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The Urban Dharma Newsletter - March, 2012
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In This Issue: Buddhism and Loving-Kindness

1. Facets of Metta – by Sharon Salzberg
2. Cultivating Loving Kindness – by David Nichtern
3. Metta Meditation — Loving Kindness – by Ron Rink
4. Loving-Kindness Meditation by Ven. Pannyavaro
5. Buddhism and the Four Limitless Qualities – by Pema Chödrön

–– –– –– –– ––

It has been awhile since the last newsletter, sorry for the delay… This month it’s all about “Loving-Kindness” and if you track the news like I do, you know the world is in need of a little love and kindness.

I put together a facebook page for our little center in Korea Town, please stop by, check it out and like us, if you find the time.

www.facebook.com/IBMCLA

Find attached in PDF a booklet on the how and why of ‘Loving-Kindness.’

Peace… Kusala


1. Facets of Metta – by Sharon Salzberg

http://www.vipassana.com/meditation/facets_of_metta.php

    A pearl goes up for auction
    No one has enough,
    so the pearl buys itself
    -- Rumi

Love exists in itself, not relying on owning or being owned. Like the pearl, love can only buy itself, because love is not a matter of currency or exchange. No one has enough to buy it but everyone has enough to cultivate it. Metta reunites us with what it means to be alive and unbound.

Researchers once gave a plant to every resident of a nursing home. They told half of these elderly people that the plants were theirs to care for -- they had to pay close attention to their plants' needs for water and sunlight, and they had to respond carefully to those needs. The researchers told the other half of the residents that their plants were theirs to enjoy but that they did not have to take any responsibility for them; the nursing staff would care for the plants.

At the end of a year, the researchers compared the two groups of elders. The residents who had been asked to care for their plants were living considerably longer than the norm, were much healthier, and were more oriented towards and connected to their world. The other residents, those who had plants but did not have to stay responsive to them, simply reflected the norms for people their age in longevity, health, alertness, and engagement with the world.

This study shows, among other things, the enlivening power of connection, of love, of intimacy. This is the effect that metta can have on our lives. But when I heard about the study, I also reflected on how often we regard intimacy as a force between ourselves and something outside ourselves -- another person, or even a plant -- and how rarely we consider the force of being intimate with ourselves, with our own inner experience. How rarely do we lay claim to our own lives and feel connected to ourselves!

A way to discover intimacy with ourselves and all of life is to live with integrity, basing our lives on a vision of compassionate nonharming. When we dedicate ourselves to actions that do not hurt ourselves or others, our lives become all of one piece, a "seamless garment" with nothing separate or disconnected in the spiritual reality we discover.

In order to live with integrity, we must stop fragmenting and compartmentalizing our lives. Telling lies at work and expecting great truths in meditation is nonsensical. Using our sexual energy in a way that harms ourselves or others, and then expecting to know transcendent love in another arena, is mindless. Every aspect of our lives is connected to every other aspect of our lives. This truth is the basis for an awakened life. When we live with integrity, we further enhance intimacy with ourselves by being able to rejoice, taking active delight in our actions. Rejoicing opens us tremendously, dissolving our barriers, thereby enabling intimacy to extend to all of life. Joy has so much capacity to eliminate separation that the Buddha said, "Rapture is the gateway to nirvana."

The enlivening force itself is rapture. It brightens our vitality, our gratitude, and our love. We begin to develop rapture by rejoicing in our own goodness. We reflect on the good things we have done, recollecting times when we have been generous, or times when we have been caring. Perhaps we can think of a time when it would have been easy to hurt somebody, or to tell a lie, or to be dismissive, yet we made the effort not to do that. Perhaps we can think of a time when we gave something up in a way that freed our mind and helped someone else. Or perhaps we can think of a time when we have overcome some fear and reached out to someone. These reflections open us to a wellspring of happiness that may have been hidden from us before.

Contemplating the goodness within ourselves is a classical meditation, done to bring light, joy, and rapture to the mind. In contemporary times this practice might be considered rather embarrassing, because so often the emphasis is on all the unfortunate things we have done, all the disturbing mistakes we have made. Yet this classical reflection is not a way of increasing conceit. It is rather a commitment to our own happiness, seeing our happiness as the basis for intimacy with all of life. It fills us with joy and love for ourselves and a great deal of self-respect.

Significantly, when we do metta practice, we begin by directing metta toward ourselves. This is the essential foundation for being able to offer genuine love to others. When we truly love ourselves, we want to take care of others, because that is what is most enriching, or nourishing, for us. When we have a genuine inner life, we are intimate with ourselves and intimate with others. The insight into our inner world allows us to connect to everything around us, so that we can see quite clearly the oneness of all that lives. We see that all beings want to be happy, and that this impulse unites us. We can recognize the rightness and beauty of our common urge towards happiness, and realize intimacy in this shared urge.

If we are practicing metta and we cannot see the goodness in ourselves or in someone else, then we reflect on that fundamental wish to be happy that underlies all action. "Just as I want to be happy, all beings want to be happy." This reflection gives rise to openness, awareness, and love. As we commit to these values, we become embodiments of a lineage that stretches back through beginningless time. All good people of all time have wanted to express openness, awareness, and love. With every phrase of metta, we are declaring our alignment with these values.

From this beginning, metta practice proceeds in a very structured way and specific way. After we have spent some time directing metta to ourselves, we then move on to someone who has been very good to us, for whom we feel gratitude and respect. In the traditional terminology, this person is known as a "benefactor." Later we move to someone who is a beloved friend. It is relatively easy to direct lovingkindness to these categories of beings (we say beings rather than people to include the possibility of animals in these categories.) After we have established this state of connection, we move on to those that it may be harder to direct lovingkindness toward. In this way we open up our limits and extend our capacity for benevolence.

Thus, next we direct lovingkindness to someone whom we feel neutral toward, someone for whom we feel neither great liking nor disliking. This is often an interesting time in the practice, because it may be difficult to find somebody for whom we have no instantaneous judgment. If we can find such a neutral person, we direct metta toward them.

After this, we are ready for the next step -- directing metta toward someone with whom we have experienced conflict, someone toward whom we feel lack of forgiveness, or anger, or fear. In the Buddhist scriptures this person is somewhat dramatically known as "the enemy." This is a very powerful stage in the practice, because the enemy, or the person with whom we have difficulty stands right at the division between the finite and the infinite radiance of love. At this point, conditional love unfolds into unconditional love. Here dependent love can turn to the flowering of an independent love that is not based upon getting what we want or having our expectations met. Here we learn that the inherent happiness of love is not compromised by likes and dislikes, and thus, like the sun, it can shine on everything. This love is truly boundless. It is born out of freedom, and it is offered freely.

Through the power of this practice, we cultivate an equality of loving feeling toward ourselves and all beings. There was a time in Burma when I was practicing metta intensively. I had taken about six weeks to go through all the different categories: myself, benefactor, friend, neutral person, and enemy. After I had spent these six weeks doing the metta meditation all day long, my teacher, U Pandita, called me into his room and said, "Say you were walking in the forest with your benefactor, your friend, your neutral person, and your enemy. Bandits come up and demand that you choose one person in your group to be sacrificed. Which one would you choose to die?"

I was shocked at U Pandita's question. I sat there and looked deep into my heart, trying to find a basis from which I could choose. I saw that I could not feel any distinction between any of those people, including myself. Finally I looked at U Pandita and replied, "I couldn't choose; everyone seems the same to me."

U Pandita then asked, "You wouldn't choose your enemy?" I thought a minute and then answered, "No, I couldn't."

Finally U Pandita asked me, "Don't you think you should be able to sacrifice yourself to save the others?" He asked the question as if more than anything else in the world he wanted me to say, "Yes, I'd sacrifice myself." A lot of conditioning rose up in me -- an urge to please him, to be "right" and to win approval. But there was no way I could honestly say "yes," so I said, "No, I can't see any difference between myself and any of the others." He simply nodded in response, and I left.

Later I was reading the Visuddhi Magga, one of the great commentarial works of Buddhist literature which describes different meditation techniques and the experiences of practicing these techniques. In the section on metta meditation, I came to that very question about the bandits. The answer I had given was indeed considered the correct one for the intensive practice of metta.

Of course, in different life situations many different courses of action might be appropriate. But the point here is that metta does not mean that we denigrate ourselves in any situation in order to uphold other people's happiness. Authentic intimacy is not brought about by denying our own desire to be happy in unhappy deference to others, nor by denying others in narcissistic deference to ourselves. Metta means equality, oneness, wholeness. To truly walk the Middle Way of the Buddha, to avoid the extremes of addiction and self-hatred, we must walk in friendship with ourselves as well as with all beings.

When we have insight into our inner world and what brings us happiness, then wordlessly, intuitively, we understand others. As though there were no longer a barrier defining the boundaries of our caring, we can feel close to others' experience of life. We see that when we are angry, there is an element of pain in the anger that is not different from the pain that others feel when they are angry. When we feel love there is a distinct and special joy in that feeling. We come to know that this is the nature of love itself, and that other beings filled with love experience of this same joy.

In practicing metta we do not have to make a certain feeling happen. In fact, during the practice we see that we feel differently at different times. Any momentary emotional tone is far less relevant than considerable power of intention we harness as we say these phrases. As we repeat, "May I be happy; may all beings be happy," we are planting seeds by forming this powerful intention in the mind. The seed will bear fruit in its own time.

When I was practicing metta intensively in Burma, at times when I repeated the metta phrases, I would picture myself in a wide open field planting seeds. Doing metta we plant the seeds of love, knowing that nature will take its course and in time those seeds will bear fruit. Some seeds will come to fruition quickly, some slowly, but our work is simply to plant the seeds. Every time we form the intention in the mind for our own happiness or for the happiness of others, we are doing our work; we are channeling the powerful energies of our own minds. Beyond that, we can trust the laws of nature to continually support the flowering of our love. As Pablo Neruda says:

Perhaps the earth can teach us, as when everything seems dead in winter and later proves to be alive.

When we started our retreat center, Insight Meditation Society, in 1975, many of us there decided to do a self-retreat for a month to inaugurate the center. I planned to do metta for the entire month. This was before I'd been to Burma, and it would be my first opportunity to do intensive and systematic metta meditation. I had heard how it was done in extended practice, and I planned to follow that schedule. So the first week I spent directing lovingkindness towards myself. I felt absolutely nothing. It was the dreariest, most boring week I had known in some time. I sat there saying, "May I be happy, may I be peaceful," over and over again with no obvious result.

Then, as it happened, someone we knew in the community had a problem, and a few of us had to leave the retreat suddenly. I felt even worse, thinking, "Not only did I spend this week doing metta and getting nothing from it, but I also never even got beyond directing metta towards myself. So on top of everything else, I was really selfish."

I was in a frenzy getting ready to leave. As I was hurriedly getting everything together in my bathroom, I dropped a jar. It shattered all over the floor. I still remember my immediate response: "You are really a klutz, but I love you." And then I thought, "Wow! Look at that. Something did happen in this week of practice."

So the intention is enough. We form the intention in our mind for our happiness and the happiness of all. This is different from struggling to fabricate a certain feeling, to create it out of our will, to make it happen. We just settle back and plant the seeds without worrying about the immediate result. That is our work. If we do our work, then manifold benefits will surely come.

Fortunately, the Buddha was characteristically precise about what those benefits include. He said that the intimacy and caring that fill our hearts as the force of lovingkindness develops will bring eleven particular advantages:

1) You will sleep easily. 2) You will wake easily. 3) You will have pleasant dreams. 4) People will love you. 5) Devas [celestial beings] and animals will love you. 6) Devas will protect you. 7) External dangers [poisons, weapons, and fire] will not harm you. 8) Your face will be radiant. 9) Your mind will be serene. 10) You will die unconfused. 11) You will be reborn in happy realms.

People doing formal metta practice often memorize these eleven benefits and recite them to themselves regularly. Reminding ourselves of the fruit of our intention and effort can bring a lot of faith and rapture, sustaining us through those inevitable times when it seems as if the practice is not "getting anywhere." When we consider each of these benefits, we can see more fully how metta revolutionizes our lives.

When we steep our hearts in lovingkindness, we are able to sleep easily, to awaken easily, and to have pleasant dreams. To have self-respect in life, to walk through this life with grace and confidence, means having a commitment to nonharming and to loving care. If we do not have these things, we can neither rest nor be at peace; we are always fighting against ourselves. The feelings we create by harming are painful both for ourselves and for others. Thus harming leads to guilt, tension, and complexity. Sleeping easily, waking easily, But living a clear and simple life, free from resentment, fear, and guilt, extends into our sleeping, dreaming and waking.

The next benefit the Buddha pointed out is that if we practice metta we will receive in return the love of others. This is not a heartless calculating motivation, but rather a recognition that the energy we extend in this world draws to it that same kind of energy. If we extend the force of love, love returns to us. The American psychologist William James once said, "My experience is what I agree to attend to. Only those items I notice shape my mind." Perhaps this is partially how this law works -- opening to the energy of love within us, we can notice it more specifically around us.

It happens on other levels as well. If we are committed in our lives to the force of lovingkindness, then people know that they can trust us. They know we will not deceive them; we will not harm them. By being a beacon of trustworthiness in this world, we become a safe haven for others and a good friend.

The next set of benefits the Buddha points out promises that if we practice metta we will be protected. Devas, and other invisible beings, are classically taught as part of the Buddhist cosmology, but we don't have to believe in the intervention of invisible forces in order to comprehend how the practice of metta protects us. This assertion does not mean being protected in the sense that nothing bad will ever happen to us, because clearly the vicissitudes of life are completely outside our control. Pleasure and pain, gain and loss, praise and blame, and fame and ill repute will revolve throughout our lives. But nevertheless we can be protected by the nature of how we receive, how we hold that which our karma brings us.

Albert Einstein said, "The splitting of the atom has changed everything except for how we think." How we think, how we look at our lives, is all-important, and the degree of love we manifest determines the degree of spaciousness and freedom we can bring to life's events.

Imagine taking a very small glass of water and putting into it a teaspoon of salt. Because of the small size of the container, the teaspoon of salt is going to have a big impact upon the water. However, if you approach a much larger body of water, such as a lake, and put into it that same teaspoonful of salt, it will not have the same intensity of impact, because of the vastness and openness of the vessel receiving it. Even when the salt remains the same, the spaciousness of the vessel receiving it changes everything.

We spend a lot of our lives looking for a feeling of safety or protection; we try to alter the amount of salt that comes our way. Ironically, the salt is the very thing that we cannot do anything about, as life changes and offers us repeated ups and downs. Our true work is to create a container so immense that any amount of salt, even a truckload, can come into it without affecting our capacity to receive it. No situation, even an extreme one, then can mandate a particular reaction.

Once I had a meditation student who had been a child in Nazi-occupied Europe. She recounted an instance when she was around ten years old when a German soldier held a gun to her chest -- a situation that would readily arouse terror. Yet she related feeling no fear at all, thinking, "You may be able to kill my body, but you can't kill me." What a spacious reaction! It is in this way that lovingkindness opens the vastness of mind in us, which is ultimately our greatest protection.

Another benefit of cultivating of metta is that one's face becomes very clear and shining. This means that an unfeigned inner beauty shines forth. We know in life situations how mind affects matter, how if we are enraged about something, it shows in our face. If somebody is full of hatred, it shows in the way they stand, the way they move, the way their jaw is set. It is not very attractive. No amount of make-up, jewelry, or embellishments bring beauty to a sullen, disgruntled, angry face. In just the same way, when someones mind is filled with the rapture of lovingkindness or compassion, it is beautiful to see the expression of light, of radiance, on their face and bearing.

With the practice of metta one also has a serene mind. The feeling of lovingkindness generates great peace. This is the mind that can say, "You are really a klutz, but I love you." It is a feeling endowed with acceptance, patience, and spaciousness. This great peace allows union with all of life, because we are not relying on changing circumstances for our happiness.

The peace of metta offers the kind of happiness that gives us the ability to concentrate. Serenity is the most important ingredient in being able to be present or being able to concentrate the mind. Concentration is an act of cherishing a chosen object. If we have no serenity, the mind will be scattered, and we will not be able to gather in the energy that is being lost to distraction. When we can concentrate, all of this energy is returned to us. This is the potency that heals us.

If we practice metta, another major benefit is that we will die unconfused. Our habitual ways of thinking, acting, and relating to life tend to be the ones that are strongest at the time of death as well. If we spend a lifetime feeling separate, apart, cultivating anger, giving way to frustration, to fear, to desire, that will likely be the mental-emotional environment within which we face our death. But if we have lived our life in a way that honors our connectedness, reflects our oneness, and cultivates caring and giving, that is likely to be how we will die.

The last specific benefit the Buddha spoke of was being reborn in happy realms as a result of filling our hearts with lovingkindness. The potential for rebirth again and again in various realms of pleasure or pain is part of the Buddhist worldview. For someone who subscribes to this vision of life, rebirth in a realm where one can attain liberation is most important. For those who don't subscribe to this vision, the benefits of metta can surely be seen to come to us in this lifetime.

Metta is the priceless treasure that enlivens us and brings us into intimacy with ourselves and others. It is the force of love that will lead beyond fragmentation, loneliness and fear. The late Hindu guru Neem Karoli Baba often said, "Don't throw anyone out of your heart." One of the most powerful healings (and greatest adventures) of our lifetime can come about as we learn to live by this dictum.

Sharon Salzberg



2. Cultivating Loving Kindness – by David Nichtern

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-nichtern/buddhism-beliefs-cultivat_b_577891.html

The practice of cultivating loving kindness (maitri in Sanskrit and metta in Pali) is a Buddhist approach toward opening one's heart to others. It is very ancient, very simple, very direct and very effective.

The heart of the practice is generating four positive wishes for all beings:

    May you be safe

    May you be happy

    May you be healthy

    May you be at ease

We include beings we care for, those we don't care for, and those we don't care about. We even include ourselves!

Naturally it's easier to generate these positive wishes for our parents (in most cases), our children, our pets, our teachers, our friends. In that case maitri or loving kindness flows unimpeded.

It is challenging to generate that kind of attitude toward people we are indifferent to and it is very challenging indeed to generate it toward people we don't like.

To prepare the ground for practicing maitri, it can be helpful to consider that the way in which we categorize other beings will change over time, sometimes very quickly, sometimes more slowly. Whatever we experience is subject to impermanence.

For example an anonymous person we meet in the supermarket can become our lover and later on can become our wife and later on become our not so welcome (in some cases) ex-wife! We have gone through all three categories with one person.

Also we can recognize that the way we look at people is very much related to causes and conditions. It is not absolute. If we are having a bad day it is much easier to get irritated at somebody, maybe even somebody we fundamentally like. If we have had an abusive childhood, we can feel that the whole world is against us and we want to strike back. On a beautiful sunny Spring day, sometimes everybody looks great and we are in love with everything and feeling groovy!

So causes and conditions set the stage for our attitudes toward the world and we can and do affect those causes and conditions. It is practical to train our minds further so that we are not governed by our negative habitual patterns.

And finally it is worth noting and tuning into our most fundamental nature. What are we like when we are open, clear and fully present? What is our true nature? Do we really really actually wish others to suffer? Do we really really wish to create the causes and conditions for our own suffering? What is wrong with cultivating open hearted and positive wishes for ourselves and others? Have we really become that cynical?

So practicing maitri is simple. Just take a comfortable seat in a quiet place and close your eyes. First think of somebody you love. Send them the four wishes. You can either repeat each for a time with that person in mind or just think about how those wishes might manifest and affect that situation. You can be creative about it.

Then move on successively to yourself, a "neutral person" (somebody you don't know well or already have strong feelings about), and then finally take the plunge and send the wishes to an "enemy." You may even notice that the choice of who the enemy is moves around and that's fine. As mentioned already, yesterday's enemy could be tomorrow's ally. Also it's fine just to notice what comes up for you while you are trying to do this practice and simply allow space for that as well.

At the end, conclude by simply radiating out your loving kindness, your kind, sweet, loving open heart to all beings and send your good wishes to all of them (friends, oneself, neutrals, enemies, humans, animals, ghosts -- anybody you can think of). Then simply dissolve the meditation and sit quietly for a moment or two.

This practice might feel too "touchy-feely" for some of us. At first I thought maybe it was too innocent, too sweet. But it is an ancient practice dating all the way back to the Buddha and it can be surprisingly powerful. It would be great if some of us who actually try it can write in and share their experience. Or, if you wanna be grouchy and just say something about it without actually trying it that's okay too!

Follow David on his website (www.davidnichtern.com), facebook (facebook.com/davidnichtern), twitter (twitter.com/davidnichtern), or youtube (youtube.com/davidnichtern)



3. Buddhist Belief – Metta Meditation — Loving Kindness – by Ron Rink

http://www.buddhistbelief.com/buddhist-belief/buddhist-belief-metta-meditation-loving-kindness

“The real differences around the world today are not between Jews and Arabs; Protestants and Catholics; Muslims, Croats, and Serbs. The real differences are between those who embrace peace and those who would destroy it; between those who look to the future and those who cling to the past; between those who open their arms and those who are determined to clench their fists.”

    ~~~ William J. Clinton

This time of year has always been difficult for me. In fact, I always thought of myself as someone who had the S.A.D. syndrome– Seasonal Affective Disorder. My mental attitude this year seems to be starting out in the same vein — you know — “Here we go again — another few weeks of hectic chaos and wild commercialism.”

Then my thoughts proceeded to the things I write about and I said, “No! Not this time. This is the season of peace!” I don’t have to buy into all the craziness. There’s no good reason why I can’t be a person of peace. Remember the wonderful song, “Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me.” With that in mind, I decided for this posting I would offer a meditation which could, if practiced by enough of us, be a great way to let “Peace Begin With Us!”

Read on — You’ll see where I’m going with this …..

    ” Let your love flow outward through the universe, To its height, its depth, its broad extent, A limitless love, without hatred or enmity. Then as you stand or walk, Sit or lie down, As long as you are awake, Strive for this with a one-pointed mind; Your life will bring heaven to earth.”

    ~~~ Sutta Nipata

In keeping with so much of what we’ve been writing about these past several weeks relating to the basic teachings of Buddhist Belief. — and in keeping with the beginning of the holiday season here in the United States, I’d like to offer a meditation called, “Loving-Kindness Meditation — or the Metta Meditation. I’ll get back to the regular posts soon — I’m going to take a short break before we continue with the Eightfold Path.

Before we start, I have included this meditation as a podcast I recorded for those who would rather this be a Guided Meditation, where you can close your eyes and listen to it, rather than one you would read yourself. Just double-click the link to hear the podcast….

Buddhist Belief-Fourth Noble Truth-Eightfold Path-joyful attitude-meditation

Metta Meditation

This is an ancient meditation taught by the Buddha himself, and is designed to bring unconditional love to your Self, your loved ones and even learn to send unconditional love to beings throughout the universe. It will help to bring peace to situations taking place in your life. It will also allow you to look at the world in a more positive light.

Here’s how it goes …..

Buddhist Belief-Fourth Noble Truth-Eightfold Path-joyful attitude-meditation

You can begin by sitting down in a comfortable position and closing your eyes. Sit with your back erect, without being strained or over-arched. Just be comfortable. You can sit in a chair or on the floor, whichever works best for you.

Bring your attention to your breath. Take a few slow, deep breaths. In .. and out. In … and out. As you exhale, imagine you are breathing out all negative thoughts and emotions. Breathe in pure light, kindness, generosity and love — breathe out anger, breathe out any thoughts of harm to others or yourself or feelings of fear or failure. Relax your body. Feel your energy settle into your heart and into the moment, the present, the Now.

See if certain phrases emerge from your heart that express what you wish most deeply for yourself, not just for today, but in an enduring way. Phrases that are big enough and general enough so you can ultimately wish them for all of life, for all beings — everywhere.

The phrases of loving-kindness are things like,

“May I live in safety. May I be happy. May I be healthy. May I live with ease.”

You can gently repeat these phrases over and over again. You can have your mind rest in the phrases and whenever you find your attention has wandered, don’t worry about it. When you recognize you’ve lost touch with the moment, see if you can gently let go and begin again repeating the phrases.

“May I live in safety. May I be happy. May I be healthy. May I live with ease.”

Call to mind somebody that you care about — someone close to you — someone for whom you have positive feelings — perhaps a family member, a good friend, or someone who’s helped you in your life, or someone who inspires you. You can visualize them, say their name to yourself. Get a feeling for their presence, imagine them being with you now, here in the present, and then direct the phrases of loving-kindness to them.

“May you live in safety, May you be happy, May you be healthy, May you live with ease.”

Call to mind someone you know who’s having a difficult time right now. They’ve experienced a loss, or a painful feeling, or a difficult situation. It may be someone you know — or it may be someone who you’ve heard about. If somebody like that comes to mind, bring them here into the present with you.

Imagine them sitting in front of you. Say their name if you know it. Get a feeling for their presence and offer the phrases of loving-kindness to them.

“May you live in safety. May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you live with ease.”

Now, think of someone who plays some role in your life, someone you don’t know very well, perhaps someone for whom you have no particular feeling for, or against. Maybe the checkout person at the supermarket where you shop. It could be the gas-station attendant, somebody that you see periodically. If someone like that comes to mind, imagine them sitting in front of you, and offer these same phrases of loving-kindness to them. This could also apply to someone for whom you may be harboring negative feelings.

“May you live in safety. May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you live with ease.”

When we connect into these phrases, when we aim our hearts in this way, we’re opening ourselves to the possibility of including, rather than excluding — of connecting, rather than overlooking — of caring, rather than being indifferent. And ultimately, we open in this way to all beings everywhere, without distinction, without separation.

“May all beings live in safety. May all beings be happy. May all beings be healthy. May all beings live with ease.”

All people, all animals, all creatures, all those in existence, near and far, known to us and unknown to us. All beings on the earth, in the air, in the water. Those being born, those who are dying.

“May all beings everywhere live in safety. May all beings everywhere be happy. May all beings everywhere be healthy. May all beings everywhere live with ease.”

You feel the energy of this loving-kindness meditation extending infinitely in front of you, and to either side of you, behind you, above you and below you, surrounding you. As the heart extends in a boundless way, leaving no one out —

“May all beings everywhere live in safety. May all beings everywhere be happy. May all beings everywhere be healthy. May all beings everywhere live with ease.”

And when you feel ready, you can open your eyes and see if you can bring this wonderful, loving energy with you throughout the day, everyday.

Namaste — Be in Peace.

After a short break, we’ll get back to our articles about the Eightfold Path of Buddhist Belief.

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Ron’s Recommended Reading List

For those who wanted me to repeat the links for the books I’ve mentioned in the last few articles, here they are again — And, I have added another wonderful book by Sharon Salzberg. Here’s some information about it. I highly recommend all these books to you:

Sharon Salzberg — The Kindness Handbook

“It takes boldness, even audacity, to step out of our habitual patterns and experiment with a quality like kindness–to work with it and see just how it might shift and open up our lives. This book is an invitation to do just that.” – From The Kindness Handbook — “The Kindness Handbook

Eckhart Tolle’s amazing best seller, “A New Earth”

Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor’s wonderful book, “My Stroke of Insight” — “Nirvana is just a breath away!”

And this one by Sharon Salzberg and is entitled: “A Heart as Wide as the World: Living with Mindfulness, Wisdom and Compassion“.

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Always remember this wonderful quote from Buddha ….

    “You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”

    ~~~ Buddha

Shanti everyone, … (A sanscrit word meaning, “Let there be Peace. Peace, beautiful Peace. Peace within, Peace without. Peace in this world. Peace for all beings.”)

    “Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.”

    ~~~ Buddha



4. Loving-Kindness Meditation by Ven. Pannyavaro

http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/loving-kindness.htm

Loving-kindness meditation can be brought in to support the practice of insight meditation to help keep the mind open and sweet. It provides the essential balance to support Insight meditation practice.

It is a fact of life that many people are troubled by difficult emotional states in the pressured societies we live in, but do little in terms of developing skills to deal with them. Yet even when the mind goes sour it is within most people's capacity to arouse positive feelings to sweeten it. Loving-kindness is a meditation practice taught by the Buddha to develop the mental habit of selfless or altruistic love. In the Dhammapada can be found the saying: "Hatred cannot coexist with loving-kindness, and dissipates if supplanted with thoughts based on loving-kindness."

Loving-kindness is a meditation practice, which brings about positive attitudinal changes as it systematically develops the quality of 'loving-acceptance'. It acts, as it were, as a form of self-psychotherapy, a way of healing the troubled mind to free it from its pain and confusion. Of all Buddhist meditations, loving-kindness has the immediate benefit of sweetening and changing old habituated negative patterns of mind.

To put it into its context, Loving-kindness is the first of a series of meditations that produce four qualities of love: Friendliness (metta), Compassion (karuna), Appreciative Joy (mudita) and Equanimity (upekkha). The quality of 'friendliness' is expressed as warmth that reaches out and embraces others. When loving-kindness practice matures it naturally overflows into compassion, as one empathises with other people's difficulties; on the other hand one needs to be wary of pity, as its near enemy, as it merely mimics the quality of concern without empathy. The positive expression of empathy is an appreciation of other people's good qualities or good fortune, or appreciative joy, rather than feelings of jealousy towards them. This series of meditations comes to maturity as 'on-looking equanimity'. This 'engaged equanimity' must be cultivated within the context of this series of meditations, or there is a risk of it manifesting as its near enemy, indifference or aloofness. So, ultimately you remain kindly disposed and caring toward everybody with an equal spread of loving feelings and acceptance in all situations and relationships.

How to do it . . .

The practice always begins with developing a loving acceptance of yourself. If resistance is experienced then it indicates that feelings of unworthiness are present. No matter, this means there is work to be done, as the practice itself is designed to overcome any feelings of self-doubt or negativity. Then you are ready to systematically develop loving-kindness towards others.

Four types of persons to develop loving-kindness towards:

        a respected, beloved person — such as a spiritual teacher;

        a dearly beloved — a close family member or friend;

        a neutral person — somebody you know, but have no special feelings towards,
        e.g. person who serves you in a shop;

        a hostile person — someone you are currently having difficulty with.

Starting with yourself, then systematically sending loving-kindness from person to person in the above order will have the effect of breaking down the barriers between the four types of people and yourself. This will have the effect of breaking down the divisions within your own mind, the source of much of the conflict we experience. Just a word of caution if you are practicing intensively. It is best if you choose a member of the same sex or, if you have a sexual bias to your own sex, a person of the opposite sex. This is because of the risk that the near enemy of loving-kindness, lust, can be aroused. Try different people to practice on, as some people do not easily fit into the above categories, but do try to keep to the prescribed order.

Ways of arousing feelings of loving-kindness:

    Visualisation — Bring up a mental picture. See yourself or the person the feeling is directed at smiling back at you or just being joyous.

    By reflection — Reflect on the positive qualities of a person and the acts of kindness they have done. And to yourself, making an affirmation, a positive statement about yourself, using your own words.

    Auditory — This is the simplest way but probably the most effective. Repeat an internalized mantra or phrase such as 'loving-kindness'.

The visualisations, reflections and the repetition of loving-kindness are devices to help you arouse positive feelings of loving-kindness. You can use all of them or one that works best for you. When the positive feeling arise, switch from the devices to the feeling, as it is the feeling that is the primary focus. Keep the mind fixed on the feeling, if it strays bring it back to the device, or if the feelings weaken or are lost then return to the device, i.e. use the visualisation to bring back or strengthen the feeling.

The second stage is Directional Pervasion where you systematically project the aroused feeling of loving-kindness to all points of the compass: north, south, east and west, up and down, and all around. This directional pervasion will be enhanced by bringing to mind loving friends and like-minded communities you know in the cities, towns and countries around the world.

Non-specific Pervasion tends to spontaneously happen as the practice matures. It is not discriminating. It has no specific object and involves just naturally radiating feelings of universal love. When it arises the practice has then come to maturity in that it has changed particular, preferential love, which is an attached love, to an all-embracing unconditional love!

Loving-kindness is a heart meditation and should not to be seen as just a formal sitting practice removed from everyday life. So take your good vibes outside into the streets, at home, at work and into your relationships. Applying the practice to daily life is a matter of directing a friendly attitude and having openness toward everybody you relate to, without discrimination.

There are as many different ways of doing it as there are levels of intensity in the practice. This introduction is intended to help you familiarize yourself with the basic technique, so that you can become established in the practice before going on, if you wish, to the deeper, systematic practice — to the level of meditative absorption.



5. Buddhism and the Four Limitless Qualities – by Pema Chödrön

http://r-h-sheldon.suite101.com/buddhism-and-the-four-limitless-qualities-a104522

Pema Chödrön stresses the importance of the four limitless qualities to help dissolve the barriers that perpetuate the suffering of all living creatures.

Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön believes that the four limitless qualities of loving-kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity can help to free all beings from their suffering.

In her book Comfortable with Uncertainty, Chödrön states that by practicing the four limitless qualities, people can train themselves not to hold back, to see their biases in order to stop feeding them.

Such a practice will allow them to move beyond their fear of feeling pain, Chödrön believes, adding, "This is what it takes to become involved with the sorrows of the world...to extend loving-kindness and compassion, joy and equanimity to everyone - no exceptions."

Chödrön acknowledges that it can be difficult to move from a state of aggression to unconditional loving-kindness.

She suggests that individuals start with what's familiar - that they seek out the tenderness that is already a part of them. They should first recognize their own current abilities to feel goodwill, to experience gratitude and appreciation.

"Whether we find it in the tenderness of feeling love or the vulnerability of feeling lonely is immaterial. If we look for that soft, unguarded place, we can always find it," Chödrön explains.

Chödrön believes that individuals can help to awaken loving-kindness by using meditative chants in which they specifically invoke loving-kindness practices. She suggests that the chants being with the individual awakening loving-kindness in himself or herself and then working up to including all beings throughout the universe.

The Limitless Quality of Compassion

In the same way that people can nurture their ability to love, they can also nurture their ability to feel compassion. However, Chödrön acknowledges that compassion is more challenging because the person must be willing to feel pain, which requires the training of a warrior.

Chödrön points to the suggestions of 19th-centruy yogi Patrul Rinpoche for arousing compassion. He suggested that people imagine beings in torment, such as an animal about to be slaughtered or an armless mother watching her child being swept away by a raging river. "For most of us, even to consider such a thing is frightening. When we practice generating compassion, we can expect to experience our fear of pain."

Chödrön says that the key to feeling compassion is to "stay with emotional distress without tightening into aversion." Those who practice compassion should let the fear soften their hearts, rather than harden them to resistance. Through the practice of compassion, people can become more honest and forgiving about themselves, allowing them to do the "courageous work of opening up to suffering.”

The Limitless Quality of Joy

When people set up the conditions in their lives to cultivate growth, they begin to feel joy. This results from not giving up on themselves and from beginning to experience their own warrior spirits. To experience joy, individuals should train in rejoicing and appreciation.

Chödrön recommends that they start with a three-step meditative chant similar to the following: "May I not be separated from the great happiness devoid of suffering. May you not be separated from the great happiness devoid of suffering. May we not be separated from the great happiness devoid of suffering."

Chödrön believes that the appreciation and joy found in such words can help people connect with their own basic goodness - and the strength that this brings - so they can abide in the wide-opened, unbiased nature of their minds.

To find joy, however, individuals must be fully connected to the details of their lives. They must be paying attention, and through this attention, appreciating themselves and the world around them. "This combination of mindfulness and appreciation connects us fully with reality and brings us joy.”

The Limitless Quality of Equanimity

When people practice loving-kindness, compassion, and rejoicing, they are training in thinking bigger, which cultivates their unbiased state of equanimity. Without the quality of equanimity, they limit the other three qualities because they remain stuck in their habits of likes and dislikes, acceptance and rejection.

Cultivating equanimity is an ongoing process in which the warrior learns to open the door to all. At first, certain guests might cause a reaction of fear or aversion, in which case the individual should open the door only a crack and feel free to shut it when necessary. Eventually, though, the warrior welcomes them all. "Equanimity is bigger than our usual limited perspectives," says Chödrön. "It's the vast mind that doesn't narrow reality into for-or-against, liking-or-disliking."

Individuals who practice equanimity should try to catch themselves before they feel attraction or aversion, before their reactions become rigid or negative. They must think larger than right or wrong. Indeed, all four limitless qualities - loving-kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity - take the individual from the limited to the limitless. After all, "Through softening, the barriers come down.”
 
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