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Metta - infusing tension with light & compassion

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Working off the premise that suffering is misdirected compassion, I decided to flip the script on tensions arising during practice.  Essentially, whenever tensions came up, I treated them like they were welcome and visualized them as beings who deserved love.  The visualization of the beings started off as slightly amporphic globs of multi-colored light that turned into lights with vaguely humanistic limbs/features (I could probably take this aspect of the visualization further and make it more defined next time). I imbued every sensation with  a compassionate light (visualized as a warm, whitish/golden light), in that none deserved to be turned away or met with aversion.. I amplified the compassion light until it dissolved the tension and vanished. The tensions for the most part quickly turned into bliss and easily dissolved.. the practice session had very strong & energetic rapture that smoothed out really well and stayed stable. Super fun and enjoyable! I can't say how long practice lasted, but I'm guessing an hour or so. Strong afterglow for the evening too. 

RE: Metta - infusing tension with light & compassion
Answer
2/18/15 2:48 PM as a reply to Steph S.
Great tip!!! Thank you!

RE: Metta - infusing tension with light & compassion
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2/18/15 3:12 PM as a reply to Steph S.
Steph S:
Working off the premise that suffering is misdirected compassion 

I love this premise. Does this come from a teacher or did you make it up? I've never encountered it before but it's so interesting and feels like it has a lot of potential for me- it kind of lept off the screen at me when I was reading. I will have to play try your technique as well... my metta sucks. 

RE: Metta - infusing tension with light & compassion
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2/19/15 6:08 PM as a reply to Steph S.
I havent practiced metta in long sessions before except that i did it once and I did the same as you did i meet tension with white metta light all i had to do was focus and say metta and I could see is the thogal light that they would change colour from black to a smooth white which this left me with a sense of joy which i dont get to often my voices even joined in on the metta work and we went for a couple hours I also have had similiar energy changes when I use the words "vanquish" and "cure" as to vanquish the tensions and blackness dark energy and to infuse the 5 wisdom lights mostly white light is what i work with by using cure. This one day my symptoms were getting pretty bad and I felt like there was someone out there that was really distressed and it was affecting me for some reason I have this thought alot like we are all connected and effect one another through our energy feilds and I started using my key words vanquish and cure and about 20 min later the symptoms were gone and i was at peace. With schizoeffective disorder Ive adopted the warrior mind set but somedays I feel like fighting is the hardest thing to do fighting for progress and I am symptomatic and this is usually when a talk with my mom no matter what its about seems to help me out or put me in some direction towards healing when I was doing trecko and thogal with the thogal I remember the day when I started to fight and take action to what my mind was producing in front of my eyes and it made a difference something i dont have now that im in the fourth vision i feel im lacking somewhat because of this. but I do meditation on emptiness and visspasana and samatha and trecko. I reallly like zen's mushin idea I try to get into that mindframe. The stories i could tell about days spent playing with the togal visions, i mean i could probably fill a book. I never kept a journal just recently though i started making small entries in one but for the most part it was intense enough to remember. I would like to try doing that metta techinque with meeting tensions with metta but i dont feel i have the right mind set right now, I remember in the session i did before seeing the planet and it being covered in white light when i did the metta for the planet then the universe and multiverse until everything was covered in white metta light it was pretty cool. by the way I gotta say a view of the multiverse in the togal visions was by far one of the coolest visions i had.

RE: Metta - infusing tension with light & compassion
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2/19/15 9:36 PM as a reply to sloane.
sloane:
I love this premise. Does this come from a teacher or did you make it up? I've never encountered it before but it's so interesting and feels like it has a lot of potential for me- it kind of lept off the screen at me when I was reading. I will have to play try your technique as well... my metta sucks. 
I'm glad it's helpful. The premise is based on something Daniel wrote in MCTB2, in quotes below (it's pages 62-64 of the pdf)  

"The flip side to suffering, which can help, is compassion—the wish for there to not be suffering. Wherever there is suffering, there is compassion. Most of the time, the compassion in the suffering is somewhat twisted by the confused logic of the process of identification and separation, which is based on poor perception." 

"You see, wherever there is desire, there is suffering; and wherever there is suffering, there is compassion—the desire for suffering to end. You can actually experience this. So you can know how desire, suffering, and compassion are tightly interrelated. This is heavy but good stuff and worth investigating." 


As far as your metta sucking.. haha.. you just haven't found the right version for you yet. There have been several posts over time by several practitioners talking about how metta in general, or their own attempts at it, aren't all that successful.  For me, the standard instruction alot of teachers give that generally extends a mantra like "May all beings be happy" never clicked.  It always felt forced and mechanical in the language/tone.  Thus, my continual venturing out to find a brand of metta that seemed more personal to my tastes and interpretations of compassion.  The key with metta, I think, is genuinely finding a heartfelt connection to compassion and garnering that in your practice.  Take some time to really feel out and understand why compassion is important to you, and what you wish for as a result of compassion.  Something will likely come up naturally in your imagination if you pursue it in this way. Feel free to post back in this thread and let me know how it goes.

RE: Metta - infusing tension with light & compassion
Answer
2/20/15 5:52 AM as a reply to Steph S.
Howdy Steph,
interesting method.  i've been confronting tension in my practice pretty consistently over the past year but in an entirely different way.  the tensions that arise in me are predominantly in the head and standard high chakra areas.  i have come to understand them as forms of craving.  so my standard method of digesting them is acknowlegement and a broadening of the focus on them but not so far as to invoke aversion.  i let them 'self liberate' as the tibetans say, and try to keep this all clear under the light of anicca, unsatisfactoriness, not me.

your method seems to encourage bliss and afterglow.  is that the goal?

whirled peas

RE: Metta - infusing tension with light & compassion
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2/20/15 8:40 AM as a reply to Steph S.
Metta being sent to oneself, others, or to tense areas of the body is really helpful. I also like the welcoming practice which works fast which is great when I don't have the time, but that's more of a dukkha practice than concentration.

RE: Metta - infusing tension with light & compassion
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2/20/15 10:35 AM as a reply to tom moylan.
Heya Tom,

Tension at the crown, back of neck, and shoulders has been a big one for me too.  I can often be an overanalyzer. Getting down to it, all that overthinking is a worried imagination of "what if's," right?  And so, instead of outright fighting the tendency, I'm chanelling that energy into more positive imagination by using visualizations.  The bliss and afterglow are benefits, yea, but I'd say the intent is to have another meditative dimension to re-direct the mind in more compassionate ways... like just another method to continually integrate the skillful training of the mind.

RE: Metta - infusing tension with light & compassion
Answer
2/20/15 12:50 PM as a reply to Steph S.
I guess my metta practice is in some ways somewhat similar, where I tell my knots (be they mental or physical) that they are okay, that they are safe, that they are loved. This also tends to tranquilize the citta down, allowing the metta to flow more easily. Maybe I will try to visualize them as amorphic globs next time and see what happens! (although I'm generally not very good at visualisation, but perhaps that is then something to be practiced).

Anyway, thanks for the tip! I'm a glutton for unconventional metta practices emoticon (also believe that probably each person needs to find and construct their own metta practice. I have sat some retreats at Spirit Rock where each day a different teacher would offer a guided metta practice, each doing it in their own way. Didn't connect with most of them, but it was still useful to see that it's okay to DIY emoticon

RE: Metta - infusing tension with light & compassion
Answer
2/22/15 5:58 AM as a reply to Steph S.
re: Steph S (2/19/15 9:36 PM as a reply to sloane.)

(This runs a bit long, with some historical and hardcore Theravadan stuff; kindly just skip it, if it might be irritating.)

I find the initial point here "…suffering is misdirected compassion, …flip the script on tensions arising during practice… " well-taken, something to work with.

Further on (a later post):
" ... you just haven't found the right version for you yet. ….several posts ... about how metta in general, or their own attempts at it, aren't all that successful.  For me, the standard instruction alot of teachers give that generally extends a mantra like "May all beings be happy" never clicked.  It always felt forced and mechanical in the language/tone.  Thus, my continual venturing out to find a brand of metta that seemed more personal to my tastes and interpretations of compassion… "

Further (in another later post):
"The bliss and afterglow are benefits, yea, but I'd say the intent is to have another meditative dimension to re-direct the mind in more compassionate ways... like just another method to continually integrate the skillful training of the mind."

About brands of metta:

1) Something not mentioned very often, in either Vipassana/Insight Movement or 'pragmatic Buddhism' circles, is that, in 'early Buddhism' (the suttas, especially the 'early' strata), as well as in the commentorial tradition, metta was primarily a samatha-, a jhana-practice. The goal was an "immeasureable" (also translated: boundless, unlimited,…) state of mind (Brahma-vihara –abiding),  i.e. beyond the dualistic directing of good-will, compassion, etc. from someone ("I") to another.

Call the former here "the (ultimate) immeasureable or abiding method", and the latter "the (developmental) directed method") – i.e. the practice "may I / admirable persons / friends / neutral persons / enemies / all living beings be…", that we all know.

I suspect that original practice of metta had to do with cultivating it with jhana to the extent that "bliss and afterglow" effect becomes a fixed basis ("established") in the mind (neuroplastically transformed?), from where it will condition the practitioner's attitude / reaction / response to others all, or at least most of the time.

History:
Back in Sept-Oct 2014, with the thread Mapping Metta practice, first try (by bernd the broter), curiosity arose and I went back and looked-up all references to "loving-kindness" and "metta" in the main 4 volumes of the Sutta-Nikaya (using the indexes), searching for some basis for the "directed method", which, it turns out, is not there -- but it could be inferred (intrepreted) from a couple of the sayings attributed to the Buddha. I had previously found that the "directed method" is spelled-out, in great detail, in the Visudhimagga (5th-century CE); and later I learned from Shaila Catherine that a very similar description is found in the Vimuttimagga (1st-century CE), that is, not long after the composition of the 'later' suttas. I haven't,  as yet, researched further to see if there's any evidence going back further (earlier commentaries? Abhidhamma texts?) that may show in more detail where, how the 'directed method' was developed.

(In a post to the "Mapping Metta practice, first try" thread, I detailed – also a long post – some of those findings: http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/view_message/5586230#_19_message_5607778).

2) This effect of developing a firm abiding place came up in a retreat-interview once with Ven. U.Jagara, who's take was that jhanic abiding is the goal of Brahmavihara practice, and once developed one can just evoke it and it permeates one's behavior / words / thoughts, not having to go thru "may I ...". The directed method is a way to help develop it, as well as a skilfull practice for anyone not exposed to or inclined to the deeper cultivation. This idea also seems to resemble what Kenneth Folk noted (maybe it was in the "Jhana and Ñana" article), that when highly developed ("established", as other modern commentators put it), jhana experience can be instantly invoked, at most any time. (True, as so often noted, jhana-s are transient experiences, useful for training or refreshment, but their cultivation can also help develop more permanent qualities of mind.) P.S. Danial mentions similarly "As fluency with one object grows and we get jhanas from it, it is easier to get jhanas off of other objects, as the jhana wiring is reinforced and we discover how to call them up and how attention and the like feel in those states." (http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/view_message/5683329#_19_message_5684046)

3)
Another curious feature in both the Vimutti- and the Visudhi-magga discussions of metta, but often lacking in modern teaching (and perhaps in DhO), is that the commentators go at great length into FIRST dealing with anger and resentment (as well as cultivating "patience"), even BEFORE undertaking either the 'directed' or 'immeasurable' BV practices. Following this advice might help with the difficulties so many of us have in succeeding with metta. (Maybe first dealing with one's "stuff" in this area would help?) It suggests that the commentators (who were, in their day, "pragmatic"), far removed in time from the benign, peace-inspiring presence of that Buddha guy himself, were recognizing that, in practice, anger and resentment are a BIG issue (then and now). "Le plus change, le plus meme!" (French: "the more change,the more the same").

Footnote: As possible further evidence for the lead-off point above ("metta was primarily a samatha-, jhana-practice"), both the Vimutti- and Visudhi-magga discuss metta (the BVs) under the heading Samadhi (concentration). (Both books use the same tripartite structure: I. Virtue (sīla), II. Concentration (samādhi), and III. Understanding (paññā).)