Posts tagged #loving-kindness

How Do I Get a Life? - the 5 step answer

The question of how to get a life is one most people have to ask themselves at some point.  Very few folks spring into the world knowing full well how to pack a social calendar or spark a glamorous career.

How to Get a Life

1. To Get a Life, First Get a Mission

Getting a life is a tedious, defeating and nearly impossible process if you're driven only by loneliness or the desire for approval.  What many folks don't realize is that a full and wondrous life flows from having a mission.  So - what's your mission?  You get to make it up.  No one is going to hand it to you.

Sheesh, I get worn out just thinking about it.  This is tough business.

Here's a hint, though: ask yourself - what do I want the most in life? If your answer is, "money" "sex" or "fame" - think a bit harder.  What feeling state do you want those things to give you? A sense of being secure? A warmth of being welcome in the world? A rush of deep fulfillment? Astounded wonder? Vitality? Happiness? Focus on that feeling sense.  Now ask yourself this: what can I do to give that lovely feeling to as many people as possible?

Why are you asking yourself this? Because the more you give others that feeling, the more you'll experience it yourself.  But there's a catch. The catch is that you can't offer it just to folks you like.  You have to be willing to extend it without condition, to everyone. Otherwise the magic  boomerang effect doesn't happen.  That's how the gift world works.

Your answer to "what can I do" to spread the feeling state that you crave far and wide is your mission.  If you want to give yourself and others a sense of astounded wonder, maybe you had better get busy making art.  If you're into spreading happiness around, perhaps you should start throwing cozy sing-along-parties wherein you serve Swiss fondue.  Doesn't that sounds great? Or whatever.  Like I said, you gotta make it up.

 It's your mission, honey.

2. To Get a Life, Spread Your Mission Far

So you start off making art and throwing Swiss fondue singing parties.  Fantastic.  That's a smashing start.  But for the getting a life thing to keep working, I recommend that you further the momentum.  Pool resources together with other people, rent a hall, and throw a GIANT Swiss-fondue-singalong-art-party.   You'll probably become famous and get lots of money and sex since people will be so grateful for all the happiness and astounded wonder you've given them with your singing fondue art.

But by this point you won't even care about all the sex and money and fame because you'll be so freaking happy and full of astounded wonder that really, the cash and the smooth ripe flesh and the camera flashes from the bushes are all just gravy.

3.  To Get a Life, Teach Others How to Fulfill Your Mission

You're not the only one who longs to give others happiness and wonder.  Gather people around you and teach them the intricacies of your cheese-melting voodoo.  Show them how to craft sing-a-longs that people will talk about for years to come.  This is another way for you to be generous, and being authentically generous is what getting a life is all about.

4.  To Get a Life, Don't be Fake Generous

Fake generous is when you invite everyone to your fondue sing-a-long but instead of just wanting them to feel happiness you expect them to be grateful.  This isn't actual generosity – instead, it's a subtle form of manipulation.  People can sense that and they don't like it.  It's also draining and not fun.  There's an element of control and neediness to it that actually pushes folks away.  So at the end of the night you're left holding some dripping greasy chunks of bread and wondering why you don't feel at all fulfilled.

5. To Get a Life, Let Go of Your Bullshit

What's your bullshit?  Very simply, its your resentments, your envy, your cruelty, and your tight attachment to having things your own way on your own schedule.  That's your bullshit.  Don't worry, almost everyone else has the same bullshit. I've got massive reeking piles of it.  You're not uniquely awful because of it.  But you do have to give it up, because that stuff just drags you down and thwarts all your efforts at joy.

Why? Because resentment, envy, cruelty and attachment are patterns of thought and feeling that make you feel alienated from other people.  And the more alienated you feel, the more your limbic system will perceive others as threats to your well-being.  The more you perceive others as threats to your well-being, the more you'll be uptight and the worse you'll treat people (even against your conscious intention).  The worse you treat people, the less friends and true success and happiness you'll have.

So how do you let go of your bullshit? There are many light-weight methods  that work for people- but for me, since I've got such giant stores of it, I have to use the heavy-duty stuff: brahma-vihara practice.   It's a lot of work.  But it does erase the bullshit.  And you're looking to get a life, so you probably don't have anything better to do, right?

So - go I would love for you to tell me in the comments - what's your mission?

 

How to Experience Less Miserable Pain

Lately, I've been pretty good at making messes.  Big, ugly messes that involve hurting other people and embarrassing myself profoundly.

Ugh.

The more I study up on the brahma-viharas, the more it makes sense to me why I was able to create - so lavishly! - the messes that I did.

It's because of my intentions.

Not that my intentions in the recent past months were terrible. I wasn't waking up in the morning saying to myself, "Gee whiz, what can I do to hurt others today?" But I was living with a mind that teemed with envy and lust and I was concerned very much with "getting what I need to be happy / good enough."  In other words, I was living in self-centeredness (or self-cherishing, as my Tibetan pals like to call it) without even fully realizing it.

This is something rather basic that it's taken a long time for me to fully understand: even if I'm not seeking actively to hurt others, I can still hurt others very effectively when my primary motive is to further my own pleasure and security.  I tend to laser-in on that goal of "my own pleasure and security" with a magnetic focus that blinds me both to many facets of reality and to the feelings of those my actions might affect.

"So the first lesson of karma is that if you really want to be happy you can't trust that deep down you know the right thing to do, because that would foster complacency. Unskillful intentions would take over and you wouldn't even know it. Instead, you have to be heedful to recognize unskillful intentions for what they are and to act only on skillful ones. The way to ensure you'll stay heedful is to take your desire for happiness and spread it around." - Thanissaro Bhikkhu, Head & Heart Together: Bringing Wisdom to the Brahma-viharas

Hmmmm.  That just about sums up my experience.  It gives me great hope that Bhikkhu emphasizes that we can make ourselves more skillful at producing real happiness (as opposed to just pleasure that turns all-too-rapidly into pain) by "taking our desire for happiness and spreading it around."  Because I can do that!

That's what metta meditation is.

It's a fairly basic axiom of spiritual development that if we want to live a good life we should try to be less self-centered.  I don't think that I really understood the full import of that, though, until I read these words of the Venerable Lobsang Gyatso in Bodhicitta: Cultivating the Mind of Enlightenment

Our self-centeredness is an attachment directed toward the self which we have been generating spontaneously from time without beginning.  It is this which is the real enemy, this which is the actual embodiment of evil.  We are mesmerized by it, as a child is by a brightly colored object. And while it seems to promise so much for us, it is actually wholly destructive.  It thrusts us into the suffering of the three lower realms, and we can see that if in this present existence its power becomes overbearing it can lead us into unending conflicts and will eventually cost us this life.

Conversely the other-cherishing attitude is an extraordinarily positive intention which arises from correct logical reasoning.  It is only our own failure to practice which stands in our way.  If we did cultivate it, that would signify the onset of everything worthwhile.  The relationship between the two attitudes is similar to the relationship between the attractive light in which the respective minds of attachment and affectionate love view others.  Though they share the characteristic of seeing others in an appealing form, from every other viewpoint - attention, function, and effect - they are totally opposed to one another.

Well hot-damn.  That really drove home to me what my problem has been - and what caused me so much pain in my last romantic drama - that I was inhabiting lustful attachment instead of affectionate love.  That my attachment was part of delusional self-cherishing – and not even really "love" at all, because real love is non-grasping and other-cherishing.

For very many years I resisted the elementary notion that valuing others above myself is the way to go.  "Oh, that's just being a doormat, that's just the way to be used, that's clap-trap designed to hypnotize people into sacrificing themselves for nationalistic, patriarchal or religious purposes," I thought to myself, "I won't go in for that - I'll help others but I'll keep my own well-being the priority so as not to over-extend myself. I'll make sure I get my own security and pleasure and status first and think about others in my spare time, after I get all my ducks lined up."

Well, as I'm now understanding, the most efficient way of fostering my own real well-being (i.e., deep peace of mind, sense of meaningfulness, authentic joy) is to do just this thing that my ego recoils from so very much: be willing to value and concern myself with the well-being of others more than with my own.

Through doing metta bhavana everyday, I'm even beginning to intuit the reason why life and karma do indeed work this way: because the world is a projection of mind, other beings aren't really separate from me - they're actually the greater part of me.  My ego-character is just a little sliver of the hologram - "others" are the rest of it. When I'm wishing that all beings be happy, I'm actually wishing happiness for my whole self instead of for just a little delusional sliver of myself.

In other words - when I wish good things for you, dear reader, I'm actually wishing good things for me - because you are me and I am you and we are all together. Koo-koo-ka-choo.

httpv://youtu.be/RG73Pk1yUj8

What are your thoughts on self-cherishing vs. other-cherishing?

 

image: [Keith Williamson]

How to use metta to both disarm your internal meanness and also to get drunk

The funny thing about metta practice is that in attempting to radiate boundless goodwill, I discover just how much ill-will I've got in my heart.

It's a lot.

I can have barriers of ill-will built up against even my dearest friends - and not know it unless I deliberately try sending them metta!

These aren't giant resentments – I tend to be aware of those – but they are places where my heart has unwittingly contracted and shrunk because  my ego took offense to something my friend casually said.

Metta vs. Your Internal Meanness

Similarly, in giving metta to myself, I begin to gain insight into just how much of my usual internal monologue (filled with worries, self-criticisms, doubts – all the tastiest delicacies of self-involved neurosis) is actually motivated by ill-will towards yours truly.

Here's how this works: I'm sitting still, earnestly wishing "May I be happy" - not "May I get filthy rich so I can be happy" or "May I be transcendently perfect so I can be happy" - but just, you know - happy. With no conditions attached.  Just wishing this for myself starts to make me feel happy - and then I hear the thoughts that are like, "Oh, but Carolyn, you did this and this awful thing, you really don't deserve to feel happy..." or "You're almost 29 and practically penniless. How can you have any self-respect? Really, you're pathetic....."  and it becomes very obvious: those thoughts do not wish me to be happy.  They wish me to feel bad.  They lack metta. They're the voice of what my friend Andy has always called "Mean Carolyn," my inner relentless critic.

Mean Carolyn sucks.

Luckily, in the work of cultivation, I can quiet her down.  I just need to send my good wishes to myself louder than those harsh thoughts. "Doesn't matter what I did or what I lack! - may I be happy, goddamnit!"  And then – oddly enough – my smile broadens and my cheeks glow. The feeling of happiness continues and gets stronger.

The Hard Liquor of Benevolence

That's the other weird thing about metta practice - you discover just how much joy there is in the act of making positive wishes. It wouldn't seem that those little namby-pambly phrases of niceness ("May you be happy, May you be well, May you be free from suffering....") and the act of visualizing yourself and others in states of happiness would pack such a giddy punch - but after awhile it certainly does.

I've found that it's entirely possible to get drunk on good wishes.  And I mean tipsy, loopy, kissing-strangers-can't-stop-singing-show-tunes drunk. It's rad. And the neat thing is, there's no hang-over. Also, it's free.

I think this propensity for giddy drunkenness to arise is one of the reasons why teachers like Ken McLeod in his in-depth teaching on the four immeasurables recommend balancing loving-kindness meditation with compassion cultivation.  Because unless you're actively sensitizing yourself to the suffering of others, you might get so happy with your loving-kindness that you drunkenly overlook that suffering and become boorish.

Fascinating, yes?

So what's your experience with metta like so far?

 

image: [mnen]

 

 

 

With Metta: Cultivating Boundless Love

I'm a giant fan of metta.

Metta, of course, is the Pali word for loving-kindness or friendliness.  Along with karuna (compassion), mudita (sympathetic joy), and upekkha (equanimity) it's considered one of the "divine abodes" in Buddhism.

The divine abodes are also known as "the four immeasurables" because they can be cultivated through concentrated practice and directed towards an infinite number of beings.  They're not limited or limiting like personal affection and egoistic enjoyment.

In reading about the Buddhist path of awakening, one usually hears that the cultivation of metta and the other divine abodes are supplemental to the practice of Vipassana or insight meditation.  I've always found this emphasis to be disappointing- as I get a lot of pleasure and fulfillment out of metta cultivation and almost none out of Vipassana.

Metta as a Complete Path of Awakening

Recently, though, I had the good fortune of finding a radically eye-opening talk  on metta by John Peacock, the Associate Director of the Oxford Mindfulness Center.

Peacock makes a compelling argument that a non-traditionalist reading of early Buddhist scriptures supports the notion that the cultivation of metta is itself a complete path to awakening.  He points to the Metta Sutra, where the Buddha states that anyone who cultivates metta will "never again lie in the womb" as evidence that metta practice is enough to take an aspirant all the way off the karmic merry-go-round and into nirvana.

Peacock also makes the rather fascinating point that metta practice leads progressively and automatically to the cultivation of the other three divine abodes.

Well golly gee, sign me up.

I've been thinking for awhile now that I need to intensely focus myself on the cultivation of metta.

Here are some reasons metta is so important to me:

1. It Makes Me Both Happy and Psychic

Metta meditation, when practiced as a vivid visualization of oneself and others experiencing happiness, tends to make me feel open, energized, and buoyant.  I've also noticed that it tends to dramatically increase my intuition and my ability to feel and know things with my heart.

2. It Counters the Destructive force of Love Addiction

I struggle with getting caught up in romantic infatuations that are ultimately destructive.  This has been a pattern throughout my life, and I'm tired of it.  Metta, because it's universal and non-attached love, is the opposite of infatuated, obsessive, possessive love - which tends to be ego-inflating, unbalancing, and crazy-making.  Metta is sanity-making.  It's wholesome.  As such, it's the antidote to my unwholesome pattern.

3. It Tunes Me Into Divine Energy

Simone Weil once remarked that the cause of all misery is the inability of human beings to consistently draw energy directly from divine love in the same way that plants draw energy directly from the sun.  Instead, we humans tend to vampirize energy from others or from our own bodies via games of power and sensual indulgence. In the process, we hurt others and ourselves.  I completely agree with Weil on this point.  And it's evident to me that by practicing metta, we can increase our ability to draw energy directly from divine love instead of from acts of exploitation or addiction.

So my plan for the New Year...

...is to devote two hours every day to metta cultivation.  I know that sounds like a lot - but metta is fun.  So it's less of a commitment to hard discipline and more of me just making time to do what I both enjoy and need for my sanity.

Also, because I've found a lack of interesting things to read about metta cultivation on the interwebs, I intend to write about what unfolds in my process here - and hopefully it'll inspire some of you out there to try it for yourself.  I know I always need a lot of reassurance and proof that a spiritual effort will be worthwhile before I undertake it.

 

 

Posted on January 1, 2013 and filed under Uncategorized.

Ecstatic Joy Jet Fuel

Hey there-- today I'm offering my first ever for-sale thingy on this blog. Check out the goodness:  

Ecstatic Joy Jet Fuel (a guided loving-kindness virtualization)

 

 

Feeling like you kind of hate the world and you're not too keen on yourself right now either? That's completely normal in our screwy society and with all of our screwy childhoods.

 

Yes, it's normal but it sucks. So I suggest you check out Ecstatic Joy Jet Fuel as a means of remedying your discomfort. The name sounds pretty intense, but it's accurate. Loving-kindness virtualization is a powerful practice that completely transformed my life and brought me to levels of happiness that I did not know existed. I'm confident that it can work the same juju on you.

 

This track (featuring my rather nice voice -- all the time strangers offer to pay me to read them bed time stories and / or try to talk me into a career in public radio) guides you through what can be a tricky process.  You'll learn to vividly imagine and wish for total happiness on behalf of a friend, a neutral person, someone who's hurt you (an "enemy") and yourself.

 

If you take none of my other suggestions about anything ever, that's okay. Just do loving-kindness virtualization and your life will awesome-- maybe a bit more slowly than if you incorporate some of the other stuff on this blog-- but it will definitely happen.

 

Ecstatic Joy Jet Fuel - $12.00

 

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Posted on August 22, 2011 and filed under Uncategorized.

Raise Your Resonance with Loving-kindness

Dear Reader, One of the most potent means I've found for improving the resonance of my being so that I'm more open to love and happiness and all the good things of life is to practice loving-kindness virtualization.

About Loving-kindness Virtualization

Loving-kindness virtualization is like traditional Buddhist loving-kindness meditation, except instead of just verbally wishing others well, you take time to vividly imagine and feel the happiness and well-being that you wish for them.

I notice that when I practice this form of virtualization it gives me a big energetic boost and enhances my awareness of my connectedness to all other people. When I vividly imagine another person feeling happy and loved --  sometimes especially if I don't like that person or have a grudge against them -- I feel the happiness and love that I'm imagining on their behalf.

This clues me in that my happiness really isn't separate from theirs. It's all one big field, available to be shared.

How to Practice Loving-kindness Virtualization

1. Find some place to be relatively alone and relaxed.

2. Take a few deep breaths, center yourself in the intention to extend your love and drop your grievances.

3. Bring to mind someone you're a little bit irritated with-- a friend, a colleague, someone you see on the bus every day.

4. Imagine that person in a place where they're tremendously happy, doing what they most love.  This can be tough if you don't know the person all that well or you've never seen them really happy. Nonetheless, make something up.

Example: See your colleague who likes to bake standing in the midst of a totally gorgeous kitchen with glossy blue walls and a high stamped-tin ceiling: she has graceful cake plates stacked with luscious cupcakes all around her; her heart is full with joy and peace; she's stirring a bowl of golden batter; she's surrounded by people she loves who are sharing in her bounty. She's radiant, her face is beaming. The room smells like swiss cocoa and cinnamon. Someone makes a joke and the happy baker bursts out with a delighted, full-bodied laugh.

This virtualization might take some work to come up with because you usually encounter your colleague looking bored across the table from you at meetings, quibbling with your ideas, rushing past you in the hallways.

The Benefits for Another

To invest your time imagining her gloriously happy and fulfilled is a real act of generosity on your part.  Since all of us human beings are connected by a morphic field, your kind vision for your colleague actually has the effect of improving the probabilities in the field directly surrounding her.  The altered condition of the field can then draw forth from her new manifestations of joy.

The Benefits for You

While practicing this loving-kindness virtualization for your colleague, you'll immediately start to feel more of your own love and generosity. Even if you begin from a place of resentment or irritation, you'll discover after awhile that you really would like to see this person being completely fulfilled and relaxed. Just realizing this brings you to some important knowledge: you're a kind person who can take real pleasure in the happiness of others.

You'll also start to feel happier and lighter yourself.  It's impossible to vividly imagine anyone feeling really great without you also starting to feel really great.  You've not just improved the field surrounding your colleague-- you've improved the whole field surrounding you.

You may notice that after doing this meditation you feel more alert, more interested in your life, more inclined to do things, more glad to listen closely to other people when they talk.

The next time you see your colleague after you've practiced the loving-kindness virtualization on her behalf, you'll feel more inclined to be soft towards her and less inclined to judge her.

You'll sympathize with her own best wishes for herself, and you'll be able to intuitively grasp how her irritating actions (quibbling, rushing) are part of her means of coping with life's difficulties and defending her tenuous sense of self.  You'll see she can't help it. You'll feel more compassionate, and interested in helping her.

We human beings are all extremely perceptive. Because we're connected by the field, we can feel when someone genuinely wishes well for us, and we respond to this positively.

Over time, your colleague will pick up on your altered resonance. She'll notice that you don't put out vibes of irritation or disapproval when she brushes by you.  She'll be able to relax more when she's in your presence. She might ask you how you're doing. She might support one of your ideas brought up at a meeting.

One day she might bring you some rad cinnamon cupcakes with cocoa-custard icing, and then you'll know the magic is really working.

Love,

Carolyn

Image Credit: Photo of cupcakes from Little Cupcakes, Desgraves St., Melbourne by dootsiez on flickr, used under Creative Commons license.