“The process by which we transform our more instinctual attitude to life, that state of mind which seeks only to satisfy desire and avoid discomforts, is what we mean when we use the word meditation. It is the technique by which we diminish the force of old thought habits and develop new ones.”
According to the Buddhist viewpoint, compassion arises from a happy mind. This is why it is so important to cultivate loving-kindness and compassion for ourselves. “Maitri” is a concept in Buddhism that is translated as “unconditional friendship toward oneself.” This can be a hard concept for Westerners to grasp due to the tendency in our culture to be constantly driven and often, self-critical. It can be especially hard when we are going through challenging times.
What Maitri really means is to be able to relax with yourself, to feel at home in your mind and body, and to get in touch with your own essential goodness. This is where the seeds of happiness arise. But, they come from letting go of the struggle against the pain in our life – the fear, anger, shame, loss and so on. This does not mean we suppress or reject those feelings, it means we embrace and envelope them in unconditional love and compassion as they are a part of who we are.
As humans, we tend to naturally want to turn away or escape from our pain but when we can to sit with it and allow our own tender hearts to just be, as they are, then we can begin to feel compassion for ourselves. It often takes our own experience of loss and grief to open us to the pain of others. This is part of why creating this foundation is such an important part of Metta practice.
Allowing all of the tenderness, vulnerability and softness we feel in our own hearts to arise can open us up to love and compassion in a new way. So, patience becomes part of that compassion; we need to be willing to go slowly and allow ourselves to be in our own hearts with whatever may be arising. As we delve into May Is Metta, we are intentional going slow as a way to connect with our hearts, to listen more deeply to what is arising within us and to begin to expand our compassion to others in a more intentional way.
This is not only a Buddhist concept; it is part of many spiritual traditions. As Sufi Master Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan shared,
“It is our suffering, our broken heart, that gives us insight into the suffering of others….The extraordinary thing is that the insight of the heart is the magic that unleashes talents and potentialities within people that have been blocked as a result of their suffering.”
This is a time to be embracing all of ourselves – our pain and sorrow, our joy and light, our limitations and our magnificence. By being willing to stay present and accept all of who we are, we are able as Pir Vilayat shared to “unleash our talents and potentials.” We also become more able to have compassion for others. In our current times with the challenges our world is facing, we need to be able to hold this space for ourselves and others, but we must begin within ourselves. This is the foundation from which we can hold and support others. Are you willing to embrace all of “you” with lovingkindness and compassion today?
A big part of being loving with yourself is taking the time to find practices which best support your journey of life and well-being. After our month of practice, you may find that Metta is not the daily practice for you and you can move on to exploring other practices. Or you may find it offers a wonderful foundation or adjunct for your meditation and mindfulness practices. Either way, for now allow Metta to be a vehicle for getting to know yourself better; and for moving into a more loving way of being with yourself, others and the world.
Do the foundational practice (See Day 5 if needed). Begin by getting comfortable and settling into your breath. Spend a few moments centering on your heart. Imagine yourself sitting in a circle surrounded by loving beings or if you prefer you can work with one being or memory. Remember, part of the foundational practice is finding how you can best generate the feeling of loving-kindness and compassion at the beginning of your practice.
Once you have generated a deep sense of loving-kindness through the foundational practice. Begin to offer Metta to yourself by using the phrases you have chosen to work with.
- May I be happy.
- May you be peaceful.
- May you be free from suffering.
- May I have ease of wellbeing.
If at any point, you notice your mind has wandered, return to the next phrase or begin a new round of phrases. Also, remember that you can always return to your foundational practice or connect with your heart center if you need to reconnect with the feeling or qualities of lovingkindness and compassion. Practice for as long as you have committed to or as much as you feel to for today.
I came across a recording from a teleseminar series I led in 2018 on Compassion Practices for Challenging Times. I am sharing a clip of it here as another resource to work with the guided foundational Metta practice. Listen now…
Daily Journal Reflection:
Take some time to reflect and journal about any experiences, feelings or awareness that arose during your practice or throughout the day today.
- Are you noticing difficult feelings arising as you practice?
- Are you feeling more of your vulnerability or tender-heartedness?
- Are you able to be patient with yourself and your practice?
- Are you practicing?
- Are you taking time to journal?
When difficulty feelings, critical voices or limiting beliefs arise, it can be a powerful tool to write them down and a good way to explore where your inner work lies. I encourage you in addition to considering any of the suggested questions to journal about what arises for your during your practice or as you move through your day.
Wishing you a peaceful and happy day.
Tashi Deleh! (I honor the greatness within you!)
- May Is For Metta Page
- Introducing To May Is For Metta! Daily Posts Start Tomorrow!
- Exploring Metta Meditation
- Apple Podcast Carving A New Path Interview on May Is For Metta
- Youtube Carving A New Path Interview on May Is For Metta
- Day 1 ~ May Is For Metta 2020: Our Journey of Lovingkindness Begins
- Day 2 ~ May Is For Metta 2020: Circle of Loving Being
- Day 3 ~ May Is For Metta 2020: Lovingkindness for Ourselves
- Day 4 ~ May Is For Metta 2020: Offering Lovingkindness to Ourselves
- May Is For Metta 2020 Introduction & Foundational Practice Video
- May Is For Metta 2020 Introduction & Foundational Practice Audio
- Day 5 ~ May Is For Metta 2020: Strengthening Our Foundational Practice