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Mapping Metta practice, first try

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Mapping Metta practice, first try
Answer
3/8/17 10:16 AM
Motivation:
In December 2013, I went on a Metta retreat with Bhante Sujato, which was great. I've been practicing according to his instructions for 9 months, and although the transformation went slow and almost unnoticably gradual (except for 3 distinct points of letting go), I think it was (and still is) definitely worth it. Since the retreat, I've only been practicing the first person (myself).
Also, I recognize that developing Metta and thus removing anger to myself was certainly what I needed now.

So, I'm wondering why
-few people on DhO actually talk about their Metta practice or don't do it at all
-newcomers with problems are usually told to go practice insight meditation and reach stream entry as fast as possible, when it is obvious that lots of their issues are probably due to other conditions which will hardly change by experiencing a fruition or two.
My speculation is that Metta is largely ignored because
1) a great part of the psychologized Mushroom culture dharma is so obsessed with it
2) MCTB talks little about it
3) It's hard to find detailed information as Metta. Compare that to descriptions of how to attain Jhanas or the Progress of Insight. Maybe that makes it easy to write it off as a practice without real lasting effect.

1) ...Nothing to do here.
2) I do recognize that MCTB does indeed mention Metta, and recommends it under certain circumstances. Maybe it would be a good idea to mention it more often in MCTB 2 because I think it's something people need to realize. (Or I'm just over-generalizing from my own experience. I actually don't know how valuable the practice of metta is, if you're not an anger type) At least I only really noticed the recommendation when I was rereading the book for the third time some months ago.
3) Hey, this is actually a problem I/we could do something about. My Metta practice (http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/5131630) log was my first small step in helping Metta gain world domination (IS really needs it. Once IS is removed, there will still be a lot of anger around...). By now, I feel that I gain some experience with the patterns of the practice. So I thought to myself: "Why not just draw up a Map of Metta, share it, and see what comes back?"
So, this is my first attempt at creating a map that describes what happens in Metta practice. Maybe this is only valid for my own experience. (In this case, take this as a very brief summary of my Metta practice log...)

Possibly I will look on this in a year's time and think "what the fuck did I think I was doing here, it's just so blaringly obvious how completely wrong and unhelpful this is." Also, 9 months of practice obviously don't qualify for mapping anything.
So I hope, others with experience in Metta will contribute. Maybe we can create a better map together or decide that no map can ever describe Metta appropriately. (If the Progress of Insight needed 1000years development time, I guess we can't expect to be finished with this in 2 weeks.)
Also, it may be completely skewed, because I had the idea after I tried to find similarities between the progress of insight and Metta practice.

I will describe a few stages here. In my experience, you are for quite some time caught in the first and second stage. Stage 3 is the turning point. I think it's not possible to go back once you've been there. Then, stages 1-6(especially 3-6) chaotically appear in seemingly random order. When you're in the process, it's rather useless to try and discern "ah, now I'm in the 5th stage of Metta". The patterns become more obvious only after you're done with the Peace stage. In hindsight, the described phenomena are still remarkable. The Peace stage is the end of the cycle. No going back after this one.
I've gone through this process three times now. Each cycle took 3 months, with daily practice 30-120minutes, and 5-20 days of self retreat with 4-6 hours/day.

1) Learning to swim:
You're trying to learn Metta. Great idea. You're saying the words, and you often remember to do so. Sometimes you don't, and you're somewhere off. Sometimes the feeling of Metta appears, sometimes it doesn't. It seems that there's not really much you can do here except come back to the words time after time. This stage is pretty neutral. Not much interesting happens here.

2) Getting a handle:
It becomes easier to stay with the words. Also, they seem to have more meaning. The feeling of Metta comes up easy, and saying the phrases of Metta is usually enough to call it up quite reliable.
While it's easy to stay with the words, you also notice how other intentions become mixed in the words.
Your task is to nudge the words back in the right direction. Otherwise you'll be saying "May I be happy" with a grim face and a brutal tone of voice which probably leads nowhere. These intentions can be anger, doubt, boredom, more anger, anger in other form, insults, making yourself seem ridiculous, sarcasm, irony...
This is the first step in getting familiar with the anger, which will finally be removed. But it's not clear enough yet. Only further practice will uncover the whole dimension of this anger, so you realize how important it is to get rid of it.

3) Disidentification:
The anger becomes really visible. Before, it was a side effect of the words, somewhere in the background. Now it's obvious. Maybe you can hear thoughts of anger, maybe you feel attacked by anger (like someone is throwing stones on you), maybe you start to cry as a result, maybe you feel your body tensing up. The anger is there, it's alive, it's wild and it's not just going to disappear if you don't learn more about it. Of course, the anger is also a behaviour which YOU do, but at this point, it can seem like a foreign animal which is a bit out of control.
(This is a bit like the misery stage.)

4) Fed up with all that anger:
You have seen the anger in various forms for some time. It won't leave. You feel incapable of saying the Metta phrases without there being some form of anger. It's frustrating. As you recognize the anger in its entirety, you are convinced of the necessity of removing it.
Now, 2 things can happen:
- You practice with more enthusiasm and despair. Metta brought you here, so it will bring you out.
- You start to doubt if it really works. Instead of practicing Metta, you start to play around with other techniques. ("Insight Meditation may be uncomfortable sometimes, but at least it doesn't lead to this kind of anger...")
(This is somewhat similar to Desire of Deliverance.)

5) Have a break:
Now it's a bit more quiet. Somehow the anger isn't present that much. The feeling of Metta is there, and it's possible to enjoy it. But it's not stable yet. In this part of the process, the words and the feeling are re-stabilized.

6) Despair:
The anger doesn't really get stronger, but somehow there is some bleed-through. You go about your day, and have vivid visions of hitting the person next to you in the bus. You want to shout ridiculous insults to whoever is there. It's somewhat frightening.
You get some despair that you never will get out of here, but you keep practicing because what else could you do. You are in the process so deep that it's obvious that there is no way of turning back. Enthusiasm has lessened but somehow you still keep practicing.
(This is somewhat similar to Reobservation, but with much less of the "I'm absolutely not willing to sit down and meditate"-quality.)

7) Peace:
It's over. This may happen at any time when you're not expecting it. Maybe you haven't been practicing for a week, and suddenly you notice, that anger is no longer dangerous for you.
Anger still arises, but it has no power any more. It still has the same feeling, but you realize that this can't really hurt you. Maybe you are scared when it arises, but realize half a second later, that it's not necessary.
After some time, deep peace arises, and anger subsides completely for some time. You just dwell in the feeling of Metta, and it's wonderful. (this won't last long though. maybe only one session.)
You look at all this anger and know that it won't come back to power anymore. It's very relieving to know that you've just discarded a behaviour which isn't good for you or anyone else. You feel like a new person, although it seemed not to be a giant step from Despair to Peace. Usually, Peace happens, when you aren't actually highly despaired.
This stage lasts only one or 2 days, but the lack of old anger remains impressive for 1-2weeks.

(This is very similar to Equanimity, but it's much shorter and not really an impressive stage in and of itself.)

8) Backlash:
I'm not sure about this stage and have hesitated to include it here.
After the peace stage, I often become very irritated and other people tell me. This is somewhat weird becauce it co-exists with the relief from the Peace stage. I also don't really know where this is coming from, if it is a remainder of the old anger, or some now anger or (I guess this one) some reaction to the peace and vulnerability of the Peace stage. So this isn't really a stage in itself, but I include it as separate because it only happens some time after the shift to Peace. Maybe if you're psychologically much more sane than me or in a protected environment, it doesn't happen at all.

______________________________

So, that's it.
If you have more ideas or if this is helpful for anyone, that would be great. Metta for world domination!
Best regards,
Bernd.

RE: Mapping Metta practice, first try
Answer
10/13/14 6:30 PM as a reply to bernd the broter.
Glad you are beating the drum for Metta practice.   It keeps my core practice moving along smoothly.

RE: Mapping Metta practice, first try
Answer
10/13/14 10:57 PM as a reply to bernd the broter.
I find it useful for dealing with ruminating about enemies. Some people can really mistreat you and the amygdala is going to zero in on that. Metta can help to relieve the constant revenge thinking.

Here are some opinions and reservations I have on metta:
  • Being a doormat to domineering people. This is where an understanding of compassionate wrath can help so that anger is directed towards self-defence but without becoming a monster to defeat one. Many people I've talked to have rolled their eyes at giving love to all people and they might attack you more if you give them love. Narcissists (I've met too many of those) want serotonin from you, not oxytocin.
  • It's conditioned so if there's any lapse in practice the skills fade. 
  • It doesn't remove clinging like insight does, and you can cling to the practice itself.
  • Welcoming unpleasant thoughts/sensations did a better job than metta and it was just an attitude adjustment. This is especially when you note mind states and welcome them. Resisting of any kind is simply more aversion.
  • With a reduction of clinging compassion is easier to do (if you're capable of it because some are psychopaths and cannot develop metta no matter what). It's impossible to be compasisonate if you're irritated. When there's less irritation then compassion comes natural to people with normal brains who meditate. Irritations related to preferences are what block the metta from naturally arising.
  • Metta can be a form of repression if a person is simply pushing positive thinking on top of negative thinking like a blunt instrument.
  • Metta works better with insight in tandem just like concentration can aid insight. If you develop metta but don't cling to the results that should improve the practice. 
  • Giving metta to the 4 foundations of mindfulness / 5 aggregates I think has some real value similar to welcoming and helps break down the sense of self at the same time.
  • Seeing things as cause and effect instead of deficiencies can reduce a lot of stress when cultivating metta seems impossible.

RE: Mapping Metta practice, first try
Answer
10/15/14 10:27 AM as a reply to Richard Zen.
Thanks Bernd for your summary. Have you considered coupling Metta with energetic practices (Heart Chakra)? Also, Daniel mentions in MCTB that there's a concentration factor arising while chanting/praying (couldn't find the page, it's near to where he describes candle concentration practices), I think he mentions how ecos, voice distorsions and "automatic praying" are linked to jhanas. 

RE: Mapping Metta practice, first try
Answer
10/19/14 4:51 PM as a reply to Richard Zen.
@Richard: Becoming a doormat is to be avoided. Starting with Metta for oneself + training in wise reflection should help with that I guess.
Bhante Sujato (who teaches a lot of Metta) writes about dealing with narcissists here:
http://sujato.wordpress.com/2014/07/31/narcissim-and-absence/

RE: Mapping Metta practice, first try
Answer
10/19/14 4:51 PM as a reply to PP.
@Pablo: Bhante Sujato talks more in detail about how Metta meditation leads to Jhana and how the factors are experienced.
I don't because I have no direct experience with that.
I'm just trying to describe the patterns in my experience which I haven't seen described by anyone else.

Energetic Practices: I know nothing about them. I don't know how to do them, how they work, where they lead to, or whether it's a good idea to combine them with Metta.
If you have some useful knowledge about them, I'd be happy to learn about that.

RE: Mapping Metta practice, first try
Answer
10/19/14 5:48 PM as a reply to bernd the broter.
In general: I prefer to think of metta as "non-competitiveness", it's the opposite of an "against" attitude, or a "me against the world" attitude. Instead it has everything to do with a kinship, or "us" attitude. This is specifically what Chogyam Trungpa refers to the as the absence of "aggression".

Also practicing metta in an environment with people helps them relax. Part of being part of a Sangha is to relax your aggression, desire for individuality and "uniqueness drive" such that you have no aggression while living in close quarters with other people.

Just some thoughts.

RE: Mapping Metta practice, first try
Answer
10/20/14 7:10 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
re bernd the broter (9/18/14 1:50 PM)

Some perspective (I), then comments (II) to specific postings in this thread.

I.
Metta – historical perspective

What we are commonly exposed to as metta practice – a litany of phrases addressed to a series of persons – is found nowhere in the Pali Suttas. The formula we know, however, is spelled out in detail in the Visudhimagga, so it was created somewhere in the 400-600 years between Buddhagosa's time and when the Suttas were converted from oral to written form (began about 2 centuries after death of G.Buddha, a process that
continued for a couple of hundred years, i.e., a bit oversimplified: the "early" Suttas date from about 200 years after GB's death, and the "later" Suttas from about 400 years after).

In the Suttas, where metta is mentioned at some 60 different places, metta is primarily concerns the practice of sila (virtue) and concentration (samadhi, jhana). As sila, it's expressed as conditioning safety, protection – blameless conduct so one is safe from remorse, and the resultant sense of security radiates to affect other beings. As concentration, it is used as awareness extended to measurelessness, as a sublime abode for the 'higher mind', the 'liberated mind,' which are terms referring to Jhana, as a foretaste, a temporary one but lending motivation, of final liberation of mind. And there's an important, conditional relation between these two: the mind can not let-go enough to attain jhanic absorption, nor abide in it without the so oft-cited negative side-effects, unless the mind / person has an initial stability, sense of safety, security relative to his/her past, and present kammic situation.

Sutta-Nipata (considered very "early")

One of the earliest documentations – the Metta-Sutta in the Sutta Nipata – begins with exhortation to wholesome conduct; then to train the mind: may all beings (sabbasattā) develop / become (bhavantu) 'happy' (suhkitatta – a state of sukha) – all beings weak/strong, long/large/middling/short, subtle/blatant, seen/unseen, near/far, born/seeking-birth. This extention to unboundedness, immeasurability signifies the mind in  Jhana. "As a mother would risk her life to protect her only child" – again protection, safety – so cultivate a "limitless heart" (mānasaṃ bhāvaye aparimāṇaṃ --manasa is more 'intentional mind' than 'heart') – for the entire cosmos, above, below, all around, without enmity; standing, walking, sitting, lying down, whenever alert, resolve on remembering (sati) this – sublime abiding, here and now. [The translation here paraphrases that by Thanissaro Bhikkhu]

As several people have noted, the peaceful state one can find by cultivation (or s/t by accident) doesn't last. That's probably why G. Buddha repeatedly recommended continued cultivation – just as he himself, although fully awakened and Buddha to boot, is reported to have spent hours every day secluded, abiding in concentration practices – "blameless pleasure" he called it.

Other Suttas, example formulations

An often repeated formula in the Suttas reads (here from Majjima Nikaya 50.14, translation B.Bodhi):"…abide pervading one quarter with a mind imbued with loving-kindness, likewise the second… the fourth [quadrants of space]; so above, below, around, and everywhere, and to all as yourselves, abide pervading the all-encompassing world with a mind imbued with loving-kindness, abundant, exalted, immeasurable, without hostility and without ill will."

Note here "…and to all as yourselves…" as a probably precedent for use of the 1st person addressed in the later metta formula.

A passage in the Numerical Discourses refers to the power of repeated cultivation (A I VI 53(3), again B Bodhi translation)
"Bhikkhus, if for just the time of a finger snap a bhikkhu pursues a mind of loving-kindness, he is called a bhikkhu who is not devoid of jhana, who acts upon the teaching of the Teacher, who responds to his advice, and who does not eat the country's almsfood in vain. How much more, then, those who cultivate it."

Visudhimagga – the way we know metta practice today

Chapter IX (about 32 pages) lays out the Brahmavihara practices as objects of concentration /jhana, discussing metta, as the primary one, extensively. This exposition is readily reconizable as the, or at least one of the prototypes for how it's taught / practiced today.

Here's an exerpt, lengthy but instructive in showing how later Theavada logic (of which Buddhagosais considered a master) attempted to reconcile elaborate Abhidhamma and commentarial teachings with the more concise, but often vague instructions in the Suttas.

(passages marked-off in square-bracketts[…] are inserted by Ven. Nanamoli, the translator; at some places I have inserted further clarification of reference in bracketts like this {…}; the bold emphasis is added here to highligh taspects relevant to this discussion.)

"IX.8. First of all it {metta} should be developed only towards oneself, doing it repeatedly thus: “May I be happy and free from suffering” or “May I keep myself free from enmity, affliction and anxiety and live happily.”

"9. If that is so, does it not conflict with what is said in the texts? For there is no mention of any development of it towards oneself in what is said in the Vibhanga {nor in the Suttas, beyond that instance I cite above}: “And how does a bhikkhu dwell pervading one direction with his heart filled with loving-kindness? Just as he would feel loving-kindness on seeing a dearly loved person, so he pervades all beings with loving-kindness” (Vibh 272); and in what is said in the Paþisambhidá: “In what five ways is the mind-deliverance of loving-kindness with unspecified pervasion? May all beings be free from enmity, affliction and anxiety and live happily. May all breathing things … all who are born … all persons … all those who have a personality be free from enmity, affliction and anxiety and live happily” (Paþis II 130); and in what is said in the Mettá Sutta: “In joy and safety may all beings be joyful at heart” (Sn 145). [Does it not conflict with those texts?]

(The texts mentioned here (Vihanga and patisambhida) are later, but those text constantly are based on, refer to material in the Suttas.)

"10. It does not conflict. Why not? Because that {the more advanced, jhanic practice} refers to absorptionBut this [initial development towards oneself] refers to [making oneself] an example. For even if he developed loving-kindness for a hundred or a thousand years in this way, “I am happy” and so on, absorption would never arise. But if he develops it in this way: “I am happy. Just as I want to be happy and dread pain, as I want to live and not to die, so do other beings, too,” making himself the example, then desire for other beings’ welfare and happiness arises in him. And this method is indicated by the Blessed One’s saying:
I visited all quarters with my mind
Nor found I any dearer than myself;
Self is likewise to every other dear;
Who loves himself will never harm another (S I 75; Ud 47)."

(Note, Buddhagosa isn't overtly making things up here, but rather trying to better understand the sayings of G. Buddha. Subtle distinction here, between "May I…" as just centered on myself, versus "…just as I … so do other beings…" as example, shifting the focus away from self to the universality of all beings, to an immeasurable, concentrated mental abiding.)

"11. So he should first, as example, pervade himself with loving-kindnessNext after that, in order to proceed easily, he can recollect such gifts,  kind words, etc., as inspire love and endearment, such virtue, learning,  etc., as inspire respect and reverence met with in a teacher…"


And so it goes further into all the types of persons in the standard formula, with detailed arguments explaining how and why to go about it,
including full treatment of metta as antidote to anger and resentment.

Note: the Visudhimagga is available on the  internet as a no-cost PDF file, in fact the version I found there has corrections to minor errors in the printed version I had purchased earlier.


II. tying into thread postings …

bernd the broter (9/18/14 1:50 PM)

" My speculation is that Metta is largely ignored because
1) a great part of the psychologized Mushroom culture dharma is so obsessed with it
2) MCTB talks little about it
3) It's hard to find detailed information as Metta. Compare that to descriptions of how to attain Jhanas or the Progress of Insight. Maybe that makes it easy to write it off as a practice without real lasting effect"


1) That's pretty much where one has to start to reach a large audience in the West; those attracted to 'new age' stuff like Buddhism (as represented in the West), more often than not have psychological issues.

2) MCTB, and DhO, no less than the whole Western insight/vipassana 'movement', are largely caught up in the excessively insight/vipassana-leaning bias that's crept into Theravada since about 2000 years. (See Ajahn Sujato's "A History Of Mindfulness" – but it's not an easy read.) Hence the marginal treatment of things like kasinas and metta, both originally embeded in concentration / samadhi practices. And when topical, the approach is usually reshaped as an insight practice.

3) Fewer books than on insight, but the information is there – books like Sharon Salzberg's, many essays by various monks / nuns / lay teachers – check Dharmaseed for talks.; and there's the Visudhimagga.

"…helping Metta gain world domination…"

Reminds of a passage in Karen Armstrong's book "Buddha" (2001), a semi-popular biography that I found very inspirational way back when I first got into this stuff (ca. 2008). Remember the myth (p.30f) that his parents consulted seers (brahmins) shortly after his birth, as to whether he would become a "world-turning monarch" (Cakkavatti), a political / military leader like his father, or an equally, perhaps greater spiritual leader, a Buddha. One seer came up with the latter prophecy, which didn't please the father at all. Anyway, Armstrong ends the chapter with (p.96):
"…An essential part of the truth he had "realized" under the bodhi tree was that to live morally was to live for others. He would spend the next forty-five years tramping tirelessly through the cities and towns of the Ganges plane, bringing his Dhamma to gods, animals, men and women. There could be no limits to this compassionate offensive."

re Richard Zen
(10/13/14 10:57 PM as a reply to bernd the broter.)

"… Many people I've talked to have rolled their eyes at giving love to all people and they might attack you more if you give them love…"

Another possibility is to explore terms other than 'loving' (as in 'loving-kindness') for metta, e.g. 'good-will' (Thanissaro Bhikkhu) or 'benevolence' (Ven. Analayo). There are umptime senses of 'love,' many quite noble, but there's the very common (especially in Western popular culture) usage that's too close to 'affection' (pema in Pali), which is a leaning toward, a focus on another based in one's own need, i.e. a thirst (tanha), a craving for something in return. (Actually the etymology of English 'affection' reflects this, whereas the etymology of metta relates it to mitta, or friendship, beneficial companionship) Again, love/affection feeds a limiting situation, limited by 'I' here focused on 'you' or 'other' there. And, as we all know too well, that attitude has a very strong tendency to lead to grief. Whereas metta, as unlimited, offers absorption in a mind state encompassing all beings in good will.

Also, when one comes up against thefact that one's metta, karuna, etc. doesn't quite solve the world's problems (and you might get attacked for trying), there's the 4th Brahmavihara, actually the goal, equanimity (upekkha), the only one of the four that can reach the 4th jhana, a gateway to serious path stuff. (Metta is talked about some, but who ever talks about the 4th Brahmavihara?)

"…It doesn't remove clinging like insight does, and you can cling to the practice itself."


But the more you do it, (as G.Buddha recommended), the stronger the habit, and the less time for dwelling in mind states prone to aversion, and the more empowered the insight practice will become.

" Metta works better with insight in tandem just like concentration can aid insight. If you develop metta but don't cling to the results that should improve the practice. "

Of course. The juxtaposition –vipassana and samadhi (including metta) practices as separate, even opposed – is a young tradition, a fabrication of the last 60 years or so, and largely to suit lay and Western listeners (by Westerners as well as those like Mahasi and Goenke) in the 'modern' world (including Asia as subject to Western forces of domination). There are other traditions, spanning centuries and millennia where the two naturally work together, complementary. Is clinging to metta or jhana practice worse than clinging to vipassana practice? Somehow, going around incircles with the kind of psycho-melodrama so often seen in modern insight venues is ok, but dwelling in practices of bliss and liberation (even temporary) is dangerous? The shadow of Western Calvanistic/Puritanical Christian culture peeking out? As Thanissaro Bhikkhu has said, the ill-effects of "addiction" to jhana" are hardly comparable to the ill-effects of addition to sensual lures, that regularly lead to the worst sorts of violence. And jhana is the bliss that works best to weaning away from the latter. And it empowers insight.

"Metta can be a form of repression if a person is simply pushing positive thinking on top of negative thinking like a blunt instrument."

Is that true metta, or just misguided practice?
 
re J J
(10/19/14 5:48 PM as a reply to bernd the broter.)
"Also practicing metta in an environment with people helps them relax"


True. True (well-established) metta is 'contagious.'

re Colleen Karalee Peltomaa (9/19/14 8:41 AM as a reply to bernd the broter. )
"Metta is good. More people need to do it, because it is totally possible to really be oblivious of great amounts of self-hate/anger, which creates a great amount of suffering. NOTE: I did >500 hours of diligent Vipassana (100 Goenka, >400 Noting) gaining lots of insight, but those  methods did VIRTUALLY NOTHING to make me aware of all the self-directed anger."

One can therapize with anger ("psychologized Mushroom culture dharma"), like psychotherapy itself – helping people 'adapt' and function in a world of self-pre-occupation, where anger et al are just "harmonized" (that's used as a term in classical Chinese medicine that's roughly equivalent to 'palliative care' in Western medicine). Or one can train the mind in practices immersed in unbounded good-will and peaceful joy, that build strong habits and responses that gradually replace less skillful former conditioning.

RE: Mapping Metta practice, first try
Answer
10/20/14 1:54 PM as a reply to CJMacie.
Chris J Macie:
re bernd the broter (9/18/14 1:50 PM)

re Richard Zen (10/13/14 10:57 PM as a reply to bernd the broter.)

"… Many people I've talked to have rolled their eyes at giving love to all people and they might attack you more if you give them love…"

Another possibility is to explore terms other than 'loving' (as in 'loving-kindness') for metta, e.g. 'good-will' (Thanissaro Bhikkhu) or 'benevolence' (Ven. Analayo). There are umptime senses of 'love,' many quite noble, but there's the very common (especially in Western popular culture) usage that's too close to 'affection' (pema in Pali), which is a leaning toward, a focus on another based in one's own need, i.e. a thirst (tanha), a craving for something in return. (Actually the etymology of English 'affection' reflects this, whereas the etymology of metta relates it to mitta, or friendship, beneficial companionship) Again, love/affection feeds a limiting situation, limited by 'I' here focused on 'you' or 'other' there. And, as we all know too well, that attitude has a very strong tendency to lead to grief. Whereas metta, as unlimited, offers absorption in a mind state encompassing all beings in good will.

Also, when one comes up against thefact that one's metta, karuna, etc. doesn't quite solve the world's problems (and you might get attacked for trying), there's the 4th Brahmavihara, actually the goal, equanimity (upekkha), the only one of the four that can reach the 4th jhana, a gateway to serious path stuff. (Metta is talked about some, but who ever talks about the 4th Brahmavihara?)

"…It doesn't remove clinging like insight does, and you can cling to the practice itself."


But the more you do it, (as G.Buddha recommended), the stronger the habit, and the less time for dwelling in mind states prone to aversion, and the more empowered the insight practice will become.

" Metta works better with insight in tandem just like concentration can aid insight. If you develop metta but don't cling to the results that should improve the practice. "

Of course. The juxtaposition –vipassana and samadhi (including metta) practices as separate, even opposed – is a young tradition, a fabrication of the last 60 years or so, and largely to suit lay and Western listeners (by Westerners as well as those like Mahasi and Goenke) in the 'modern' world (including Asia as subject to Western forces of domination). There are other traditions, spanning centuries and millennia where the two naturally work together, complementary. Is clinging to metta or jhana practice worse than clinging to vipassana practice? Somehow, going around incircles with the kind of psycho-melodrama so often seen in modern insight venues is ok, but dwelling in practices of bliss and liberation (even temporary) is dangerous? The shadow of Western Calvanistic/Puritanical Christian culture peeking out? As Thanissaro Bhikkhu has said, the ill-effects of "addiction" to jhana" are hardly comparable to the ill-effects of addition to sensual lures, that regularly lead to the worst sorts of violence. And jhana is the bliss that works best to weaning away from the latter. And it empowers insight.

"Metta can be a form of repression if a person is simply pushing positive thinking on top of negative thinking like a blunt instrument."

Is that true metta, or just misguided practice? 


It's true there are many types of love and the brahmaviharas are good examples that go into sympathetic joy, compassion, and equanimity on top of kindness. The problem I have with it is giving these feelings to hateful people. What helped me was understanding cause and effect and to let go of rigid beliefs that life should be fair and that people should be fair. They aren't. Insight helps in this direction and letting go of those beliefs makes the metta easier. I also like the concept from the Dalai Lama of compassionate wrath where anger is allowed but it's mixed with an understanding of cause and effect so I can be more assertive with narcissists and not try to give love to shitheads. Trying to force love onto bullies ends up meaning that they remain dominant and confident (however fake) and they will make decisions for you. The above link about Sujato shows how ill-equipped many Buddhists are when dealing with domineering types. Metta has to do with Oxytocin and that is love/trust/kindness etc. For narcissists to want oxytocin it requires them to let go of their hold on serotonin (pride) which they are not willing to do. Taking an addict's drug of choice away from them will lead to conflict.

The other problem I have with concentration and metta is the amount of hours trying to get absorbed and then to find that whatever habit you created it is shallow compared to older habits and without constant reinforcement the value fades. Yet with deep insight I was able to reduce my hours and feel better than I did under concentration or metta practices. The non-clinging can allow for quick welcoming of bad thinking habits and an understanding of cause and effect to let go of rumination so the energy just falls away. Any failure here would simply be a lack of mindfulness.

Rumination as a habit is habitually thinking about problems without any effort put towards solutions. Rigid beliefs about "musts" and "shoulds" are another trap and when those habits start weakening then a lot of what concentration and metta practices are supposed to do come more naturally and then you have time for your life goals. If I'm less irritated I don't need to be absorbed in the 1st 3 jhanas with metta to be nice to people. It comes naturally.

Sometimes when a person I hate appears in my mind I quickly think of cause and effect and how little control I have over total cause and effect, and then I give a quick "metta" towards the person in my mind and that's enough to prevent a full-blown, long-winded rumination. Learning about letting go of preferences and checking to see if there's views of deficiency that fly in the face of scientific cause and effect can also quickly bring in a large dose of acceptance and equanimity.

RE: Mapping Metta practice, first try
Answer
10/20/14 3:20 PM as a reply to Richard Zen.
I often have some resistance to wishing people well if I have doubts whether they're good people.

I have found though that the phrases explained here make it easier:
http://www.leighb.com/mettaphrases.htm
  • May I be free from enmity.
  • May I be free from hurtfulness.
  • May I be free of troubles of mind and body.
  • May I be able to protect my own happiness.

Also, I remember Visu Teoh saying something like (I hope I'm not misquoting this):
"And then there are the politicians in my country; Politicians in Malaysia are usually corrupt. I still send Metta to them. Only I wish that they stop being corrupt at the same time."

If that approach (in contrast to cultivating anger to narcissists) has real-world-good-consequences is another question. One should think that maybe someone did a PhD about it or something... it's sort of relevant I guess.

RE: Mapping Metta practice, first try
Answer
10/20/14 10:00 PM as a reply to bernd the broter.
I think it is cool that you are doing this. I don't think it's often been done, if at all, beyond the mapping of using metta to reach jhana. The way that I practice metta has changed over the years. When I first introduced I used it mostly as a psychological remedy. It was successful in a pronounced way when on retreat. When off retreat I found it harder to notice what effect it might be having other than that there were incremental moments when the tendency towards anger seemed to melt, and something else like openness or empathy took its place. I still practice metta frequently but use it as a concentration mechanism. It is somatic more than anything else. Sometimes I use a phrase and repeat, or just a word, then locate the feeling of metta in the body. Eventually the scaffolding of the words fall away, and there is just the immediacy of warmth as a somatic expression, and I linger with that. I do not know if it is having psychological effects. I work at a children's mental health hospital, and I do find it to lead to more naturalness than when I am not practicing.

RE: Mapping Metta practice, first try
Answer
10/23/14 7:51 AM as a reply to Richard Zen.
re: Richard Zen (10/20/14 1:54 PM as a reply to Chris J Macie. )
"The problem I have with it is giving these feelings to hateful people. What helped me was understanding cause and effect and to let go of rigid beliefs that life should be fair and that people should be fair. They aren't. Insight helps in this direction and letting go of those beliefs makes the metta easier. "

A good illustration of the mutually reinforcing cooperation that can naturally develop between insight and samadhi – in this case understanding leads the mind to an equanimous vantage point from which to be more able to let go, allow the mind to dwell in a nourishing, samadhi state. (Insight work can be exhausting.) In the other direction, samadhi refreshes the body, and hones the mind to more efficiently apply insight processing. The mutual interdependence between, say, yin & yang, or sympathetic- & parasympathetic-NS, comes to mind.

" The other problem I have with concentration and metta is the amount of hours trying to get absorbed and then … the value fades. Yet with deep insight I was able to reduce my hours and feel better than I did under concentration or metta practices. … If I'm less irritated I don't need to be absorbed in the 1st 3 jhanas with metta to be nice to people. It comes naturally."

Pardon if I lapse again into history (a form of cause & effect meditation). Sujato's book (A History of Mindfulness) could be summerized as tracing the vacilating relationship between insight and concentration orientation in the evolution of the Buddhist Canons (not just Pali / Theravadan) – an evolution he notes is on-going, citing an a example where the recent "Sixth Council" made an alteration in the Pali Canon (substituting the MahasatipatthanaSutta, from the Dihga Nikaya, for the SatipatthanaSutta in the Majjhima Nikaya). Sujato's rendition of this political-sectarian manipulation of the Canon is entertaining reading. (pp. 298-299 in the book, which can be downloaded free from the internet).

Sujato notes that the pendulum swinging more towards emphasis on insight (vs samadhi) coincides, even centuries, millennia ago, with the effects of increasing urbanization; when life becomes more crowded, busy, there's less a sense of safety and ease overall, and hence less accessibility to calm, samatha practices. (A quotation from somewhere that sticks with me: "civilization (e.g. big cities) is where everyone is a stranger" –as distinct from rural, village life, where more people are closely related by family.) And, to tie-in with Richard's comment above, especially in this age, with globalization and instant internet ueber alles, ease-of-living, having the leisure for samatha practice, is a challenge.

History over the last couple of centuries supports this. In the Buddhist south-east Asian countries, with the onslaught of Western influence (esp. aggression, wars), samadhi was all but written-off. I read somewhere that late19th-Century or so, it was officially declared that samadhi (jhana) was no longer possible for people -- about the same time that Ajahn Mun and his buddies split back into the Thai forests to get away from it all, to cultivate, preserve the traditional samatha (and other) practices. On the other hand, in Burma, where Buddhism is the state religion (as also inThailand), leaning to more governmental regulation, vipassana / insight became even more officially entrenched. Check the bios (e.g. wikipedia) of 20th-Century vipassana notables– like Sayadaws Mahasi, Pandita, Silananda – and the multiple levels of state-exams they passed, levels of added official titles they accumulated. Pa Auk Sayadaw, in addition to having 70 years of practice/study, is also an official dignitary; although he's famous as a teaching master of 'extremely hardcore' jhana practices, his books clearly show the bottom line to be integration of jhana with vipassana practices (particularly Maha-bhuta/dhatu – 4 Elements).

Let me squeeze in here a note on the value of traditions, of preserving and passing on all viewpoints,d ocuments, practices -- in the recognition that, whatever the trends and fashions in any particluar age (e.g. the 20th-21st-centuries), people in later times may see and understand things differently.

" Sometimes when a person I hate appears in my mind I quickly think of cause and effect and how little control I have over total cause and effect, and then I give a quick "metta" towards the person in my mind and that's enough to prevent a full-blown, long-winded rumination. Learning about letting go of preferences and checking to see if there's views of deficiency that fly in the face of scientific cause and effect can also quickly bring in a large dose of acceptance and equanimity."

Also Science: Antonio Damasio (Self Comes To Mind) notes that instinctive aggressive reactions co-relate with older neuro-structures, more refined with evolution, more efficient, quicker to activate. But also that neuro-structures (& even DNA) are constantly developing (even relatively recently) that react more along the lines of reflection and insight, directed to cooperative solutions, but these are much less-efficient, slower to engage. Hence, when push comes to shove, the former have the advantage. That's probably why we're told to practice, practice,…

RE: Mapping Metta practice, first try
Answer
10/27/14 7:15 AM as a reply to CJMacie.
More perspective on Theravadan (Mahasi) metta (and relating to points in the thread):

Just back from a weekend retreat at Tathagata Meditation Center (San Jose, CA), a Mahasi lineage outpost, founded by Sayadawgyi U Pandita (the older one who took over after Mahasi's death). The two dhamma-talks this weekend just happened to be on metta, given by the current teacher Sayadaw U. Thuzana, who's not that old, but likely studied directly with Mahasi. (So this looks like orthodox Mahasi teaching.)

The main points that struck me were:

A. Resolving anger and resentment appeared to be pre-requisite, to do (with vipassana) before metta; (this may be significant for those of us having problems in this area);

B.  MAJOR pre-requisite is Patience (kandi), which he mentioned in the context of the 10 Paramis. He emphasized Patience as THE NOBLEST quality, in some quotation. (This may be significant for those of us who find perfecting metta takes some time.)

C.  Metta practices aim in two directions:
  C.1.  gaining merit (punna), polishing sila, e.g. for most lay people,
  C.2.  attaining Jhana; leading to cessation (nirodha) and then as object of vipassana meditation. (maybe vipassana jhana?)

'Doing' metta is bodily action (kaya - helping people, being kindly), verbal (vaca -chanting), and mental (citta - wishing).

Then a long discussion about the 528 forms of metta practice (chanting &mental) (see below after the next stuff on the sequence of persons /objects).

He actually did not talk about the sequence of persons addressed in the metta chant-practice – the
sequence we know commonly today as oneself, teacher/friend, friends, neutrals, enemies, everyone. But I list the sequence used in the Mahasi system, because the bit on the 528 different types keys off it.

The sequence in the chant used at TCM (every night ending the last sit, and more often on Uposatha days – new and full moons) runs through these objects:
a) oneself
b) parents, teachers, relatives and friends
c) all yogis in this compound
d) all monks in this compound, novicemonks, laymen and laywomen disciples
e) our donors of the four necessitie s(robes, food, medicine, lodging)
f) our guardian devas in this monastery
g) all beings (sattaa), all breathing beings (paan.aa), all creatures (bhuutaa), all individuals (puggalaa), all personalities (attbhaavapariyaapannaa)
h) all females, all males, all Nobleones (ariyaa), all wordlings (anariyaa), all celestial beings (devaa), all human beings (manussaa), all those who have fallen from happiness (vinipaatikaa – demons, animals, etc.)

And each is wished:
1) no enmity, danger,
2) no mental suffering
3) no physical suffering, and
4) may they take care of themselves (deal with their khamma) happily.

So, about the 528 forms of practice:

The 12 objects in (g) and (h) above, multiplied by the 4 wishes (1-4 above), gives 48. Plus, as in a later part of the chants (10 pages total – takes a while to recite), spreading out in the 10 directions (the 8 compass directions plus above and below), multiplied by the same 48 (12 objects, 4 wishes) makes 480; plus the first (non-directional) 48 = 528!

This curious bit of Abhidhamma-like combinatorics took a while to explain in detail. Curious, but not surprising as all Burmese traditions (not just Mahasi) are big on Abhidhamma. All the Sayadaws are Abhidhamma aces. In Burma (Maynmar) school-children learn the basic lists (e.g. the 24 types of conditioning) by heart; novice monks memorize the Abhidhammmahasangaha (a 12th-century compendium, translated into English by B. Bodhi). Another curious aspect, which many here with experience in Mahasi retreats or the like may know, is that the teacher (Thuzana) constantly mixes simple aspects of Dhamma (as for lay beginners) with more profound ones, like path stuff in MCTB terms, which the lay people amazingly respond to and largely seem to understand. Each Dhamma talk I've heard by Thuzana (7 or so) ends with something like "and may you here each experience final liberation, soon."

Thanks for your patience (those who got this far). Metta!

RE: Mapping Metta practice, first try
Answer
10/27/14 8:53 AM as a reply to CJMacie.
Thank you for the insight.   Reminds me of a 
quote from Tao Te Ching:
"Observe their turmoil and contemplate their return"

RE: Mapping Metta practice, first try
Answer
6/28/15 1:55 PM as a reply to bernd the broter.
So, with experience of 3 more cycles, I would change my description a bit.
I noticed that these things are much clearer observed when on retreat, so I realize the limitations of this endeavour.
Anyway, here might be a better description, i.e. more simple and accurate, but not too different from the first try:

1) Start digging:
Start Metta practice and it feels like it has some effect. But it's not at all obvious what it might be.
Not much seems to happen here. It feels good though.

2) Discovery:
After a while, some anger appears which seems new. This is unpleasent, but still unclear.
I think this is what happens: As you throw Metta into the system, its old equilibrium wavers.
The ill-will parts, which were there, aren't compatible with the new Metta in the system, so they become more obvious.
Somehow this conflict needs to be resolved.

3) Disidentification:
This lasts only a moment.
The anger is seen both as suffering and as non-self. Yes, those are 2 of the 3 characteristics, showing up very clearly in Metta practice, from the scope of the first training. Deal with it.

4) Renegotiation I
After the moment of (3) the whole system seems to be in a new state, kicked out of its old equilibrium, but not settled in a new one yet.
The anger is still there, vividly floating around. But there's more distance to it, and it seems impossible that it will ever be a part of the system in the way it was before (3).
This may be accompanied with increased motivation to practice.

5) Renegotiation II
You practice and practice, but the ill-will just won't disappear from the system. You get all doubty and stuff.

6) Peace I: Turning away
This is getting on your nerves. Looking at the anger again seems fruitless.

7) Peace II: Equanimity
Now comes real equanimity with the phenomena highlighted by Metta practice.
They still happen, but they don't seem to be a problem any more. Somehow, you feel free from them.
This is the freedom that Metta practice can give you.

8) Integration
Interestingly, in the days or weeks afterwards, some other anger comes up which
-had not been observed in the process before AND
-is already seen with equanimity and therefore not a problem.
This is cool. Feels like a free gift you get just like that.

I guess, this is basically a Vipassana process concerning the phenomena induced by dropping Metta phrases.
Saying the phrases isn't much different throughout the process, although it can vary a lot from session to session.
Here are some similarities to Vipassana nanas:

3 - Misery (nana 7) (seeing suffering clearly)
4 - Desire for Deliverance, (nana 9) (increased motivation to practice, also doubt)
5 - Reobservation (nana 10) (look at it again and again. feeling like rolling up the mat.)
6 - Disgust (nana 8) (turning away aspect can be similar)
7 - equanimity (nana 11) (very obvious)

RE: Mapping Metta practice, first try
Answer
3/9/17 6:13 PM as a reply to bernd the broter.
I didn´t want to mess with Bernd his practice log, that´s why I post it here.

bernd the broter:
John Power:
I´m
interested if you can tell the differents between the path of Metta and the path of Vipassana from your experience? It´s interesting because you have walked both paths.
They are very different things. Vipassana works on the 3Cs, but Metta doesn't. Sometimes in Metta practice there is genuine reflection about and insight into the 3Cs, but this is much more on a content level.As I outlined in the 'mapping Metta'-thread, in some ways, there are other similarities. That means, the experiences of equanimity, turning away, reobservation are there, too. But beyond that, similarities to the progress of insight are rare. My wild guess is that those experiences are somehow built into the human mind, and therefore are not unique to insight practice - rather this is a more general pattern, which can appear in several
contexts with different details and side effects.

You mention in the path of Metta that you also experience Fear,

On a side note, fear sometimes arises AFTER a change has taken place due to Metta practice.
how is this in comparison with the Fear during the 6th nana?
This is something totally different. Fear in the 6th nana doesn't really
have any content to it, and also feels very different. I also never found the Fear-nana to appear especially menacing in any way.
Is there in the path of Metta also a periode like the Dark Night where it is difficult to function in your daily life?
The experience of Desire for Deliverance, Turning Away, Reobservation are there in a way, as I already said. But I wouldn't say that they made it difficult to function in daily life. Then, however, I also didn't think that the Vipassana nanas nterfered with daily life too much, unless practice exceeded 2 or 3 hours a day. But on the whole, these experiences are MUCH more gentle than in the Vipassana context. Really nothing to worry about here.
I would love to hear your thoughts.

Metta,
John
You're welcome.
-> Responds: Thank you for answering Bernd.

I am practicing Metta for a few weeks now (more continuously then previous). I
notice that the itches related to the 3th nana are regularly coming up
and also the sexual energy related to the 4th nana. Have you experienced
some of this too while practising Metta?
It is almost as if I
practice vipassana because it seems that I go through the nanas but with
more distants, more space, more acceptance/love. Maybe because I practiced
Vipassana for so long that the 3C´s are just showing itself. What do you think?

RE: Mapping Metta practice, first try
Answer
11/2/15 2:40 AM as a reply to John Power.
John Power:


I am practicing Metta for a few weeks now (more continuously then previous). I
notice that the itches related to the 3th nana are regularly coming up
and also the sexual energy related to the 4th nana. Have you experienced
some of this too while practising Metta?
It is almost as if I
practice vipassana because it seems that I go through the nanas but with
more distants, more space, more acceptance/love. Maybe because I practiced
Vipassana for so long that the 3C´s are just showing itself. What do you think?


I don't know, I'm really just wildly guessing. Could be that you're just cycling, and it's a side-effect of Vipassana practice done before. I considered that this is what might be happening to me, too.

But then it might be easier explained without that factor: When doing Metta, I never get much concentration on the object. Therefore, I also observe all the other things in the mind. In a way, this is very similar to noting, where mindfulness is split up between the object (breath) and all the other things. So actually I wouldn't be too surprised if something similar happens. In my experience, Metta practice leads through pretty much all (usual) possible mind states, just as Vipassana did.