Last Monday evening Callie led a guided loving-kindness (mettā) meditation. The approach to developing mettā that she drew on comes largely from a method taught by Bhikkhu Sujato.
Those who would like to hear Bhante Sujato guide mettā meditation in this way will find an audio recording of it at: http://www.dhammanet.org/unconditional-love-part-2.
To listen to his series on this theme go to: http://www.dhammanet.org/dhammatalks/unconditionallove. Many more of his Dhamma talks can be found at: http://www.dhammanet.org/.
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A practice that I have come to value is the cultivation of mindfulness along with loving-kindness (mettā). Essentially, having developed some degree of mindfulness, while one is sitting or during other activities one brings the intention of loving-kindness or goodwill into awareness along with whatever is arising in the mind.
For example, if I’m experiencing fear around an interaction that I anticipate with someone, I allow the mind to be present with that mind state, and then attempt to connect with a sense of goodwill. That may mean I simply continue to be present with the fear and how it unfolds in the mind or in sensations in the body. It may also mean sensing my intentions around that experience, and recollecting my desire to not cause harm to myself or another. At another time, loving-kindness might guide the mind toward sensing the underlying needs that have been activated in me, or toward seeing the other person more clearly and with compassion.
I try to allow wisdom, and my sense of the Buddha’s path, to guide the process without trying to force it in a predetermined direction. I find that with practice this ability seems to get stronger.
Here is a handout that we gave out at our meeting last Monday evening describing how one might develop this practice in more detail.
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Many of us would like to develop mettā, loving-kindness or universal goodwill to a greater degree in our lives. We may value how it enriches our day-to-day experience, how it allows us to contribute to others, or both. At the same time, many of us experience obstacles to developing or maintaining this state of mind or heart for very long.
An approach that can be helpful in working with obstacles to mettā is to develop mindfulness accompanied by an intention of loving-kindness. Mindfulness allows for recognition of mind states as they arise, and supports the process of investigating and letting go of unskillful or unwholesome states and cultivation of skillful or wholesome states.
For the month of November, the Eno River Buddhist Community’s Monday evening programs will focus on developing mettā with the support of mindfulness. In addition to exploring this fruitful relationship, we will look at other topics related to mettā. Some topics to be addressed are: how the development of concentration and wisdom support the practice of mettā; working with resentment; and the practice of “effacement” for cultivating positive mind states.
The November series will take place during ERBC’s regular Monday evening sessions – 7:30 to 9:00 p.m. in the CARE Building at the Eno River Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Durham. Each session will include a meditation period preceding the program.
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