Exciting News!

Exciting News! For those of you in the Vancouver / Camas area we will be starting to meet again in-person this week at the Breathe Wellness Company. If you are comfortable meeting with us in-person at this time then please join us at 7pm on Sundays starting 20th June 2021. Plan on arriving ten minutes before to get settled. We will be following all current WA State guidelines and I ask that you are mindful and respectful of other people's comfort levels. I will be wearing a mask but will remove it once we are settled and distanced to lead the meditation. For now we will not be having after-meditation tea but hopefully soon. I will be updating our website with the latest details so check back here if you are unsure.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Goodwill Toward Men
(Meditation for Sunday 20th December)

Peace on Earth,

Goodwill Toward Men

 Every year when I was young my mother, brother, sisters and I would head off to the local Primary School Christmas concert. My father would stay home, and when we got back the tree would be up and the living room of our house would be decorated. It always felt magical, and for us children it marked the beginning of our Christmas. It was only as I got older I realized my father's genius in avoiding having to attend the concert!

I am sure that many of you have similar stories, and for those of us brought up in the Christian tradition memories of the carol concerts and nativity plays are burned deep.

Thanks to these I can probably recite the whole of Luke's account of the Nativity off by heart. And a core part of the story is the appearance of the host of angels, who tell us:

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
As we head into Christmas it can sometimes seem like this, the central message of the Nativity, has been lost. The world around us appears more divided that ever and the primary Christmas message according to many is whether or not PS5s are in stock.

Of course, there is much going on to be positive and thankful about, whether it is the quiet heroism of front-line workers or the many people who have chosen to ignore the dominant rhetoric and work towards easing the suffering of others.

The word 'metta' is most often translated as loving-kindness. At first it seems a tricky word as the Pali doesn't have a single, simple translation into English. Often we use multiple words - love, friendliness, goodwill - to try to include all of the aspects of metta. As we progress with our practice we learn the subtleties of the word and why it doesn't quite translate into a single word.

Using the word 'goodwill' for metta used to not quite fit for me, as I found it a little weak. However as I practiced more and read more teachings it started to make more sense. This idea that deep down we wish the best for all people, regardless of whether we felt it was deserved, simply because of our shared humanity - that is metta. The teacher Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu explains it beautifully like this:

[...] These different ways of expressing metta show that metta is not necessarily the quality of lovingkindness. Metta is better thought of as goodwill, and for two reasons. The first is that goodwill is an attitude you can express for everyone without fear of being hypocritical or unrealistic. It recognizes that people will become truly happy not as a result of your caring for them but as a result of their own skillful actions, and that the happiness of self-reliance is greater than any happiness that comes from dependency.

The second reason is that goodwill is a more skillful feeling to have toward those who would react unskillfully to your lovingkindness. There are probably people you’ve harmed in the past who would rather not have anything to do with you ever again, so the intimacy of lovingkindness would actually be a source of pain for them, rather than joy. There are also people who, when they see that you want to express lovingkindness, would be quick to take advantage of it. And there are plenty of animals out there who would feel threatened by any overt expressions of love from a human being. In these cases, a more distant sense of goodwill—that you promise yourself never to harm those people or those beings—would be better for everyone involved.

This doesn’t mean that lovingkindness is never an appropriate expression of goodwill. You simply have to know when it’s appropriate and when it’s not. If you truly feel metta for yourself and others, you can’t let your desire for warm feelings of love and intimacy render you insensitive to what would actually be the most skillful way to promote true happiness for all.
When we look at metta in this way we can see how this fits with the angels' message. By generating goodwill for all beings we lay the groundwork for peace.

As we continue through the holiday period I would like to encourage us all to focus on cultivating goodwill for all. The message is an ancient one, but it is as relevant today as it has ever been.

Wishing you all a peaceful holiday,

Chris.

A quick note: I will NOT be releasing a 'metta letter' or linking a meditation for next week - I will be taking a short break. I will next send out one of these the weekend after next (January 2nd/3rd).

For this week a few of us have committed to press 'play' on the guided meditation linked below at 7pm PT on Sunday 20th December. You are welcome to join us if you wish, or you can listen yourself at any time.


 Bible verse from Luke 3:14 (KJV)

Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu - Metta Means Goodwill - Retrieved from https://www.dhammatalks.org/books/BeyondAllDirections/Section0007.html December 20th 2020

 

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Kindness Starts with Yourself
(Meditation for Sunday 13th December)

 

Kindness Starts with Yourself

 We are once again in the holiday season, and that can mean different things to each of us. For some this is a wonderful time, full of friendship, fun and excitement. For others it can be a time of loneliness. For some the memories of past holidays can bring joy, for others pain.  For many of us, myself included, it is a mix of enjoyment and being overwhelmed. It can be a stressful time whether you love it or hate it.

I always find that I need to take a step back over the holidays and make sure that I am taking care of myself. It is so easy to get caught up in the excitement, stress, over-scheduling, loneliness and excesses. This is supposedly a time of 'goodwill to all men,' yet it is easy to end up feeling personally burned out or low.

When we practice metta - lovingkindness or goodwill - we always start with ourselves. Sometimes this is difficult, in that we understand that we need to love all beings - but loving ourself can be the hardest task of all. After all, we know all of our faults and flaws. And anyway, isn't it bad to be 'selfish?'

True metta for yourself is not selfish. You are a living being like all other beings. You know suffering and you wish to be free from that suffering. So just as I wish you to be free from that suffering you should wish it for yourself too.

So as we go through the holiday season practice being kind to yourself. That's not being selfish - selfishness leads us to over indulge and ignore others. That's not kindness. Kindness is caring for yourself.

In the meditation linked below we practice that kindness for ourselves. By being kind to ourselves we can generate a caring heart that radiates out to all beings.

Whatever the holidays mean to you I wish you to be well, happy, and free from suffering.

Metta, Chris

 

PS a few of us have committed to press 'play' at 7pm PT on Sunday 13th December - you are welcome to join us if you wish.

PPS The eagle-eyed among you will  have noticed that this letter was first sent a couple of years ago - but I felt it was highly appropriate now so decided to re-send it for this year. We can all do with a reminder to generate lovingkindness for ourselves!

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

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

 

 

 

Saturday, December 5, 2020

December Already
(Meditation for Sunday December 6th)

 

December Already


Well, here we are and it is definitely, definitively the holiday season. Already. Thanksgiving has come and gone, last week was the first week of Advent, Hannukkah starts on Thursday and both longest-night and Christmas are approaching fast on the calendar. As I was writing some holiday cards with my wife I had to stop and ask her "didn't we just do this last week?"

For me, and I am sure for many of you, the holiday season has snuck up on us fast this year. I guess with the strange times there is the cognitive dissonance of feeling both that so much has happened this year and that we haven't really done anything!

Of course, none of this should be a surprise. The calendar has been there all the time, and the clock has ticked at the same rate. But for me the illusion of time has been that December has come really quickly. Probably for some of you it has been the opposite - that the wait for the end of the year has been interminable. As the great Douglas Adams said, "Time is an illusion - lunchtime doubly so."
 
I am always a little ambivalent about the holidays. There is much I like and enjoy, but I also find that the pressure and materialism can be difficult. I have been fortunate to always have had good family and friends to share with, but I know that many haven't had this luxury and for them this can be an especially hard time of the year. And for all of us this year will be extra challenging, with friends and loved ones missing or distant.

However it has been for you I hope that the arrival of the holiday season can bring you some joy. I have always made a point of using the start of the holidays as a time to remind myself of the importance of Metta - 'lovingkindness' or 'goodwill'.

With everything that is going on we would all agree that this time would be better for us all, more joyful for us all, if everyone had more lovingkindness in their heart and practiced this with every interaction. But - and you know what I am going to say here - the only person I can change is myself. The only person you can change is yourself. And that is why we do the practice.
 
Wishing you all to be well and happy this holiday season,
Chris.

PS: I have linked below a fully guided Metta Bhavana (cultivation of lovingkindness) meditation, and you are welcome to use that if you find it helpful. If you are not familiar with the form this would be a good one to start with. A few of us have committed to press 'play' at 7pm PT on Sunday December 6th, you are welcome to join us if you wish.

 

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

Photo by freestocks on Unsplash