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Thread: New Essay Posted on How to Practice Metta

  1. #1

    New Essay Posted on How to Practice Metta

    Hi,

    When you have a chance, please look at the essay sections posted by a noted Theravadan teacher on the practice of "Metta" (Loving Kindness). It really shines a light on aspects of that practice, which I recommend to everyone to undertake daily ...

    viewtopic.php?p=30805#p30805

    Gassho, J

  2. #2

    Re: New Essay Posted on How to Practice Metta

    I don't want to dilute the Metta thread but I want to ask about Metta
    and Tonglen, so I will ask here.

    Metta is wonderful, no question. However, it feels reactive instead
    of proactive. It works with feelings you can discover in yourself,
    leads you to truly wish well for the universe ... and gives you some
    practice for unexpected experiences that might come your way,
    but what about situations or people so repugnant to you that the body
    recoils, going on full adrenaline alert, and self-cherishing slams
    through your mind? I get a sense that metta is a slow way to deal
    with those, and that tonglen is useful to open up the mind so that you
    are prepared to stay in metta in terrible situations, if and when they
    happen. I won't get into visualization or breath work here but in
    tonglen, after bodhicitta, you actively go out and bring the troubles
    you find to yourself. You take other beings' troubles to yourself,
    your self-cherishing rises up to meet them, and all together they are
    transformed into blessing. You discover that you can do this, let in
    the worst troubles of the world, and not only be safe but be even more
    open and more effective in compassion. That's the way I see it
    anyway. I would like to hear someone talk about the progress of metta
    over long use, since I don't have that experience.

    Thanks ... Scott

  3. #3

    Re: New Essay Posted on How to Practice Metta

    Jundo,

    Thank you for posting this essay on Metta practice. I particularly like the section on practice hints

    "Mett? should be practised first towards oneself. In doing so a person should charge his mind and body with positive thoughts of peace and happiness. He should think how he could be peaceful, happy, free from suffering, worry and anger. He then becomes the embodiment of loving-kindness." So very, very true this statement is.

    Do you have any suggested essays / additional readings for the Daily "Nurturing Seeds" practice?

    Warm regards,
    Brian

  4. #4

    Re: New Essay Posted on How to Practice Metta

    Quote Originally Posted by scott
    I don't want to dilute the Metta thread but I want to ask about Metta
    and Tonglen, so I will ask here.

    Metta is wonderful, no question. However, it feels reactive instead
    of proactive. It works with feelings you can discover in yourself,
    leads you to truly wish well for the universe ... and gives you some
    practice for unexpected experiences that might come your way,
    but what about situations or people so repugnant to you that the body
    recoils, going on full adrenaline alert, and self-cherishing slams
    through your mind? I get a sense that metta is a slow way to deal
    with those, and that tonglen is useful to open up the mind so that you
    are prepared to stay in metta in terrible situations, if and when they
    happen. I won't get into visualization or breath work here but in
    tonglen, after bodhicitta, you actively go out and bring the troubles
    you find to yourself. You take other beings' troubles to yourself,
    your self-cherishing rises up to meet them, and all together they are
    transformed into blessing. You discover that you can do this, let in
    the worst troubles of the world, and not only be safe but be even more
    open and more effective in compassion. That's the way I see it
    anyway. I would like to hear someone talk about the progress of metta
    over long use, since I don't have that experience.

    Thanks ... Scott
    Hi Scott,

    Hmmm ... it is a very interesting comment.

    I was trained in neither practice originally, as they are not really part of the Japanese Zen tradition. They have have been added into practice by various Zen teachers primarily in the West, to shine a light a bit more on the soft, loving, feminine, compassionate Kannon hand-in-hand with the stern, masculine-samurai, wise Manjusri that can be Japanese-style Zen practice (at least, that is my feeling about it). Japanese Zen has long emphasized that both Wisdom and Compassion will arise simultaneously through Zazen practice, but some have felt (I am one of them) that the Compassion-side would benefit from a bit of a "boost" and encouragement.

    It is worth considering. I do wonder, however, if the differences in "feel" to the two approaches ... Metta & Tonglen ... are primarily what we bring into them, not what they necessarily are. Understand my point?

    Taigu, any feelings on this issue?

    Do you have any suggested essays / additional readings for the Daily "Nurturing Seeds" practice?
    This is also a practice which is, and is not, found in Japanese Zen. Certainly, their is emphasis on "Vipassana", in the meaning of understanding the human mind from a Buddhist perspective, how it is a theatre of thoughts and emotions, greed, anger and ignorance ... and that, if we change the content of thoughts and emotions, or drop them away, the whole show changes. I heard a nice description of this perspective yesterday ...

    When you really look closely at anxiety, depression, fear, anger or stress, you will almost always find recurring patterns of negative thoughts, traumatic memories and habitual emotional reactions. They are our tormentors, the pesky biting insects that annoy us throughout the day.

    They ambush our consciousness, pull us down and cause stress and emotional suffering. They come uninvited, cause havoc, and we wish that they would go away. If only we could control them, we would certainly have a better chance of controlling our mental state. So how do we do this? The practice of mindfulness ... can provide a path forward.

    The first step of mindfulness practice, and one that can make all the difference, is to fully and completely understand that YOU ARE NOT YOUR THOUGHTS. Thoughts, emotions, in fact any mental content that arises are simply products of conditioning; YOU are much more than this. It is like the ocean and the fish that swim in the ocean. The ocean is not the same as the fish that live in it, and cannot be equated with the contents. The essence of the ocean is as the space that contains these things, not its contents. The same applies to the mind.

    The essence of the mind is as a container of experience, the ground in which mental objects, thoughts, emotions, beliefs, perceptions and memories can exist. When you realize this, that you are so much more than your thoughts and emotions, then you are well on the way to gaining your freedom and independence from the pesky flies that cause so much stress and suffering. At the end of the day you have a simple choice to make: Do you want to be the ocean in all its vastness and glory, or do you want to be a fish, flapping around in a state of agitation and fear? Learning to be the ocean is a wise choice, and this is something that can be achieved through the practice of mindfulness.

    The trick is to learn to see mental objects as just that, objects, not you, that arise, do their dance and then pass away. Anxiety arises, and what is our usual response? We are ambushed by the emotion and we become the emotion. We become an anxiety-fish! Fear arises and we are seduced into becoming afraid, a fear-fish. Anger arises and we become angry-fish. No choice, no freedom, lots of suffering.

    With the practice of mindfulness, we begin to get wise, and become more engaged with what is going on in our minds. Mindfulness helps us tune in to this cycle of habitual emotional reactivity. Instead of blindly accepting our impulses to become anxious, to become afraid, to become fish, we learn to actively engage with these reactions. When anxiety thoughts arise, we respond with, "I see you, anxious thought. I welcome you, I will make a space for you to do your dance, I will listen to you with care and attention...but I will NOT become you." You can learn to mindfully greet each emotion, each negative thought, as a visitor who has come to stay for a while, just like visitors in your home. Invite them in, offer them tea and sit with them for a while. You may not like your visitors, but you know the importance of being kind, courteous and hospitable.

    I would say that some of the best writing on this approach now is by Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh. His books, "Anger", for example ...

    http://www.amazon.com/Anger-Cooling-Thi ... 036&sr=1-1

    and "Understand Our Mind" (although more a look at the entire system of the mind from a traditional Buddhist perspective). are helpful. The latter is an attempt to take ideas of traditional Buddhist psychology such as the "Store" or "Seed Consciousness" and make them relevant in modern terms.

    http://www.amazon.com/Understanding-Our ... 797&sr=8-1

    Let me mention a book on Metta practice ... "Lovingkindness" by Sharon Salzberg and Jon Kabat-Zinn, although I only have it on order (I will report when I look at it).

    http://www.amazon.com/Lovingkindness-Re ... 606&sr=1-1

    Of course, I recommend such practices as a supplement to our core daily practice of Shikantaza ... for that presents a true medicine for human suffering, right at the heart of what ails the self. That must be the central column of the house. In fact, without that ... all the other practices you do will lose much of their force, no doubt.

    Gassho, Jundo

  5. #5

    Re: New Essay Posted on How to Practice Metta

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Hmmm ... it is a very interesting comment.

    I was trained in neither practice originally, as they are not really part of the Japanese Zen tradition. They have have been added into practice by various Zen teachers primarily in the West, to shine a light a bit more on the soft, loving, feminine, compassionate Kannon hand-in-hand with the stern, masculine-samurai, wise Manjusri that can be Japanese-style Zen practice (at least, that is my feeling about it). Japanese Zen has long emphasized that both Wisdom and Compassion will arise simultaneously through Zazen practice, but some have felt (I am one of them) that the Compassion-side would benefit from a bit of a "boost" and encouragement.

    It is worth considering. I do wonder, however, if the differences in "feel" to the two approaches ... Metta & Tonglen ... are primarily what we bring into them, not what they necessarily are. Understand my point?
    I think so. Something like: where we take a vehicle depends on the baggage we start with. In my case I'm reminded of Phil Ochs' song, "Love Me, I'm a Liberal". I can generate vast amounts of love and well-wishing for all beings ... as long as they don't bring their mud and fleas and oozing leprosy into my house. It's awareness of that protective wall that I am responding to. Shikantaza alone will get me to let in not only what's beyond the wall but the wall itself eventually -- that's clear -- but I believe I can accelerate the process through proactive practice.

    Of course, I recommend such practices as a supplement to our core daily practice of Shikantaza ... for that presents a true medicine for human suffering, right at the heart of what ails the self. That must be the central column of the house. In fact, without that ... all the other practices you do will lose much of their force, no doubt.
    For sure. Without a foundation the rest is just confusion.

    Thanks very much.

    Gassho ... Scott

  6. #6

    Re: New Essay Posted on How to Practice Metta

    Thank you Jundo to reactualize this subject...
    I must confess it's not as easy as it seems. Personally, during the past weeks of the Ango, I've been in "conflict" several times with the metta practice. Mostly because I'm not use to it, maybe it's also because I tried too hard to formaly visualize rather than just being "with the sensation, the flavour of metta".
    Must be because I compared it with Tonglen where the formal visualization is very important, but now I'm trying to just "be with the sensation or flavor of metta" and it seems more natural to me...
    But I'm sure, Others with better visualization skills wouldn't have the same kind of problems with metta...

    Well all this to say it's a good idea to open the subject again!

    Gassho to all beings,

    Luis

  7. #7
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    Re: New Essay Posted on How to Practice Metta

    I love metta practice, but I confess to not doing it very often. Those times when I do practice it I take my time with it and it is deeply emotional. It is not unusual that I shed a tear. No simple recitation of the verses for me: My metta practice is filled with visualizations of those I extend metta toward. I start with something like a mother's hug for me, and then I share that mother's hug with all those I visualize, and then at the end the hug goes away and I visualize taking all the people inside me, one by one, until we are all one, beyond one. Looks goofy in print, but that's what I do. Did it today, this morning, as a matter or coincidence. If I lightened up on all this I would probably do it more often, but then again, I should just do it more often, period.

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