thinking a bit about the old Zen story about the strawberry. You have probably heard a version of this story before, as it has been retold many times, always with different details. I tried to find a more original, authentic version but couldn't find a good source, though many people attribute it's popularity in the west to the teachings of D.T. Suzuki. And so I am going to give my own retelling, roughly following how I first heard it.

Once there was a young monk who was set upon by bandits. He managed to slip away and was being chased by them when he fell into a deep pit. As he fell he reached out and grabbed a vine, and hung half way down the pit. 
As his eyes grew accustomed to the dark, he looked down and saw below him that there was a hungry tiger who had also fallen in the pit. He looked up, hoping to be able to climb up the vine and out of the pit, but saw that there were rats gnawing on the vine above him who had nearly chewed right through it. 
He looked to the wall of the pit to see if there was a way for him to climb out and saw a clump of wild strawberries growing from the smooth wall. He reached out and plucked a strawberry and put it in his mouth. 
It was delicious.

Like all good Zen stories or Koans there isn't supposed to be a single 'interpretation,' and it is possible to read this story in a number of ways. I have read people argue that it is a parable of foolishness, though most people view it as a lesson in being present. As I was writing the above it struck me that it would be very interesting to re-tell the story from the point of view of the tiger - it becomes a very different story!

One thing we can all agree on is that the young monk was having a really bad day. And yet, even at that time, with his rather unpleasant demise imminent he could still appreciate the wonderful strawberry.

 It has become common now for us to anthropomorphize the year 2020 as some malevolent being that is throwing bad things at us - the sarcastic refrain 'thanks 2020' has become a bit of a meme. And it is true that for many people this has been the toughest of times.

And yet, here we are. And while, to quote Tom Robbins, "the international situation is desperate, as usual," there are many strawberries still out there to be eaten and enjoyed.

Or, if you are a tiger, monks.

Metta, Chris.

I have linked below a fully-guided 30 minute audio meditation on the story of the strawberry. You can listen at any time, but a few of us have committed to press play at 7pm PT on Sunday 15th November. You are welcome to join us if you wish.

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


Saturday, November 7, 2020

Breathing In Calm
(Meditation for Sunday 8th November)


Breathing In Calm

It has been quite a week for everyone. As the counts have gone one way or the other, so people's emotions have followed. Just as a cart follows the ox. And as this has been happening one thought has kept with me. This is what we train for.

This is going to be a short message today, as you are probably all being bombarded with messages from all sides, as even with the apparent resolution there is still an undercurrent of uncertainty and division. All I really want to emphasize is this: This is what we train for. How we each as individuals ride the roller-coaster, how we manage our emotions, how we interact with like-minded and non-like-minded people over this period is important.

And it all starts with our ability to cultivate calm ourselves. Even if there is continued uncertainty, even if we see some around us stirring up division through fear, anger and hatred, this is our opportunity to instead be grounded, loving, full of compassion and calm.

A few weeks ago I shared an article by the revered teacher Thích Nhất Hạnh. In it he encourages us to use the following poem in our meditation.

Breathing in, I calm my body.
Breathing out, I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment
I know this is a wonderful moment.

Now is a wonderful time to practice this. You can of course do this on your own wherever you are, but I have linked below an audio recording of a fully-guided meditation using this poem, and specifically focusing on the first line. You are welcome to listen to that if you find it helpful. A few of us have committed to press 'play' together at 7pm PT on Sunday 8th November. Again, you are welcome to join us if you wish.

However you choose to practice, I encourage you to practice cultivating this in the coming weeks. It is only from this place of calm that we can generate the true love, compassion and joy that we can bring to the world.

Metta, Chris.

If the above player doesn't work for you, please click here.
Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash