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.

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Father's Day, Redux

 Father's Day, Redux

I'd like to wish all of you who are Fathers out there a happy Father's Day - I hope that the day has been one of relaxation and joy.

Last year I wrote a short piece on both the joy and dangers of how we celebrate Father's Day (and Mother's Day). I have reproduced it here below as I feel it is still very relevant, no matter who you are and whether or not you have children.

I also wanted to let you know that I will be taking a few-week break from sending out these messages as I will be traveling. I am planning that my next 'Metta Letter' will be sent out the weekend of the 19th of July. Just a reminder that if you would like to read more of these in the meantime then we keep an archive of all the essays on our website. Also, you can find all of the fully-guided audio meditations on my Soundcloud account.
I do have some interesting topics in mind for future letters, including understanding the teachings to householders that I mentioned the other month. As part of that I hope to be exploring the question "Would The Buddha play chess?" Some of you may already know the answer to that one (spoiler: No he wouldn't), but what we should take away from that is a little more complex and nuanced. This is an area that is fascinating to me at the moment.

Thanks to all of you for your continued readership, it really means a lot to me.

Metta, Chris.

Father's Day

This Sunday is Father's day, a day I look forward to for several reasons - it's a day I get to spend with my family and also one on which I fondly remember my own father.

But - and this is a big but - Father's Day is a day where we need to be careful. Unfortunately nowadays, like all holidays and celebrations, the day has been commercialized and idealized. The commercialization is obvious - that it is yet another compelling reason to buy stuff now! - but the idealization is probably the more sinister aspect of it.

What I mean by idealization is that the media and advertising around us tout one, single 'right' way to think about your relationship with your father (of with your children if you are a father). That there is an ideal we should all assume. That there is one and only one way to celebrate - usually by giving your smiling, loving father an expensive piece of electronics or a new grill. What the fluff news pieces and advertising don't acknowledge is the complex and highly individual nature of our relationships with everyone, especially our closest family. Of course this isn't only true of the idealization of our relationship with our father - in many ways the idealization of Mother's Day is even worse. Freud would have a field day with modern advertising copy!

While everyone biologically has a father, not everyone has known him. For those that have known or do know their father the relationship may have been wonderful, painful, traumatic, distant, loving, or - very often - a complex mix of those things.

The important thing here is that all of our relationships are deeply complex and personal. When we use broad brushes to define them, or when we make assumptions about how they 'should' be we can marginalize, alienate and hurt those whose experience doesn't match the prescribed standard.

In our metta (lovingkindness, goodwill) meditation we learn to practice meeting people where they are - not with assumptions about how they should be but where they actually are right now. If we approach someone who is suffering then we generate compassion. If we meet someone who is joyful we share in their joy. And we have the wisdom and equanimity to understand that this is how the world is, that people experience both suffering and joy, and that all these things are impermanent.

So I would encourage you as we celebrate the holiday to recognize the richness and complexity of our relationships. If your own experience with your father includes painful elements have compassion for your self. Don't assume those around you have cookie-cutter relationships with their close family, and be prepared to meet them with joy, compassion and equanimity.

Metta, Chris.

Below you will find a fully guided audio meditation following on from the above ideas of generating metta for the people you will meet - wherever they are.


Saturday, June 11, 2022



I am not much of a computer-game player - I have to admit that my short foray into video games ended with the Monkey Island franchise (a fact that will allow some of you to work out exactly how old I am).

This week, however, we have been completely engrossed in an online game called Geoguessr. The premise is quite simple - the game drops you into a random place in the world (in Google Street View), and your job is to guess on a world map exactly where you are. You can look, move and zoom around in Street View trying to get clues for where you might be - street names, the writing system, street furniture, web-addresses on store fronts and signs, types of trees - you name it, anything can be a clue. Rounds can be really easy - such as when we were dropped right by the sign for London Bridge - or quite tricky. When we were dropped in the middle of China Town in Manila in the Philippines there were many conflicting clues!

The story we tell ourselves, of course, is that this is an educational game. For instance, over the last week I have learned that:

  • The area code for Athens, Greece is 21;
  • There is a Córdoba city in both Spain and Argentina. And they are nowhere near each other;
  • The suburbs of Kraków, Poland, look just like the suburbs of London - only with more złoty;
  • Anton Bruckner was organist in Sankt Florian, Austria, between 1845 and 1855;
  • Finland is nearly as big as Germany;
  • If in doubt, you are probably in Lithuania.

It is truly amazing that I have arrived at the age I am without knowing any of these facts. Now armed with them my life going forward should be so much easier.

Despite all that, it is not unusual to be able to pinpoint the location to within five feet or so - which is a great feeling - and quite amazing really when you consider the starting point can be anywhere in the world.

One of the things that makes the game so interesting is the fact that you are using real images of the locations. The people you see are real people, living in the very locations you visit. The buildings, cars and garbage bins are all real and are exactly as they were when the Google Car drove past. What is strange is how places can appear both unfamiliar and familiar at the same time. The writing script, the climate and the trees in Indonesia might look very strange to us, but the people, the cats, the bus stops, the auto-repair stores and the direction signs seem much like those at home.

I wrote a couple of years ago about the practice of "Sending to the Ten Directions." This is the final part of the traditional Metta-Bhavana practice where we take the feelings of lovingkindness and goodwill that we have been generating for a small number of specific people and set our intentions to feel and act with lovingkindness to all the people in the world - wherever they are and whoever they are. In doing so we recall that despite any surface differences all beings wish to be happy and well, and we should wish the same for them and treat them in that way.

Playing Geoguessr may not be teaching me an awful lot of practical life skills, but it is wonderful to be able to see those who are living in the Ten Directions, and see where and how they live. And that is something that is valuable to me.

Metta, Chris.

I have linked below a fully-guided meditation on Sending to the Ten Directions. Feel free to use it in whatever way helps you in your practice.

Photo by GeoJango Maps on Unsplash

Sunday, June 5, 2022

The Crystal Ball

The Crystal Ball

There is a recurring joke that goes around new-age and 'alternative' circles. You may well have seen it, as it is one of those things that gets posted and re-posted on social media, often with the poster claiming it happened to 'a friend of mine' - and who know, it may have. I can totally imagine it happening in real life. Anyway, there are various versions of it, so here is my attempt at a re-telling:

Yesterday I went to our local alternative store looking for a Crystal Ball. I searched among the many different ones they had until I found the perfect one. It was large, about eight inches in diameter and completely clear. I took it to the the older lady behind the desk. She wrapped it carefully and held it towards me. I took hold of it, and before she let go she looked me straight in the eyes.

"Be sure to cover it completely with a cloth when you aren't using it, dearie" she whispered, without letting go of the ball or my gaze.

I trembled. "To... to stop the spirits getting through?" I asked, weakly.

"No dearie - so that your house doesn't burn down if the sun hits it!"

I was thinking about this joke earlier this week as, once again, a version of the story had popped up on my news feed. It reminded me of an equally-apocryphal story that is often told in Buddhist circles. Often it is told as a Zen story, sometimes directly attributed to the Buddha (which is false). The story goes like this:

An elderly Zen master is sitting quietly in the zendo when a group of young monks burst in excitedly. "Roshi, Roshi, come quickly!"

"What is it?" he replies, "what has got you all so excited?"

"Roshi - come down to the river and see - Sensai Ko is walking on the water!"

"And tell me, young sirs, how much does the ferryman charge to take one across the river?"

"Two pennies Roshi, but..."

"Then two pennies is what Sensai Ko's trick is worth!"

I find both these stories funny, and there is something about each of them that makes me think more deeply. In both cases there is the juxtaposition of the magical with the mundane. And in both cases the mundane wins.

I suspect that many of us sometimes wish for something more magical in our experience, wish that we could get some superhuman capability or divine insight that will drive us forward in our path. And, don't get me wrong, sometimes that might happen. But for the most part we have what we have.

One of the most important lessons that I have learned is that I have, right now, everything I need to progress on the path. There is nothing outside of me that I need, and for as long as I spend dreaming or yearning for something else then I am wasting energy and missing the point. What I have right now is enough for right now. And that's what matters.

Metta, Chris.

I have linked below a fully guided meditation on the concept that 'This is Enough.' Feel free to use it in whatever way you feel helps you in your practice.

Photo by Anika Huizinga on Unsplash