Posts tagged #metta

How Do You Forgive: 7 Steps to Freedom

How do you forgive when you've been massively, relentlessly hurt? How do you forgive when your heart feels like it's been sliced into tiny bits and set on fire in a garbage heap?

You might be walking around feeling like a giant flaming wound of misery from the horror that was inflicted on you. Or. You might be experiencing resentment as a quiet background hum that fills your day with irritation and alienation.

Either way, you know you need to shift something.

How Do You Forgive

1. Notice how much it hurts to not be forgiving.

It's a heavy thing to carry around, all that non-forgiveness.  Let yourself feel the weight.

2. Imagine what it would feel like to be completely free from the anger and hurt you feel.

Really imagine it. Take five minutes to do this. Make it vivid. Go.

3. Consider the fact that you feeling angry and hurt is not doing anything to help anyone at all, ever.

In fact, it's probably cramping your style.  It's making you unhappy so you're probably being unpleasant and selfish, as unhappy people usually are.  You would be much more useful to all the rest of us if you felt free and at peace.

4. Remind yourself that just because you forgive, it doesn't mean you have to let the person who harmed you back into your life.

Forgiveness doesn't mean being a doormat.  Letting someone walk all over you isn't kind.  It hurts them because it enables them to be a jerk.  Forgiveness means harboring no ill will in your heart.  It means truly, earnestly, non-sarcastically wishing well for the person who hurt you.

To be explicit: this means not wishing that they go to hell, contract a debilitating disease, become famous in Hollywood or any other of the horrible fates that might befall one.

5.  Remind yourself that you've learned from what you've experienced.

You got the lesson, throughout your whole being.  Your pain taught you the lesson.  You've learned it, it's over.  You don't have to hold on to the suffering of unforgiveness in order to remember your lesson. It's in your mind and heart.  Trust your own intelligence.

You'll never run off and join the travelling carnival and change your name to Talulah again. You know better now.  It's not a good road.

6. Imagine the person that hurt you feeling ecstatically happy, at peace, loved and loving.

Imagine them feeling completely saturated with an abiding delight that cannot ever depart, that is unconditional, that is inalienable from their very being.

Imagine them in beautiful surroundings, doted on by loving people and adorable animals.  See them drinking hot chocolate next to a roaring hearth.

Notice that if they had truly felt this happy and fulfilled to begin with, they probably never would have hurt you.  They would have been too busy being ecstatically enraptured by flowers and cuddly kitties. Folks hurt other people because they're unhappy and not at peace.  Truly happy people hurt no one.

7. Imagine yourself feeling ecstatically happy, at peace, loved and loving.

See yourself in a state of utter relaxation, warmest goodness, utter joy.  Imagine that you're in beautiful surroundings, and you just feel great.  You feel great at such a deep level that you know how great you feel can never be shaken.

In Conclusion

That's it.  Keep doing this reflection every day, devoting lots of time to imagining the person who hurt you feeling happy and to you feeling utterly wonderful, too -- and you'll achieve the forgiveness you're after.

Not only that, but you'll just be happier in general.  And fun stuff will start to happen in your life- weird, cool synchronicities.  You'll get more done.  You'll sleep better. I'm not lying. Try it.

Forgiveness isn't something that happens when you just say, "I forgive him / her / myself." That only works for the very smallest of things, things that didn't even hurt you or offend you that much to begin with.

For stuff That's a Big Deal, you need to go deeper.  You need to engage your imagination to super-charge your good will.  Good will is the juice that makes forgiveness possible.

And the act of forgiving increases the amount of good will that you have.  And then you're better able to forgive, because you've got more juice.  And then things rock.

It's good ju-ju.

Posted on February 7, 2013 and filed under Forgiveness.

What to do in life: notes for those who have failed and are incredibly depressed

 I want to congratulate you on your devastating failure.

YAY! You've utterly failed! YESSSSS!

I am completely serious and not trying to be mean. I am truly, really, honestly happy for you. I'm thrilled, in fact.

I'm thrilled because you're an adult and you have no idea what to do in life.  Oh, it's not like  you never knew what to do.  You once did.  But Your Best Plan completely did not work.  In fact, it not only didn't work, it blew up in your face just like your face was Hiroshima and your plan was the atom bomb.  Thanks a lot, Harry Truman.

Now you're living in the nuclear winter of your discontent. You bitterly regret all that has transpired. You might feel like harming yourself.  At best, you probably feel like laying in your bed and only getting up to microwave a Hot Pocket, shove it in your face, read gossip blogs, smoke cigarettes and call your mom while hysterically crying.  At least that's all I felt like doing for six weeks when it happened to me.

That's okay.  Have all the Hot Pockets you want. But don't harm yourself.  You're a precious jewel. I don't care if you've massively fucked up.  My favorite people are the ones who have massively fucked up.  They're the really interesting ones.

So instead of hating yourself this as a way of finding what to do in life:

1) Take a moment to appreciate your uncomfortable state of being really clueless about what to do in life.  It hurts. Horrifically.  I know.

But! The fact that you're open and curious now about how to live life has put you leagues ahead of most human beings.

2) Consider how much your original plan, the one that failed so painfully and spectacularly, centered all around the effort  to gain security and pleasure and power for yourself.

This effort is called "self-cherishing." It's the act of trying to gather things up to make yourself safe and pleased.

It's pretty much everyone's default plan. The thing is, it doesn't really work. Think of how your self-cherishing has put in you in conflict with other people, especially with people that you love, and how much pain this conflict has caused you.

It's true that some people half-assedly make self-cherishing sorta kinda seem to work their whole lives.  They never wind up in the writhing state of abject misery which you now occupy.  But the thing is, they never really get the giant light bulb of freedom to go off either.  The fact that you're in total despair means you're unbelievably close, closer than all the middlingly okay people! - to genuine, deep awesomeness.

4)  Understand that you don't have to continue with your self-cherishing.

I know it doesn't feel that way.  It doesn't feel like you have an option way because you're addicted to it.  Self-cherishing is your smack, my junkie friend.  And you've overdosed.  It's either get clean now, die ingloriously, or dwell in derelection.

So know that you really can try something else.  Something very radically different.

It's called "other-cherishing" and it's the act of devoting yourself to the well-being of others rather than to the service of your own pleasure and comfort.

Hmmmmmmmm. I can tell if you're anything like me you're probably not too keen on this idea.

5) Don't feel bad that your mind immediately recoils at the thought of other-cherishing.

My mind recoiled intensely from it for years. "But I'm a human being, too! Who's going to cherish me?  If I devote myself to serving others, I'll just be taken advantage of and nothing good will be left for me.  Besides, there's way too many people out there, human suffering is too overwhelming.  There's nothing I can do that would truly benefit everyone."

6) Contemplate this answers to your objection: if you give up self-cherishing, the whole universe will cherish you.

The universe freaking LOVES people who are earnestly surrendering their self-cherishing more than preteen girls love Justin Bieber.  And that is a lot of love, guys.

Why? Because that's what life, the universe, and everything have wanted you to do all along.  Once you start to give up self-cherishing, everything else you do becomes massively easier and takes on much greater, more satisfying meaning. Synchronicities start whirling and the blessings start raining down.  They were there waiting for you.  But in the past they were too repelled by your grasping and greed.  Grasping and greed are repulsive.  They repel good fortune.

And also, actually, there is something you can do to benefit everyone.  You can liberate yourself from your own self-cherishing. I know I may be sounding repetitive here, but listen. This is massively, hugely beneficial.  It's so beneficial that the human race joyously celebrates for thousands of years people who have done it, people like Jesus and Mary Magdalene and the Buddha and Rumi and Mirabai and St. Francis.   You can wake up from your nightmare of chasing security and pleasure.  As soon as you do this, you'll no longer generate conflicts everywhere you go.  Instead you'll create joy and be a place of kind refuge and calm for others.

To understand this, just consider how much pain others have given you when they've behaved in self-centered, self-cherishing ways and trampled over your feelings.  Your own self-cherishing has caused at least that much pain for others.  If you relinquish it, you'll stop causing that pain.  You won't be irritable and easily offended.  Instead, you'll be welcoming and warm to be around.  Folks won't have to tip-toe on egg shells around you.  They'll feel honored and loved in your presence.  And this means there's a good chance that they will be inspired to surrender their own self-cherishing just by knowing you.  They'll succeed, and then they'll go around inspiring others to do the same.  Everyone will get freer and freer, safer and safer, happier and happier.  It's a virtuous circle.

Literally, you can deeply contribute to everyone waking up from the nightmare.

7) Consider that your belief that you can't give up self-cherishing isn't true.

I certainly used to believe that giving it up was impossible- I could see that it would be theoretically great to be able to let go of my self-centeredness, but I just had no notion how to do that.

At some level, I didn't really want to learn because I still thought I could make self-cherishing work for me.  Well, that turned out to be assuredly not the case.

Happily for you and for me, the processes for ending self-cherishing do exist if you've had enough of your confused pain and you're willing to try something radically different.  The four immeasurables cultivation and tonglen are a great place to start and can go a very long way to rubbing out your self-cherishing. Try them yourself.

8) Seriously.  Tell yourself that every day for a month you'll do four immeasurables cultivation and the meditation on exchanging yourself with others.

And then do it.  Make it a higher priority than watching cute cat videos on youtube.

9) The more you do those practices, the more clear everything else will become.

Your whole mental and emotional make up will shift.  Your perception will no longer be so distorted.  Your creativity will activate like never before.  You'll know what to do.

10) Write to me and tell me how it's going: sweetsongofjoy at gmail dot com.  I would love to know.

 

 

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.