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Metta
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5/12/20 3:26 PM
So I look at all the categories here at DO and I don't see anything for Metta or any of the Brahma Viharas. I know its a squishy, woo woo kind of topic but what do people think of it here. I am starrting a 5 day Metta retreat tomorrow at IMS, I see its not part of the stages in Daniel's book. Is it unneccessary for enlightement? Thanks.

RE: Metta
Answer
5/12/20 8:50 PM as a reply to Sam Gentile.
I have some stuff in my practice log about the brahma viharas. They're not squishy and woo woo and it's unfortunate when people think of them that way. I wish more people would incorporate them into their practice.

The brahma viharas are not one of the insight stages, if that's what you mean when you say the stages in Daniel's book. However, I think that developing them can probably help alot as you move along the progress of insight. Many people would say that the brahma viharas fall under the category of training in morality. They can help cultivate more empathy, compassion, etc in how you think, feel, and behave towards yourself and others in the world, which is morality. They can also be used as objects of meditation in both vipassana or jhana. In vipassana, you could, for example recite a mantra over and over that goes with whatever brahma vihara you're working on... and then notice all the individual sensations that make up the recitation of the mantra, as well as any other sensations that happen in your field of experience. For jhana, you could use the mantra as the object to focus on, continually focusing your attention on the whole of the mantra as one object. Then when/if you have pleasant sensations come up you can then take the bodily pleasantness as the object of meditation and focus on that.

RE: Metta
Answer
5/12/20 9:30 PM as a reply to Sam Gentile.
https://library.dhammasukha.org/uploads/1/2/8/6/12865490/the_path_to_nibbana__d_johnson_f18.pdf

T
his is the stuff I do, which is cultivation of brahmaviharas, which, according to V. Vimalaramsi, does go all the way to enlightenment.

I endorse that practice fully. I think it should be on the front page of every newspaper. I'm not sure why, but I wasn't initially inclined to like V. Vimalaramsi. But I have to give him a ton of credit, because he's the source of the all the best meditation advice I've ever gotten.

RE: Metta
Answer
5/13/20 9:52 AM as a reply to Steph S.
Steph S:
I have some stuff in my practice log about the brahma viharas. They're not squishy and woo woo and it's unfortunate when people think of them that way. I wish more people would incorporate them into their practice.

The brahma viharas are not one of the insight stages, if that's what you mean when you say the stages in Daniel's book. However, I think that developing them can probably help alot as you move along the progress of insight. Many people would say that the brahma viharas fall under the category of training in morality. They can help cultivate more empathy, compassion, etc in how you think, feel, and behave towards yourself and others in the world, which is morality. They can also be used as objects of meditation in both vipassana or jhana. In vipassana, you could, for example recite a mantra over and over that goes with whatever brahma vihara you're working on... and then notice all the individual sensations that make up the recitation of the mantra, as well as any other sensations that happen in your field of experience. For jhana, you could use the mantra as the object to focus on, continually focusing your attention on the whole of the mantra as one object. Then when/if you have pleasant sensations come up you can then take the bodily pleasantness as the object of meditation and focus on that.

Steph, thanks for providing your perspective on how the brama viharas can help cultivate more empathey, compassion and how you interact with others in the world. And thanks for the example in your practice logs. I'll have to look them up. I start my IMS retreat tonight. I'll take it more seriously.

RE: Metta
Answer
5/13/20 9:53 AM as a reply to Brian.
Brian:
https://library.dhammasukha.org/uploads/1/2/8/6/12865490/the_path_to_nibbana__d_johnson_f18.pdf

T
his is the stuff I do, which is cultivation of brahmaviharas, which, according to V. Vimalaramsi, does go all the way to enlightenment.

I endorse that practice fully. I think it should be on the front page of every newspaper. I'm not sure why, but I wasn't initially inclined to like V. Vimalaramsi. But I have to give him a ton of credit, because he's the source of the all the best meditation advice I've ever gotten.
Brian, thanks for the document.

RE: Metta
Answer
5/13/20 10:12 AM as a reply to Sam Gentile.
You're welcome! Feel free to report back on the retreat here if you want. I've never been on a metta retreat, so I'm curious how it goes.

RE: Metta
Answer
5/13/20 3:40 PM as a reply to Sam Gentile.
Metta (Morality) is the First and Last Training and it's also the first chapter in MCTB. I agree with Steph, it's not squishy and woo woo at all. It's the misunderstanding of these concepts that causes others to think of them as woo-woo or however you want to think about it.  But yeah, it's not one of the stages of insight, it's one of the three trainings. From a practical standpoint, morality has to do with intention, setting intention is part of many meditation practices, just as an example, generating compassionate intention and then concentrating and holding that intention.

RE: Metta
Answer
5/13/20 3:44 PM as a reply to John W.
John W:
It's the misunderstanding of these concepts that causes others to think of them as woo-woo or however you want to think about it.  


To clarify, not implying *you* are misunderstanding, I'm saying it's the charlatan teacher types who claim to understand that do not, that set a bad example and turn some people off on these concepts.

RE: Metta
Answer
5/13/20 7:30 PM as a reply to Steph S.
Steph S:
You're welcome! Feel free to report back on the retreat here if you want. I've never been on a metta retreat, so I'm curious how it goes.
I'll report back on the metta retreat. I don't know wht they started tonight but Oran Jay Sofer went over the definitions of metta. The retreat is really structured around Lovingkindness Goddess and author of the original book Lovingkindness, Sharon Salzberg who won't teach until tomorrow afternoon.

RE: Metta
Answer
5/15/20 1:26 PM as a reply to Steph S.
Steph S:
You're welcome! Feel free to report back on the retreat here if you want. I've never been on a metta retreat, so I'm curious how it goes.

Since you were curious, I'm reporting back. Itsthe 3rd day. I can do Metta for 1/2 hour sessions but doing it all day for 10 hours alternating between sitting and walking is another thing entirely. I;m so tired of repeating these rote feelings. Not feeling anything. Bored. But I'm trying.

RE: Metta
Answer
5/16/20 9:45 AM as a reply to John W.
I think you are confusing metta with sila.

RE: Metta
Answer
5/16/20 2:26 PM as a reply to Steph S.
Steph S:
You're welcome! Feel free to report back on the retreat here if you want. I've never been on a metta retreat, so I'm curious how it goes.
Steph,

Next day, more of the same. Phrases seem so wooden. Not generating any emoition in me. Bored. Do you have advice on how you personally get in touch with your metta thoughts and emotions?

RE: Metta
Answer
5/16/20 5:01 PM as a reply to Sam Gentile.
Some questions before I can really respond:

What's the method or instructions they gave you?
Did they give you a specific mantra they told you to say, or did you come up with your own?
Are they first having you direct metta towards yourself, then towards a friend, etc?
Are you having trouble directing metta at others or yourself or both?

RE: Metta
Answer
5/16/20 5:54 PM as a reply to Steph S.
Steph S:
Some questions before I can really respond:

What's the method or instructions they gave you?
They said to visualize each category of person and say the following metta phrases:
May you be safe
May you be happy
May be healthy
May you live with ease

id they give you a specific mantra they told you to say, or did you come up with your own?
Mantra? What mantra? Or do you mean the phrases above?


Are they first having you direct metta towards yourself, then towards a friend, etc?
Self first, then benefactor, etc

Are you having trouble directing metta at others or yourself or both? Both

RE: Metta
Answer
5/17/20 1:27 AM as a reply to Sam Gentile.
I'll try to give you some ideas.

First, when I sit, I always establish a basic level of tranquility first. That means smiling very slightly (just enough to know that I am doing it), letting go of breathing (not pushing or pulling it), and letting the breath show me the whole body with regard to muscle tension, a bit like sonar. Breathing in, relax the tension. Breathing out, relax the tension. Feel the whole body, relax. When I think most of the gross tension is gone, I switch to metta.

I mentally hold the target of the metta in the place in my body where I tend to feel metta (lower chest, near breathing muscle). It eventually feels a bit like I am holding them in some nice kind of furnace.

I go through what I think of as a Maslow's hierarchy of wishes, to try to make it easy to remember: May you be well, healthy, free from sickness, safe, come to no harm whatsoever, feel calm, feel peaceful, be happy, be completely free from suffering. When the target of the metta is my spiritual friend, each of these is followed by "I feel glad when you ..."

Here's how one round goes. Text on the left means my internal voice, parenthesis indicates what is happening. The "..." is important: it means that some number of breaths is happening to allow stuff to happen. Just some, not a lot. Could be 2 to 4 in-and-outbreaths. Adjust for maximum benefit and efficacy.

Now (preparing to make a new wish)...
Smiling (knowing that the mouth is smiling)...
Smiling in the eyes (knowing that the eyes are smiling)...
Gladness in the heart and mind (feeling gladness)...
"May you be well." ...
"I feel glad when you are well." (feeling gladness)...
Trusting the Buddha to breathe for me (a phrase inspired by Thich Nhat Hanh meaning, knowing I am not controlling the breath)...
Enjoying the wholesome feeling (savoring whatever wholesome feeling there is)...
Smiling with the wholesome feeling (knowing the mouth is smiling while savoring whatever wholesome feeling there is)...
Relaxing with the wholesome feeling (releasing body tension and feeling the relief while savoring whatever wholesome feeling there is)...
Not resisting in any way. May the wholesome feeling pervade completely. ...

And so forth for the rest.

Now, I've never typed this out before, so I must say it seems like a lot. But I can tell you, I do this every morning, and it's no chore at all. Once you have internalized what you're doing, I think you'll find it's very easy. This is kind of funny -- just reading what I typed, I'm smiling like mad and feeling wholesome feelings pervade my head, with my eyes open.

The object is the feeling (starts with a warm fuzzy feeling, "loving kindness"). To look at the feeling, you feel it. You relax and smile into it. If you get distracted, drop the distraction (don't go any further down that road. You know if you're going further into a fantasy or not.), smile, relax, feel the relief and expansion from having released the tension, and only then go back to the object.

As you noted, sometimes a target of metta gets worn out. I alternate between my spiritual friend and myself. I really did not want to target myself initially. Sending feelings of loving kindness to myself is not something I was ever inclined to do. But it works, so I do it. When the target of the metta is myself, I imagine myself as a little animal, because I find it easy to wish animals well (when I look at a random bird or a spider or a cat or whatever, I think "you are a good little creature, aren't you?" It seems obvious they are good. I am probably a good little creature also.)

In the case where you cannot get metta to flow at all, there may be some blockage that can be fixed by forgiving someone. Could be someone else, could be yourself. V. Vimalaramsi has a forgiveness meditation.

There is another way that occurs to me: you could think of whatever works for you, like playing with a baby, or a puppy. If anything works, then you can use it a bit like a lit torch to set some other stuff on fire. For example, if you can get your internal metta furnace burning nice and hot thinking about playing with a smiling baby, then switch to your spiritual friend, and the brain association may be made.

If your mental voice ever seems cumbersome or is causing tension, see if you don't need it. You know the procedure, just e.g. know the state of the mouth without saying "smiling" to yourself "audibly" (mentally). If you ever find yourself unable to remember the next set of words, I think this is actually good. Just drop that and look at the feeling. Don't forget to deal properly with distractions (release, relax, resmile, feel relief, return to object).

RE: Metta
Answer
5/17/20 10:22 AM as a reply to Brian.
Brian:
I'll try to give you some ideas.

First, when I sit, I always establish a basic level of tranquility first. That means smiling very slightly (just enough to know that I am doing it), letting go of breathing (not pushing or pulling it), and letting the breath show me the whole body with regard to muscle tension, a bit like sonar. Breathing in, relax the tension. Breathing out, relax the tension. Feel the whole body, relax. When I think most of the gross tension is gone, I switch to metta.

I mentally hold the target of the metta in the place in my body where I tend to feel metta (lower chest, near breathing muscle). It eventually feels a bit like I am holding them in some nice kind of furnace.

I go through what I think of as a Maslow's hierarchy of wishes, to try to make it easy to remember: May you be well, healthy, free from sickness, safe, come to no harm whatsoever, feel calm, feel peaceful, be happy, be completely free from suffering. When the target of the metta is my spiritual friend, each of these is followed by "I feel glad when you ..."

Here's how one round goes. Text on the left means my internal voice, parenthesis indicates what is happening. The "..." is important: it means that some number of breaths is happening to allow stuff to happen. Just some, not a lot. Could be 2 to 4 in-and-outbreaths. Adjust for maximum benefit and efficacy.

Now (preparing to make a new wish)...
Smiling (knowing that the mouth is smiling)...
Smiling in the eyes (knowing that the eyes are smiling)...
Gladness in the heart and mind (feeling gladness)...
"May you be well." ...
"I feel glad when you are well." (feeling gladness)...
Trusting the Buddha to breathe for me (a phrase inspired by Thich Nhat Hanh meaning, knowing I am not controlling the breath)...
Enjoying the wholesome feeling (savoring whatever wholesome feeling there is)...
Smiling with the wholesome feeling (knowing the mouth is smiling while savoring whatever wholesome feeling there is)...
Relaxing with the wholesome feeling (releasing body tension and feeling the relief while savoring whatever wholesome feeling there is)...
Not resisting in any way. May the wholesome feeling pervade completely. ...

And so forth for the rest.

Now, I've never typed this out before, so I must say it seems like a lot. But I can tell you, I do this every morning, and it's no chore at all. Once you have internalized what you're doing, I think you'll find it's very easy. This is kind of funny -- just reading what I typed, I'm smiling like mad and feeling wholesome feelings pervade my head, with my eyes open.

The object is the feeling (starts with a warm fuzzy feeling, "loving kindness"). To look at the feeling, you feel it. You relax and smile into it. If you get distracted, drop the distraction (don't go any further down that road. You know if you're going further into a fantasy or not.), smile, relax, feel the relief and expansion from having released the tension, and only then go back to the object.

As you noted, sometimes a target of metta gets worn out. I alternate between my spiritual friend and myself. I really did not want to target myself initially. Sending feelings of loving kindness to myself is not something I was ever inclined to do. But it works, so I do it. When the target of the metta is myself, I imagine myself as a little animal, because I find it easy to wish animals well (when I look at a random bird or a spider or a cat or whatever, I think "you are a good little creature, aren't you?" It seems obvious they are good. I am probably a good little creature also.)

In the case where you cannot get metta to flow at all, there may be some blockage that can be fixed by forgiving someone. Could be someone else, could be yourself. V. Vimalaramsi has a forgiveness meditation.

There is another way that occurs to me: you could think of whatever works for you, like playing with a baby, or a puppy. If anything works, then you can use it a bit like a lit torch to set some other stuff on fire. For example, if you can get your internal metta furnace burning nice and hot thinking about playing with a smiling baby, then switch to your spiritual friend, and the brain association may be made.

If your mental voice ever seems cumbersome or is causing tension, see if you don't need it. You know the procedure, just e.g. know the state of the mouth without saying "smiling" to yourself "audibly" (mentally). If you ever find yourself unable to remember the next set of words, I think this is actually good. Just drop that and look at the feeling. Don't forget to deal properly with distractions (release, relax, resmile, feel relief, return to object).

Who's Brain? Thanks for typing that all in! Its  appericated! But how so I remember all that?

RE: Metta
Answer
5/17/20 2:29 PM as a reply to Sam Gentile.
Sam Gentile:
Steph S:
Some questions before I can really respond:

What's the method or instructions they gave you?
They said to visualize each category of person and say the following metta phrases:
May you be safe
May you be happy
May be healthy
May you live with ease

id they give you a specific mantra they told you to say, or did you come up with your own?
Mantra? What mantra? Or do you mean the phrases above?


Are they first having you direct metta towards yourself, then towards a friend, etc?
Self first, then benefactor, etc

Are you having trouble directing metta at others or yourself or both? Both

Sam, when I said mantra, yes that's just another word for the phrases. I wonder if part of the issue might be the phrases they gave you to say. It's possible you're not really connecting with their choice of phrases. I don't know how strict they are in the retreat about having you follow the exact phrases they gave you, but I've found that sometimes the standard metta phrases sometimes feel a bit mechanical and not particularly authentic for me personally. You migth ask your teacher if it's okay to come up with your own phrases that you feel more of a connection with. I find it's less important that you use the exact same words that others recommend for you, and the spirit or intent of what those words are supposed to mean is more important. So you could experiment and come up with your own phrases related to metta that have more power and meaning for you personally.

So metta, the basic meaning is lovingkindness. What does lovingkindness mean to you? Why are you interested in metta in the first place? Connect with your own, genuine heart-centered reasons for why you are interested in practicing metta. What's the spirit of metta to you? Come up with a phrase that relates to your interest in practicing metta.

Start reciting that phrase about yourself. Connect with how you feel when there's a genuine desire to wish metta towards yourself and others. What does that genuine wish actually feel like in the body? Focus in on those feelings in the body. Do it with love and heart. What does those feelings of love and gratitude feel like in the body? Focus on those feelings, really embody them as fully as you can. As you progress in your practice, it can feel as if the whole of you becomes imbued with that feeling of love or gratitude. 

I'll also mention that I really like the 6R practice by Bhante V that others in this post already mentioned. It's highly effective - especially the step about relaxing the tension after you release the thing that was distracting you.

RE: Metta
Answer
5/18/20 10:10 AM as a reply to Steph S.
Steph S:
Sam Gentile:
Steph S:
Some questions before I can really respond:

What's the method or instructions they gave you?
They said to visualize each category of person and say the following metta phrases:
May you be safe
May you be happy
May be healthy
May you live with ease

id they give you a specific mantra they told you to say, or did you come up with your own?
Mantra? What mantra? Or do you mean the phrases above?


Are they first having you direct metta towards yourself, then towards a friend, etc?
Self first, then benefactor, etc

Are you having trouble directing metta at others or yourself or both? Both

Sam, when I said mantra, yes that's just another word for the phrases. I wonder if part of the issue might be the phrases they gave you to say. It's possible you're not really connecting with their choice of phrases. I don't know how strict they are in the retreat about having you follow the exact phrases they gave you, but I've found that sometimes the standard metta phrases sometimes feel a bit mechanical and not particularly authentic for me personally. You migth ask your teacher if it's okay to come up with your own phrases that you feel more of a connection with. I find it's less important that you use the exact same words that others recommend for you, and the spirit or intent of what those words are supposed to mean is more important. So you could experiment and come up with your own phrases related to metta that have more power and meaning for you personally.

So metta, the basic meaning is lovingkindness. What does lovingkindness mean to you? Why are you interested in metta in the first place? Connect with your own, genuine heart-centered reasons for why you are interested in practicing metta. What's the spirit of metta to you? Come up with a phrase that relates to your interest in practicing metta.

Start reciting that phrase about yourself. Connect with how you feel when there's a genuine desire to wish metta towards yourself and others. What does that genuine wish actually feel like in the body? Focus in on those feelings in the body. Do it with love and heart. What does those feelings of love and gratitude feel like in the body? Focus on those feelings, really embody them as fully as you can. As you progress in your practice, it can feel as if the whole of you becomes imbued with that feeling of love or gratitude. 

I'll also mention that I really like the 6R practice by Bhante V that others in this post already mentioned. It's highly effective - especially the step about relaxing the tension after you release the thing that was distracting you.

The retreat is over now. No, I was totally able to come up with my own phrases at any time. The thing is I am so used to those phrases that Sharon Slazberg taught me years ago and they are stuck in my head, Thats what repeats. I don't know if some other phrases resonate better because I didn't even try. I still don't know. Do you have any examples?

>>>What does loveingkindness mean to you?
It means to wish myself and others well. See, I don't have a deep connection with the meaning. I'm interested in the practice to open my heart to feeling love, joy. They said it was a practice for me not neccessarily others. Argh! I can't answer your questions. Its like my heart is closed off. I know lovingkindness is good for me but I can't tell you why or feel why.