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Posts Tagged ‘metta’

(as shared by Bhante G)

May all beings be happy and secure.
May all beings have happy minds.
Whatever living beings there may be,
Without exception: weak or strong,
Large or long,
Medium, short, subtle or gross,
Visible or invisible,
Living near or far,
Born or coming to birth –
May all beings have happy minds.
Let no one deceive another,
Nor despise anyone anywhere.
Neither from anger nor ill will
Should anyone wish harm to another.
As a mother would risk her own life
To protect her only child,
Even so towards all living beings,
One should cultivate a boundless heart.
One should cultivate for all the world
A heart of boundless loving-friendliness.
Above, below, and all around,
Unobstructed, without hatred or resentment.

Whether standing, walking, or sitting,
Lying down or whenever awake,
One should develop this mindfulness.
This is called divinely dwelling here.
Not falling into erroneous views,
But virtuous and endowed with vision,
Removing desire for sensual pleasures,
One comes never again to birth in the womb.

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Aka, “What I learned”:

  • Loving-friendliness is the key to happiness.  When I am friendly, when my heart is open and caring, loving and compassionate, I am happy – regardless of any other person’s response.
  • The present moment is the key to true freedom, to liberation.  When I project into the future or ruminate about the past, I suffer.  Big time.  But when I just stay right here, right now, right in this present moment, life is just fine.  Perception is most people’s reality; I would like to make reality my reality.
  • I like yoga more than I like sitting meditation; and I am more present for more time during yoga than during seated meditation.  And I do get good awarenesses and learnings via both methods.  That being said, up to this point in my meditation and yoga path, I have received deeper, more ‘transformational’ insights in my sitting meditation practice than via yoga.  As much as I wish that weren’t the case (because I ‘like’ yoga more than I ‘like’ meditation), it is my current reality.
  • I’m not sure that I’m willing to do the work required to attain genuine, full liberation.  And that’s really difficult for me to admit.  I never thought of myself as ‘lazy’, or unaccommodating – but at multiple points in this retreat, when push came to shove, I opted for the ‘easy’ way instead of the growth-producing (freedom-yielding) way.  And it hurts me to admit that (and it really hurts me to observe that within myself), but it’s the truth.
  • Still, while my mind may be overly-active in thinking, and while my ego may be unruly and make judgments, my heart is still a lotus flower – and I need to never forget that.  No matter how deep I am in the muck, I am still a beautiful flower, striving to bloom.

So, where to go from here?  I really don’t know.  But I do know I’ll still meditate tomorrow; because really, what else can I do?

Stef

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4 am: I woke up – and the very first thought that entered my consciousness was ‘mindful’. I blinked my eyes open, and the next thought that I had was ‘breath’. Then ‘lungs’, then ‘present moment’, then ‘mindful’.  Holy crap, my attempt to establish mindfulness last night actually worked!  I woke this morning with mindfulness!

4:01 am: And then my mind wandered on to thoughts of packing, and a to-do list quickly formed in my consciousness.  But for a good minute, at the very beginning of my day, I was totally mindful.  It’s a decent start.

5:45 am: I was at my car, placing my suitcase in the trunk, and about to make my way back to the meditation hall for our 6 am sitting, when I saw Bhante approach from his hermitage.  Wrapped up in a big brown coat over his maroon robe, wearing a maroon stocking cap and scarf, he struck me as a tiny, spry, wise old man – full of peace, but also common (worldly) sense.  I love it.

6 am: Sitting meditation.  This session was rocky for me as far as concentration was concerned, but beautiful as far as decreased self-judgment, and increased acceptance of what is.  It’s not complacency, but instead a simultaneous non-judgmental acceptance of the present state of affairs, coupled with an earnest, wholesome desire to want to do better, get better, be better.

7 am: Breakfast.  The sun came out for the first time since we arrived at the retreat; and before he walked upstairs to the kitchen, Bhante stood at the big bay window overlooking the lake where I had stood yesterday, and gazed at the sunshine, enjoying the view.  I agree.

8 am: Schedule change.  Originally we were supposed to have a teaching at this time, but it got moved to 9 am – and we weren’t given any explicit instructions for how to spend our hour from 8-9 am.  The most obvious choice would be to meditate (either sitting, walking, or doing yoga); but I had done about all of the meditation my mind could handle these past two days – so I engaged in stare-out-the-bay-window-and-watch-birds meditation.  (And I thought of my mother-in-law while I did this [as I nearly always do every time a bird catches my eye], and sent her well-wishes while I gazed.)  During the 45 minutes I was at the window I saw a very red robin, a very blue jay, a small black-and-white spotted fellow, and a tiny brown sparrow.  I also heard a woodpecker intermittently, but I never was able to see him.

9 am: Teaching.  The theme of this session was metta (loving-friendliness) and mindfulness, and the relationship between the two.  During this talk Bhante made three key points:
1) A meditator should not practice metta without also being mindful as well, lest the wholesome friendliness of metta turn into an unwholesome state of clinging.
2) Metta/loving-friendliness practice is a practice – so this state should be cultivated in our thoughts (meditation) as well as in our spoken/written words and our physical actions.  Metta should be cultivated both on our cushion, as well as out in the world as we live our lives.
3) Metta should be practiced for our own benefit, not for anyone else’s.  Other people will be just as they are; the world will be just as it is; and we can’t change every single person, nor can we change every single factor in the world.  What we can do is change ourselves – and in changing ourselves, we will certainly benefit, but we will also slowly change the world.  Now how’s that for a terrific koan?  : )

9:30 am: Meditation.  I felt restless and antsy, yet also focused and committed to practice.  I want to go home, but I also want to maintain the deeper meditative states I have experienced/cultivated while here on retreat; and I’m not confident that I will be able to do that (or, perhaps more accurately, remain willing to do the very hard work it takes to maintain them) once I return to my busy, everyday, householder life.  I felt conflicted, and vacillated between relief and anxiety, calm and fear.

10 am: Q&A.  I asked Bhante, “You’ve told us so many good things these past thee days.  But if we are feeble-minded and can only remember one of them, what is the one thing you would have us do when we leave here and return to our everyday lives?”  Bhante’s answer: “Be mindful.”

It couldn’t be any clearer, or simpler.  Certainly not easy – but I shall do my best.

With that, I picked up my meditation cushion and blanket, walked to my car, started it up, and drove down the unpaved driveway, headed for home.

Stef

(Click here to go to the afterward – if you are so inclined.)

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(Disclaimer: This blog post contains some swearing.  If you are offended by coarse language, you may want to close this web page.  I don’t use cursing flagrantly, nor as an “attention-grabber”, but rather to honestly share what I was thinking/feeling/experiencing at various points in this retreat experience. Okay, all that being said – if you are still interested in reading, I happily welcome you in.)  :)

I got out of bed at my usual 4 am wake-up time.  At 5 am I was in the shower, and by 6 am the car was packed and I was on the road.  The morning was overcast, drizzly, and cold – which made for very exhausting driving.  I felt myself fighting fatigue the entire two hours it took to get to the retreat center – ugh.  (At this point I would like the record to show that I was not fighting sleep; that’s dangerous [and in my opinion rather stupid].  Rather, I was fighting fatigue, which is unpleasant, but not unsafe.  Just so we’re all clear.  Okay, I’ll continue…)

Despite the fatigue, I arrived to the retreat center safely – only to learn that the organizers weren’t on-site yet.  Okay… Forty-five minutes later, a flustered woman entered the center, only slightly apologetic for her tardiness.  Breathe Stef…. I held my tongue, received my room assignment (and roommate), put my sleeping bag and clothes on my bed, and put my cushion and blanket in the meditation hall – just in time for the 9 am introduction session.

Only, 9 am came and went, but no teacher arrived.  9:10 am… 9:20 am… My judgmental mind grew louder, and louder; and I felt my physical boy tensing and tightening; and my mind started to question why the hell I was even here – shit, I could be at home, kicking back, enjoying a nice yoga class…or reading some fun blogs…or hell, catching up on the million chores and errands I have waiting for me when I return back home… this is bullshit!  Why the hell do I do this to myself?  That’s it, no more retreats for me.  Screw meditation.  Screw mindfulness.  Why can’t I just be an unconscious, apathetic, materialistic person like so many others in society?  Why do I f***ing care so much?!

Um, yeah – clearly I need this retreat.  It’s pretty evident that too much junk has accumulated in my mind, and my heart; time to clear some clutter.

At 9:30 am the ‘better’ (insightful, wise) part of myself finally said, “Whoa, calm down.  Let go.  Just.  Let.  Go.”  And I did.  And at 9:31 am, the two teachers entered the meditation hall.  (Literally.)  Of course they did.  HP, I swear, you are one tricky bugger…

Alright.  So 9 am was supposed to be “Introductions” – but those never happened.  When the two teachers (monks) arrived, they sat down, and told us to watch our breath – and that was it.  We then meditated for the next hour.  Flashbacks of my 10-day retreat experience flooded back to me, and I did tell myself that if this was what the weekend was going to be like, I would leave tonight – I will not repeat that experience again.  During that first hour of meditation my mind was a crazy swirl, and I mostly saw how angry, hostile, and upset it was.

It was a brutal hour of meditation.  Truly.

At 10:30 am the teacher ended the seated meditation (thank G-d!), and gave 10 minutes of instruction on walking meditation.  Then from 10:45-11 am we practiced walking meditation – and I enjoyed this a lot more.  I’m a big fan of walking meditation – I find it soothing and comforting.  The 15 minutes passed by very quickly; then from 11-11:30 am the monk answered various questions people asked.

During those 30 minutes, I finally got to witness and experience the monk’s personality – and it was terrific.  Bhante G is knowledgeable, certainly; but he’s also quite witty, and very real.  Down to earth.  And he smiles a lot.  And he seems deeply at peace.  It was lovely to be in his presence; the 30 minutes flew by.

At 11:30 am we broke for lunch – and in the dining area, everyone was talking.  A lot.  And loudly.  I was dismayed.  This retreat was supposed to be held in noble silence – but because the monks arrived late this morning and didn’t conduct a proper opening for the retreat, no common expectations were established; and so people just did what they always do, which is a lot of yammering about not much at all.  Ugh.

I ate lunch as quickly as I could, avoided eye contact with my tablemates (which is one aspect of noble silence), and answered their questions with one-word responses.  (Literally.)  I wasn’t trying to be rude; rather, I was attempting to lead by example.  But I don’t think people ‘got it’.  Oh well.

After 10 minutes of eating I went into the kitchen, and did dishes.  Alone.  In silence.  Fine.

12:30-1:30 pm was ‘private time’ – the one point in the daily schedule that is unstructured.  I went to my room, hoping to find refuge amid the noise that seemed to pervade the entire facility – and instead found my roommate talking on her damn cell phone.  Are you kidding me?!

Okay, clearly I have been put on this retreat to learn patience, tolerance, and acceptance – and seeing my internal responses to the stimuli provided to me thus far shows me certainly I have opportunity for growth and maturation in these areas.  So, I can either learn the lessons and change the way I live my life, or I can continue to receive ‘opportunities’ to practice.  Ugh.  Here’s to hoping I can be a really quick study.

At 1:30 pm we did more walking meditation, then at 2 pm we did more sitting meditation.  My mind was still crazy-scattered, and I was still extremely tired, and I still felt a lot of resistance to being on this retreat.  Grr.  At 2:45 pm we had a 15-minute tea break, where mercifully most everyone was relatively quiet.  Not silent, mind you, but at least quiet.  Then at 3 pm we had our first teaching session.  The monk explained that the basic gist of Vipassana meditation (the style of meditation I practice, and the type of meditation this retreat is based on) is to watch the arising and passing of all things; and to fully experience that all things are impermanent.  Why bother seeing/feeling/experiencing that all things are impermanent?  The logic is that we suffer because we cling; we grasp at things, and if/when we get them, we hope and pray we get to keep them – but that’s NEVER the way it actually works (because ALL things are changing constantly).  So basically, we’re playing a game we can never win: we cling with the idea/goal of permanence, in a completely impermanent world.  But.  If we can learn impermanence and truly internalize it, we will cease the clinging, which ends the whole ugly cycle, and voila – we’re free of suffering.

Another way (the more ‘formal’ Buddhist way) of saying it: The five reasons we meditate are to: (1) purify the mind; so that we may (2-4) become free of clinging, anger, and hatred; which will allow us to (5) attain enlightenment/liberation/nibbana.

I’m still very much a novice in Vipassana and Buddhism, so I need things nice and simple (especially when it comes to ancient, deep spiritual teachings); so here’s my personal short-hand version of the whole deal: Let Go. Accept. Be Friendly.

Now, if only it were that easy to actually do

After the monk’s teaching, the schedule said we would have an hour of yoga – which was a lie.  No yoga was offered; instead, we were told to do more walking meditation.  NO!  (So much for acceptance.)  I was really, really looking forward to an hour of yoga each day – and was incredibly disappointed when it didn’t happen.  Indeed, at this point I was fed up.  I went to my room, and did “stare-out-the-window-and-watch-drizzle-soak-the-ground” meditation.  And after 30 minutes of standing and staring, I did fee a little bit better.

I then engaged in about 15 minutes of walking meditation, then sat for an hour of silent meditation.  During that session I stopped fighting my mind (i.e., I let go).  Instead of engaging in battle with my lack of concentration, I just sat back and witnessed the craziness of my mind (acceptance).  I stopped beating myself up for not being perfect (more acceptance), and tried to cut myself some slack (friendliness).  This wasn’t a session of total liberation by any means, but it was progress…

At 6 pm the monk chanted for 10 minutes (the schedule indicated chanting would occur for an hour) – and then told us to take a “tea break” until 7:30 pm.  Um… that’s a long time to drink tea.  But okay, fine, I’m working on acceptance… so I went to my room, and my roommate followed.  When she closed the door she turned to me and said (loudly), “Hey, how are you doing?  How’s the day going for you?  What do you think?”  Oh hell no.  This retreat is supposed to be in noble silence – it’s one of the reasons I signed up for it!  I blinked, breathed deeply, smiled as gently as I could, then put my index finger to my lips.  My roommate looked at me sheepishly.  “Oh, okay,” she whispered.  “Sorry.  I forgot.  I’m not used to this…”  Hon, whispering is still talking!  Aaaarrrggggg!!

I picked up my tea mug, and went upstairs to the kitchen to make some tea.  When I returned to the room a few minutes later, the roommate was still there; so I walked down the hallway a bit – and saw a completely unoccupied room. Hello!  I sat in the chair of the room, and sighed.  Ah, silence, it’s nice to experience you again.  In the very next moment I made a decision: I went rogue.  I moved all of my things from my roommate’s room to this unoccupied room – and it was terrific.  Now, I know, taking this action means I did not accept the situation that was presented to me.  However, I think this may have been a case of applying wisdom (as in “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”); this was a thing I could change, and I had enough wisdom to realize it, and I applied courage to take a rogue action.  And I’m really glad I did.

7:30 pm finally came, and the teacher spoke about two topics that I swear were directed precisely at me.  The first topic was about body image – specifically, how the Buddha taught about the 32 different parts of the body, and how he (the Buddha) stressed again and again that the body is neither beautiful nor ugly, it just is.  Life isn’t beautiful nor ugly, it just is.  Once we can get past notions of like/dislike, pleasure/displeasure, beautiful/ugly, etc., and see the reality of life (specifically, to see things just as they are, and only as they are – i.e., without adding our own reactive, emotional baggage to them), we will be liberated.  [From all of the “crazy” I’ve exhibited today, clearly I’m still firmly in the ‘reactive’ stage of the noble path.]

The second topic the teacher spoke about was loving-friendliness; and about how a very good aim to have in our practice (our life) is to cultivate feelings of friendliness towards every being.  Again, from the looks of the various responses I have displayed today, I have a lot of room to grow in that department, too.

So I’m pretty much feeling like a piece-of-shit human at this point, when the teacher wraps up the evening with a story.  The basic gist of the tale is that the Buddha saw all humans as lotus blooms.  Some blooms are at the top of the pond, and only need a faint hint of sunshine before they open wide and display all of their beautiful petals.  Some blooms are in the middle of the pond, and need a bit more nudging and help to reach the surface – but once they get there, they too will open and reveal their lovely flower.  Some blooms are at the bottom of the pond, stuck in the mud – and these poor blooms have to be dug out of all the muck, then have to make it all the way to the top of the pond… and all of this can take a lot of effort, and a lot of time.  But.  Once these blooms finally do make it to the surface, they will open, and realize their lovely flower natures.

I may be a tiny lotus bud trapped in a whole pile of muck at the bottom of a deep-ass pond, but I’m still a lotus, damn it!

Stef

(Click here to go to Day 2.  [If Day 1 didn’t scare you off, that is.])  :)

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I have attended two structured retreats thus far in my meditation career: one 10-day intensive personal retreat, and one 5-day blended work/personal retreat.

I just came home from a 3-day personal retreat; and this experience was quite different from the previous two.  If you are interested in reading the details, here they are:

Day 1: A whole lot of muck
Day 2: A meditation grab bag
Day 3: Progress; now time to return home
Afterward: What I learned…

And for anyone who may be curious about the background of this retreat, you can read details about the guiding teacher and the sangha (group) that organized and hosted this retreat.

If you have any questions for me, feel free to contact me by leaving a comment, or by using the contact box located on the “Contact Me” page.

Thank you for stopping by!

With much metta (loving-friendliness),

Stef

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