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Metta
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11/14/11 7:25 PM
Has anyone actually done metta practice consistently and seriously for a reasonable period of time and can they comment on the resulting changes in personality and behavior, if any?

RE: Metta
Answer
11/14/11 8:04 PM as a reply to N A.
Has anyone actually done metta practice consistently and seriously for a reasonable period of time and can they comment on the resulting changes in personality and behavior, if any?
I do not know what consistently means here (and I do not do anything too seriously as that usually just means my jaw is locked and my forward is tense), but I did practice it regularly and sincerely.

You are probably already aware of U. Wisconsin studies from a few years ago and their documentation of newbies practicing compassion meditation for two months(?) every day. There were noticeable changes in the brain and behaviour reports.

I find it to be very similar in feeling to equanimity, though it requires more effort, a slight lifting in comparison to equanimity. It probably laid the groundwork for me in stabilizing Equanimity a few years later. One thing I noticed a few years ago was that my driving became better. Personally, it was hardest to get through the first step of metta: compassion for self. Not having that right away did not prevent the practice, but I eventually had to come back to that first step and sincerely find it and sustain it, which then surged the entire practice "deeper". Without compassion for oneself, the practice stays superficial and even misses its mark, may easily be a practice that is not compassion but something like pity and fear.

Are you starting a metta practice for yourself? If so, what are your reasons for doing it?

RE: Metta
Answer
11/15/11 10:45 AM as a reply to katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks.
Thanks for the reply Katy.

katy steger:
You are probably already aware of U. Wisconsin studies from a few years ago and their documentation of newbies practicing compassion meditation for two months(?) every day. There were noticeable changes in the brain and behaviour reports.

Cool, I assume this is the study: http://www.plosone.org/article/fetchArticle.action?articleURI=info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0001897
However as far as I can tell all it talks about is that while meditating the participants exhibited a stronger compassionate response. Not really very interesting or helpful...

Are you starting a metta practice for yourself?

I'm trying it out - a little every day.

If so, what are your reasons for doing it?

To be happier, of course. Especially after reading the discouraging threads about the effect of technical paths on behavior - they all say there isn't any... What happened to the paramitas? It seems Vipassana works to reduce or eliminate negative mental states, but the positive ones do still need more work to develop.

RE: Metta
Answer
11/15/11 11:07 AM as a reply to N A.
N A:
If so, what are your reasons for doing it?

To be happier, of course. Especially after reading the discouraging threads about the effect of technical paths on behavior - they all say there isn't any...

Do you want to be happier or to change your behavior?

N A:
What happened to the paramitas?

If you want to change your behavior, perhaps you should try doing that more directly. e.g. Being mindful whenever you take any action or say anything might allow you to change your behavior more effectively than doing secluded metta practice. Not to say you can't try both.

N A:
It seems Vipassana works to reduce or eliminate negative mental states, but the positive ones do still need more work to develop.

Do you want to be happier or to change your behavior?

RE: Metta
Answer
11/15/11 8:17 PM as a reply to N A.
Some very good info on Metta as an element of practice:

http://www.dhammasukha.org/Study/metta.htm

A Very good site overall.


Brian.

RE: Metta
Answer
11/16/11 7:48 PM as a reply to N A.
Hi from Hazel,

I now practise metta for a few minutes after every sit. I have found it really helps to stop dark night and reobservation experiences in sits bleeding out into everyday activities.

I used to miss the metta few minutes and the difference is palpable.

It was hard to get a 'metta feeling' at first but I just said words of loving kindness and directed my thoughts to various people, starting with myself. Gradually, the feeling began to come with the words. Now it flows spontaneously sometimes when I am empathising with someone or feeling compassion. It's like an outflow of subtle vibrations from the body.

If I'm having a hard time with myself or others, I'll do a whole hour sit with metta. The beginning of the sit is usually pretty horrendous - no good feelings and the feeling that it is a waste of time, but it gradually transforms into warmth and ease.

peace
H

RE: Metta
Answer
1/3/12 7:38 AM as a reply to Hazel Kathleen Strange.
Metta is one of my favorite topics.

For me, metta, as with the other three divine abodes- compassion, sympathetic joy, and eqaunimity- is a central practice.

This guided meditation by Gil Fronsdal was my formal meditative introduction to metta practice: http://www.audiodharma.org/talks/audio_player/44.html

Metta is goodwill, and friendliness. This gets purified, strengthened, and balanced with the other brahma viharas. Formal metta practice like in the talk above was very helpful. I went through a period of time (not in retreat) when I would spend much of each day repeating the phrases in my head. I found that it was a way to basically replace unskillful thoughts, and also to kind of massage my heart into a pleasurable and more open and loving state. It is through metta practice that I discovered the whole world of beautiful thoughts, sensations, experiences, and interactions that come from an attitude of non-harming, and a psyche that is not hung-up and uncomfortable due to the inability to feel metta toward "difficult" people.

I've come to understand metta as central to dharma life. The practices of purifying the mind/heart, through mindfulness and concentration, are also, I believe, essential to the development of true metta. Each feeds the other's progress, and complements one another. There are a lot of painful thoughts and actions that come essentially from self-view, and as we work to see these, and to change, what is happening from the "love" perspective (as opposed to wisdom) is that the sense of separation, destructive emotions, and actions based on intolerance, is fading away.

So, formal metta practice can help to open to deeper levels of insight, and the insight refines and strengthens the expression of metta, as well as the other three brahma viharas. The mind/heart, awareness, becomes more open, transparant, and encompassing with dharma practice. The result of this is an authentic transformation of the psyche, of perception, and emotion that is able to love in an appropriate, skillful, way, in any circumstances. When friendliness is strong, it's a gift to others. "Hatred never ends through hatred, hatred only ends by non-hatred/ love"- the dhammapada. The Buddha also says that wise friendship is the whole of the spiritual path.

Get a sense of the heart, see the ways in which it may be closed, stingy, vengeful, confused, in pain, cold, untrustworthy, tired, overexcited, aloof, stressed, and then BRING friendliness toward that. Are there painful judgements toward this? That's aversion, and the only way to counteract that is non-harming/ love! This is the process of having a shift of perspective toward ourselves and the world, from one that is closed, blind, and rigid, to one that is open, clear and flexible. It's by conciously choosing to cultivate a friendlier attitude- and discovering the ins and outs, and depths, of what that is- toward life that develops the "wise friendship" in one's life.

Another couple metta practices I've found helpful are 1: bowing. Before and after each meditation, perhaps, bow on one's knees, slowly (this is Ajahn Chah's instruction), with mindfulness immersed in the body, until the forhead touches the ground ("good for conceit!"), three times. The first time, keep in mind "I bow to the purity of the buddha," then the second time "the radiance of the dharma," and the third to "the peacefulness of the sangha." Then, perhaps just sit still before assuming the sitting posture and gently- not forcing- just very simply radiate the sense (if you have it, or perhaps just the intention to have it) above, below, inside and outside, front and back, and side to side. Maybe close this with the thought "may all beings be happy," or "may I be happy." This is one example of how I recommend incorporating metta into your sitting, and to increase metta over time. In doing this, I improved the ways in which I was forcing the metta, not being gentle (which was imbalancing my vipassana efforting), and practicing selfishly or in a limited way. It is a checking-in to the intention for simple inner strength, warmth, and good friendship to oneself and to others.
The 2nd practice I would suggest is the metta sutta. Try memorizing it (also good for concentration). Try chanting it consistently, say, once a day, for a long period of time. Through this practice, I really explored the metta practice! At first, it felt really good to chant this chant that is wishing well in various ways to various categories of people. Then it began to feel awful, which was a kind of purification, revealing the many ways in which I was showing preferences, or holding grudges. Eventually it got better again, and it was well-worth the effort, practice and perserverance. The metta practice is a heart-softening practice, an excellent way to keep make sure our practice is on-point.
And don't beat yourself up (again, harming!) whether or not you are feeling enough love or not. The intention is all you need- just try to remember to get in touch with that. More and more, I appreciate that metta is a way of relating to life. You don't have to do anything at all- just be here. You may have to do something to do nothing, and one of the best things to do for that is metta practice, because it's a way of setting the intention for, and giving expression to, the wish for one's own authentic happiness/wellbeing and the happiness/wellbeing of others, which is essential to dharma practice.

Another thing that can be helpful is to read Sharon Salzberg's book "Lovingkindness," as she probably mentions in there some stuff I neglected to mention here.

RE: Metta
Answer
7/4/14 11:48 PM as a reply to N A.
N A:
Has anyone actually done metta practice consistently and seriously for a reasonable period of time and can they comment on the resulting changes in personality and behavior, if any?

Anything new to report regarding Metta practice?

I agree with one poster that there are basically two practices that necessarily balance each other until the mind is vanished, and it is removing the mental limitations while at the same time doing practices that exercise the being in complementary interactions/purposes/intentions.   I call this creative visualization (CV).   AND, just to balance the creative work I also sometimes create ugly scenes too (hanging someone upside down by their toes, or vice versa, for example), but the emphasis is on Metta, or complementary relations.

However, the reason I decided to make a post is that I have been having a very clean feeling creating a person (for example, my daughter) and visualizing that this is composed of nothing but life and postulates ("postulare" == Latin for "to demand"), i.e., Life and the demands that Life makes of itself.  For example I focused in on a bird today and finally realized that it is life with a lot of limiting "demands" (except it can fly and we cannot). 

But, back to Metta, yes I can see how doing this sort of creative visualization would stave off stress that occurs when one decides to take on the Pandora's box of the mind and reducing that egoic mind through whatever techniques or practices.  I do CV before a guided meditation session, sometimes during the session if there is a lot of yawning or loss of concentration or discomfort, and then certainly after a session.  Keeps me sane.

One final detail on what I do that works for me (gets better with practice) is I also imagine another person (for example, my daughter) create something complementary or "metta".  I forgot to say that I also put all creations around me 360 degrees to get the full effect of it.  I also imagine -- for balance -- my daughter hanging me by my toes or something like that.  Can I have it? 

Not so much into the quality of the create although that can be fun, but when pressed for time quantity gets the faster result, and I stop when I feel good, not before.  In the beginning it took me several hours to "feel good" because the create had unleashed some longtime suppressions.

To help keep me from getting distracted I also have a recording with prompters:  "Create something"...."Put it above you"...."Create something".... (below, right/left, front/back).

I've been doing the same thing for several years now and at first I was miserable and uncomfortable changing my habitual approach to my mind (run and hide), and now I am mostly just lazy and distractable -- an improvement.   I am keeping much better notes now too.

Here's a paraphrased quote I like:   Wisdom (and freedom) comes when the desire for wisdom is greater than the desire to play games (against one's own mind).  

I am learning bit by bit to be complementary with the mind and do what it is doing.  For example, during session today it kept wanting to create that bird over and over again, so instead of fighting it I simply consciously created the bird over and over again until the compulsion nulled, and that was when I had my higher awareness about that bird.  My reward.    

Mental judo, anyone?

Thank you for the work you all do and I hope you are having as much fun as I am and if you think you are having more fun than me, please let me know.  Anyways, liberal CV will help keep your activities fun.  

The top Siddhi, in my estimation is the ability to create, and is the postulate set that some creator gods (us) once employed, i.e. To Create - To be Created, which kind of makes it look like a loop (the snake grasping its tail), and definitely a complementary activity.

When you have vanished your mind you will find you can lovingly use your creative abilities once again.  I get a taste of that every once in awhile, having been doing CV for about 3 years now.

One poster put emphasis -- correctly -- on metta CV towards oneself and I have to admit I need to do more of that. 


 

RE: Metta
Answer
7/5/14 12:29 AM as a reply to N A.
Oops replying to an old thread!