“The nature of the sun can be called “Maitri” or “Metta”. Maitri or Metta also means friendliness or loving-kindness. Perhaps the reason why loving-kindness is called so is that it generates very warm feeling towards all beings.
Like warmth that comes from the sun, one who has loving-kindness has a warm heart towards others. Just as the sun shines indiscriminately on any object in the world, “Metta” or “Maitri” pervades all beings without any discrimination. Just as the sun dispels darkness, loving-kindness destroys the darkness of hatred.”
– Bhante Henepola Gunaratana
The foundation of Metta begins with cultivating loving-kindness and compassion for ourselves. It is here, with our own self that we can begin to experience the deep love and compassion that we will later extend out to others and the world. Yesterday, we started to connect with essence or feeling of loving-kindness and compassion by reflecting on a being or a time we felt held us in unconditional love.
Today, we will continue to generate the quality of loving-kindness toward ourselves by creating our own circle of loving beings. For some this method is easier, for others the first way is preferred. It’s good to keep in mind that May Is For Metta is a time for exploration – you may try one way and then another until you finally find an approach that you feel helps you generate the essence of loving-kindness most strongly. This is how we enter into the practice each day; it is the heart of Metta meditation.
Your circle of loving beings may include the being your worked with yesterday but will bring in a number of beings who surround you in a circle. They may be people in your life – loved ones – family members, close friends, animals or universal beings whom you feel embody love such as Mother Theresa, Buddha, Jesus, Quan Yin, etc. In my practice, I include my Grandma Clara, my childhood dog Babas Au Rhum, my cat Percy, my mentor Bill, my Sufi teacher Ayesha, the Dalai Lama, Mother Theresa, Hilda Charlton, Buddha, my friend Bud and a few others whose image stirs the feeling of loving-kindness and compassion in me. Most often it’s the same group of beings but sometimes it varies.
It is suggested that it can be easier to work with people who are living, especially early on in your practice, but this is something for you to explore. The practice can also be a way to connect with loved ones lost and as long as the feeling of unconditional is strong and not overpowered by sadness or loss, this can be good way to stay connected. Most importantly, we want the energy that comes from this circle to be totally positive so that we can generate a strong foundation of loving-kindness and compassion.
Developing a deep sense of connection with our own inner self allows us to feel connected to everything and to experience a sense of wholeness. Offering loving-kindness and compassion to ourselves becomes the catalyst for offering it others and the world. So, it is very important to take the time to generate this feeling. Once we know the feeling and we can generate the energy of loving-kindness, then we can truly work with it as the vehicle for our practice.
As I mentioned yesterday, we will gradually be building our Metta practice, day by day. You may feel like we are going too slow but this is an intentional part of the practice. The mind tends to be very busy and goes fast, but the energy of the heart is much slower and gentler. Taking time to shift our energy and our awareness into the space of the heart requires a slowing down. If this feels uncomfortable to you, this is a good thing to explore in your journaling.
We are just beginning to connect with the feeling of loving-kindness in this new way. So, in a sense we are beginning to build a new relationship with ourselves. Anyone who has been in a relationship knows that it takes time to connect and grow in intimacy. Part of our journey during May Is For Metta is to cultivate a deeper knowing of ourselves that can only arise when we begin to approach ourselves from the space of the heart, with openness, gentleness and loving-kindness. It is important to include “going slow” as part of our practice!
Daily Practice: (Listen to Audio for Day 2)
Find a comfortable position either sitting on a chair or on the floor. Allow your spine to be straight but not tense; shoulders or stomach relaxed with your hands on your knees or your lap. Eyes can be closed or open with a soft gaze on the floor in front of you. You may like to explore practicing with eyes open or closed; there is merit to both ways for various practices and it is good to find a way that is resonant for you at this time.
Begin with a few deep breaths. It is important to allow the body and the mind to relax. Take a moment to scan the body for any areas of tension or discomfort. Allow the next few breaths to wash over those areas melting away any tensions. Also, scan the mind for any thoughts, worries or business of the day, and send all that out with the next few breaths, just letting it all drift away like a cloud passing by in the sky ~ you simply notice it and then it just drifts away.
Bring your breath and awareness to the heart center in the center of your chest. Notice how it feels to be present in the heart. This is the center of love, compassion, gentleness and mercy for your self and for others. As we begin, we connect with our own heart. Sometimes we notice a sense of openness or spaciousness as we enter the heart space. Sometimes we notice our resistance or a sense of constriction. Just notice what arises as you connect with your heart center without judgment or the need to change anything in this moment. Simply love and accept where you are and honor that you are taking time to make this connection with your self.
Now, imagine yourself sitting in the center of a circle of loving beings. Once again, they may be people in your life – loved ones – family members, close friends, animals or universal beings whom you feel embody love. You are creating your own circle of loving beings in alignment with your own belief system and spiritual path. Who stirs unconditional love in your more than anyone else? These are the being you will invite into your circle to surround and envelope you in loving-kindness and compassion.
Also, if there is someone who you bring in to the circle whom you have mixed or uncomfortable feelings about, perhaps a family member or friend, you may not want to include them in your circle just for now. There will be other opportunities to work with them later in the practice. This is “your circle of unconditional love and compassion” and only beings that generate those feelings should be included. Are you willing to create this for yourself? This is a powerful tool to work with in your practice and to bring into your daily life. So take some time to explore who will be in your circle for now; this is something you can change as your practice develops.
Once you have your circle created, just imagine sitting in the center of it. Know that you are receiving love from all of these loving beings surrounding you. Allow the love in your heart, mind, body and spirit to expand as you receive this unconditional love from all of the beings in your circle. Deeply breathe this into your heart center, letting it flow into every atom and cell of your being. As you breathe out, allow love and compassion to fill your circle so that you are infused with it both inwardly and outwardly.
Feel all the love that is in you and all of the loving, supportive energy around you. Spend as long as you wish to sitting in your circle receiving loving-kindness. When you feel ready, let the imagery of your circle go for now, knowing you can always call on it when you feel to.
Daily Journal Reflections:
Take some time to reflect and journal about any experiences, feelings or awareness that arose during your practice or throughout the day today.
- What did you notice as you practiced today?
- Did you practice today?If so, how did it feel? If not, what happened?
- Who is in your circle of loving beings? Is there anyone you might like to add? Was there anyone who came it, who may not be the best fit?
- How does it feel to be cultivating loving-kindness and compassion for your self?
- Did you notice any ways you resist loving yourself?
Tomorrow, we will begin to incorporate the Metta phrases into our practice. Today, really allow yourself to embody the feeling and energy of loving-kindness as you do your practice and perhaps, as you go about your day. At least once, try to call your circle of loving beings into your active life, perhaps at work, or while running an errand, etc. Allow yourself to carry loving-kindness and compassion with you wherever you go.
I believe that this aspect of Metta practice offers a powerful support for connection on many levels. This is something that is always needed but particularly in our current situation of quarantine and isolation, it can be a good way to cultivate our sense of connection. I hope you’ll explore this as a tool for our times!
Everyone is invited to share thoughts, experiences and reflections as their practice unfolds in the comments or in our Facebook group.
May you have a beautiful and loving day!
Tashi Deleh! (I honor the greatness within you!)
P.S. Yesterday, I had a chat with my good friend and May Is For Metta participant, Andrea Hylen, on her podcast, “Carving A New Path”. This includes an introduction to May Is For Metta and a guided practice for Day for you to explore. You can find the audio version at https://apple.co/2KRgF6C or view on Youtube at https://youtu.be/ecH91Tqh3yg.
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