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Brahmaviharas

My modified Metta / Brahmavihara instructions

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(With this post, I'm trying to sum up my current understanding on practicing Brahmaviharas.
I don't feel completely confident about all of this yet, but Eugene Gendlin's death 3 weeks ago reminds me to put out information before it is too late. My understanding about this will probably never be perfect, and I might just get run over by a train tomorrow, and I'd be sad if everything I've learned along the way is completely lost for everyone else.
Thus, regard this document as a work in progress, and as a serious attempt to give back something to the community.
Ideally, I would like this to become a complete and conclusive guide on Brahmavihara (BV) practice.
However, I won't reinvent the wheel, but instead focus on overcoming the obstacles which the traditional instructions on Brahmaviharas routinely fail to address.
Questions appreciated. I might add them to the FAQ.)

Wall of text incoming. This post may be helpful for you if
-your mind is sort of fucked up (in a way that blocks you from the positive qualities known as the Brahmaviharas), and you are interested in using meditation to get out of that ASAP.
-you want to practice positive qualities such as loving-kindness, compassion and joy, but the traditional instructions don't work for you precisely because your mind is sort of fucked up.


I) Background.

What is this?
This is a guide for modifying Brahmavihara instructions (Metta, Mudita, Karuna, i.e. loving kindness, appreciative joy and compassion) if you have difficulties with the traditional approach because your mind is sort of fucked up (i.e. you really hate yourself and/or you have really strong defences ingrained in your mind which want to keep you from practicing BVs).
Most of this information is probably contained in my practice log, i.e. it is scattered over more than 100 posts with lots of noise, inaccurate speculation and misleading ideas, and therefore rather inaccessible.
I will write as if this was general advice for everyone, though it probably isn't.
Basically, I present here the advice which I myself would have needed at the beginning of my endeavour.
Maybe this is useful for anyone else.

... Meditation helps with bad mind states? It can reconfigure your mind to a more pleasant state and help you get your life together? Could you elaborate?
Do you struggle with lots of really bad mind states which absolutely will not go away by themselves?
Well, bugger. In this case, what can you do?

The conventional answer is to do therapy and/or take medication.
This is really unsatisfactory.
Medication may be useful, but only temporarily.
Therapy may be helpful (or not), but you can't do it for 10 hours a day.
Will you become a master tuba player with 1 hour of training a week? No.
Will you get out of this mess with one hour of training a week? Possibly, but with a bit of bad luck not too soon.
Therefore, something stronger is required.

A second conventional answer which is slowly becoming popular is "do MBSR. Mindfulness is so awesome, Bro".
MBSR is a complex phenomenon, which I can't hope to do justice to, but my short remark is:
MBSR can be nice to get a foot in the door of the meditation world, but not more.
Its focus on mindfulness, and its nearly complete ignorance of deep insight, concentration and Brahmaviharas make it nearly useless.
You will not get far with MBSR, and it probably won't get you out of real trouble.
It could be a nice start though.

If you are not only in 'conventional trouble', but also have crossed the A&P, then you may stumble onto weird internet forums such as this one, where you'll be told that "you have entered into the Dark Night, and you must go and attain to stream entry ASAP, otherwise you are lost in this misery forever".
But is it true?
In my experience, this is mostly a red herring.
It is true that plunging into post-A&P territory may exacerbate some issues, but reaching stream entry won't make these go away.
On the other hand, it may even open up new territory which unearths even more difficult issues.
Additionally, reaching SE is quite hard for some people, and difficult mental states can make this much, much harder.
In those cases, telling someone to 'reach SE as first priority' is probably bad advice.
How to identify the cases where it is indeed appropriate is very unclear to me.

Some people instead recommend concentration practice to address these issues.
Here, the same criticism applies: It may not be possible if your mind is fucked up enough and doesn't want to concentrate, it probably won't actually change Stuff, and it even may make things worse.

But there is another way: Practice Metta and the other Brahmaviharas!

Why is this better?
Practicing Metta/Brahmaviharas means that you develop positive qualities.
Those qualities are commonly called Metta (loving-kindness, goodwill), Karuna (compassion) and Mudita (appreciative joy, gratitude).
(There's also Equanimity/Upekkha, which I will ignore here.)
The more you practice those, the more those qualities become a part of your mind.
The tradition tells you that you will thus overcome hatred, envy and cruelty.
This definitely works, although it can take lots of time.
I'm stating that those qualities also help tremendously if your mind is fucked up in a way which is not obviously related to hatred, envy or cruelty.
It is the foundation which puts your mind into a good state, which makes it possible to work with 'Stuff' in the first place.
In contrast to medication, it actually causes positive long-term change.
In contrast to therapy, it is scalable, i.e. you can do it 10 hours/day to speed up the process.
Don't waste your life living with bad mind states for 5 years because progress with 1 hour of therapy each week is so slow.
Instead, get your ass in a monastery/meditation centre for some months and get this thing done ASAP.
In contrast to insight or breath-concentration meditation, it will reliably develop good qualities, change Stuff and avoid all the bad side effects.

I get it, you are a Brahmavihara evangelist, proposing that it will solve all problems. But BVs aren't actually new, so why this lengthy post?
It's true that some traditional meditation teachers do teach Metta/Brahmaviharas.
And their instructions usually work fine for people without serious issues.
But if you do have those issues, then they often fail completely.
In my opinion, this shouldn't be at all surprising.
Let's say you have some unhelpful beliefs such as "If I rejoice about something, then this year's apple harvest is lost, so this must never happen" and then you recite "I rejoice about X".
It's not at all surprising that your mind then produces some defensive reactions such as headaches, worry or an intense urge to stand up and run away.
How do you deal with those problems?
Traditional meditation teachers often have no idea or aren't even aware of those problems.
In this post, I describe my solutions to those problems.

Dafuq? You actually have a solution to this? Did you come up with those solutions yourself?
No, there's probably not a single new idea here.
I'm mainly just listing stuff I collected from various meditation and psychology books and from the DhO.

Well, then provide some sources, please.
I highly recommend reading the following:
"Focusing" by Eugene Gendlin.
"The Power of Focusing" and the article "treasure maps to the soul" by Ann-Weiser Cornell.
"Self-therapy" by Jay Earley.
Eugene Gendlin's book is very basic, giving you a model and a method describing how change in Stuff actually happens.
The other books provide lots of detailed ideas of how to actually implement those methods.
This list is by no means exhaustive. Similar ideas can be found in many different places.

Awesome, I'm sold. What should I do?
If you're already familiar with Brahmavihara practice but keep struggling with them, jump to section III.
Otherwise, read section II first. Getting familiar with those basics can take some time.
If you are completely new to meditation, I highly recommend to look for a meditation teacher.
Apart from the problems which I discuss below, meditation has tons of idiosyncratic traps which are not at all obvious for beginners, but are easily solved by working with a teacher.


II) Traditional Brahmavihara instructions.

What are the basic Brahmavihara instructions?
Most traditional BV instructions are centered on repeating phrases.
In order to not get lost in your head, you usually want to keep your attention on the body and also on the feelings (if any) generated by repeating the phrases.
The phrases can (and should) be said both for yourself and for any other person or group of persons.
For an overview, here are some ideas for phrases:

Metta / loving-kindness:
May I be happy.
May I be safe.
May I be peaceful.
May I be healthy.
May I happily take care for myself.
May I be at ease.
May I be filled with loving-kindness.

Mudita / Appreciative joy:
I rejoice (about good thing X).
I'm happy (about X).
I'm grateful (about X).
I'm content (about X).
May blessing X continue for myself.
May I keep my blessings for as long as possible.
May I be filled with joy.

Karuna / Compassion:
May I be free from suffering.
May I be healed.
May I have compassion with myself.

If you find that repeating phrases isn't for you, there are also alternative approaches centering on visualization, which I don't know too much about.
I don't really want to talk about the traditional instructions a lot, since this has been done over and over.
If you don't know where to look, you could listen to Bhante Sujatos retreat audios, writings by Visu Teoh (from who I got most of the phrases listed above), read books by Bhante G, Analayo, Mahasi Sayadaw, Sharon Salzberg, Jack Kornfield, Ajahn Brahm etc. Or just search the DhO.
In particular, some christians are really big on gratitude practice.
Some sources are referred to in the sources section in the next post.

III) Obstacles

The main part of this guide: How to deal with obstacles?
If you follow the instructions from section II without major problems, then you're fine and you needn't read this post.
But maybe you repeat phrases and very soon you get headaches, extreme body tensions or shaking, you get very sleepy, get endlessly worried, get filled with rage or hate, or just want to run away.
It seems that parts of you just can't stand your attempts to cultivate BVs, and they will almost scream at you to stop.
However, this doesn't necessarily mean that you can understand where the real problem is.

Traditional teachers will call this 'the 5 hindrances' but 'getting run over by a monster truck' may feel like a more appropriate term.
What can you do?
First of all, realize that you're not fundamentally doing this wrong. If you're getting these reactions, it means that your BV practice actually does something. It's just that the mind is resisting this change because it's wired in a way that actively excludes the positive qualities which we're trying to develop.
(For a more detailed explanation, go read the TA today book, which Daniel Ingram routinely recommends. Ponder on those weird injunctions. Realize that they are completely incompatible with the nice BV phrases.)
Secondly, realize that brute force is not a good idea.
Your aim is to be as comfortable as possible.
If you constantly feel as though you are run over by a monster truck, you may think that you accomplish something, but more likely it's just useless suffering. You get less concentration, and thus your meditation is less effective. You are less motivated and need more energy, thus you will spend less time on meditation and make less progress in the long run.
Therefore, your absolutely most important goal is to be comfortable. I suggest to simply try out all of the following methods and use the ones which work best. At different times, different methods may be suitable! If you find even better ones, let me know.
Thirdly, brute force may still work to some extent. I personally used the brute force method for my first 9 months of Metta practice, and I collected a lot of low-hanging fruit, although much of this time was rather unpleasant.
So don't go all macho on this. Avoid brute force if at all possible. Listen to Moshe Feldenkrais. The less effort, the better. I can't repeat this often enough.

So, this is getting really long, and we still haven't started with the good stuff.
It starts now.
I will present 5 different strategies of how to work with obstacles:
1) Evasion
2) Using the 2nd person perspective
3) Reflection
4) Focusing
5) Perfect Parenting Deity Yoga
Don't regard them as engraved in stone.
Unleash your creativity. Exaggerate, do the opposite, reverse or mix the phrases, do whatever the fuck you want.
If the tradition fails you, there's no need to hold on to it. If I fail you, judge those instructions by the same standard.


1) Evasion:
If problems arise, you can just practice in a different way.
As long as you are cultivating positive qualities, you are doing something good.
This strategy is really primitive, but also easy to implement.
The other strategies are more sophisticated, so in the beginning this may be the only method that works.

We described 3 different Brahmaviharas. If one causes trouble, just switch to another one.
Personally, I found Metta to cause most problems, and then I just switched to Mudita or Karuna for weeks or months.
Alternatively, you can try to use different phrasing. "May I be happy" may cause problems, but possibly "May I be safe" is just fine?
Switch from "May I be happy" to "May X be happy". Find the person(s) for whom this is easiest.
Generating Metta for yourself may be too difficult at the beginning. What about your spouse? Your best friend? Your body? Your worst enemy? The postman? Your dog? Your favourite plush toy? All beings?
Many people find that generating Metta for themselves is really too difficult in the beginning.
The important thing is to get the ball running, so just try out different persons.
After some time, the Metta will 'spill over' into the other person categories.
You could also stop repeating the phrases and just state them once and then reflect about their meaning for some time.
Or, you could just switch to breath meditation or noting for some time and come back to brahmaviharas later.
Switch from sitting/walking/lying/standing meditation to another form. Open your eyes and say the phrases out loud.
Go and wash the dishes, then sit down and try again.
Mix Metta with relaxation exercises. Whatever!


2) Using the 2nd person perspective:
This may seem like a very small change, but sometimes it can make a great difference.
It's also really easy to do.

Traditionally, if you want to generate BVs for yourself, you repeat "May I be happy" etc.
That's a 1st-person perspective.
Alternatively, you can address yourself as the 2nd person.
Simply say "May you be happy" to address yourself.
For Mudita say "May you rejoice about X" or "I rejoice about you" or "I rejoice for you about X".
For Karuna say "May you be free from [this particular] suffering".


3) Reflection:
This one is related to the Focusing-strategy, but has a different feel to it.
I guess, it's also related to CBT-style approaches.
In the Buddhist tradition, there is a related concept called 'wise reflection', but this sort of reflection is not about Buddhist concepts.
In my experience, most of the time, this strategy isn't particularly helpful, since the mind simply isn't receptive to it.
But sometimes, you feel like the patterns in your mind may not be as fixed as they usually are, and you actually have some control over what is going on.
Other times, it feels like the natural intelligence of your mind takes over, and this thing happens by itself.

And then, basically, you start to explore the possibility space of your mind.
Simply drop some questions into your mind and see what happens.
"Stating BV phrase X currently evokes reaction Y, but is that really necessary? Couldn't it also be reaction Z? Why (not)?"
"There is some tension here. Is the tension really necessary? What would it feel like without the tension."
"There is lots of stuff here. Let's imagine that all of this is stuff on the ground, but now I'm leaving on a plane, flying into the sky, where I can practice BVs without problems."
"What would I need for X to be possible?"
"Is this belief true?"
"Is this behaviour really necessary?"
"Could there be more space around this problem?"
"Could this problem just stay here together with the BV?"
...

4) Focusing:
Now this is where stuff is getting more demanding, and where we heavily borrow from western psychology.
We can mix Focusing practice with the Brahmaviharas.
This means that we can do both at the same time, or switch between them.
This makes sense only if you are already familiar with the basics of Focusing or a similar method.
If you're not, go and read the books I referenced above.
Even better, find a skilled person to teach you this.
Then, you can try the following.
Note that even if you're somewhat skilled at this method, the mind is often not ready for this and doesn't want you to do this, or is just much too chaotic and drowning in rapidly changing hindrances. But sometimes, a window of opportunity opens, and then you may want to jump right into it. Sometimes, those windows don't come for days. Other times, I will spend more than 50% of the meditation sessions in the Focusing space.

So, how can you do this?
Let's say you state "May I be happy" and a 'hindrance' comes up.
It could be anything, but let's say it's anger.
In this case, simply ask "What does this anger feel like in my body?" or "What does the part with this anger feel like in my body?".
Alternatively, ask it directly: "Hello, thingy that feels very angry. I know/rejoice that you're here. I invite you to become comfortable in my body. I wonder how this feels for you? What is so bad about this? What do you need?"
How to exactly do this is be very personal and situational. Changing the phrasing just a bit may make a big difference, so don't get hung up on a particular choice of words.
Therefore, I recommend consulting the above sources and just trying out all of them.
When (If), as a result, the (part experiencing the) anger cools down a bit, go back to BVs.
Alternate between Focusing and BV as often as is necessary. Don't regard the time spent with those 'Parts' as distracting from the BV practice. You are directly working with Stuff, and this will change you.

The hard part about this is that you're basically switching to another practice.
Often, you will be confused if you can/should do this now.
You may worry that you should be practicing the other thing right now and are actually wasting your time.
Or you often switch between both practices and cannot decide which one you should do.
This is somewhat tricky, and I don't have a good answer to that except cliches such as "trust the meditation process" and "you will learn this over time."
On the other hand, sometimes this is surprisingly clear. You meditate normally, suddenly some big issue Stuff comes out of nowhere, and for the remainder of the sitting, you'll be in a  deep, trance-like Focusing space with very lucid visualization, every thought about Brahmaviharas long forgotten.
Other times, you can switch betweem them without problems. You meditate, a hindrance comes along. You invite it, and feed it (!) with any BV it needs. Then you go back to pure BV. Some minutes later, something else comes along etc.
This stuff is strangely unpredictable.
How do you know if you're on the right track?
My educated guess is that if it makes your meditation go smoother, or if you're occasionally experiencing felt shifts, you're doing everything right.

5) Perfect Parenting Deity Yoga:
Previously, I discussed how to switch perspective from the 1st to the 2nd person.
But we can do something even more sophisticated: We can imagine another person who already embodies the qualities which we want to develop.
Although this can be done as a standalone practice, I've found that it blends smoothly with BV practice and the strategies which I've discussed so far.
This is based on what Noah calls "Perfect Parenting" practice.
Go and read his descriptions for an example how powerful this can be and for the complete instructions.
I'll explain in my own words how this practice works. (Note that this is only phase 1, whereas Noah describes 3 phases.)
Try it, then turn up your creativity to over 9000 and make it your own.

This practice seems to be adapted from Tibetan deity yoga.
You can probably learn all of this better from the Tibetans themselves, but if you're not into Tibetan deities and all of the other weirdness that surrounds Tibetan Buddhism, then this Western adaptation may be suitable.
I found it surprisingly easy.
So, the idea is to imagine guardian figures, for example ideal parents.
Basically, you're cultivating your own imaginary friends (:
If ideal parents seem boring, try ideal siblings, lovers, uncles, friends, whatever.
If you have strong visualization, you can visualize them in any way that seems suitable.
If you don't (I haven't either) it's not important. Vague forms are sufficient, and even the feeling that they're somehow there works fine.
Then, imagine that those beings interact with you or you interact with them. Use any of the 5 senses that you like.
Those beings have certain qualities, which you want to be present in your mind.
You can do this directly by reflecting about them, or by repeating phrases, such as:
"They love me."
"They know (much/everything about) me."
"I'm important for them."
"They value me."
"They appreciate me."
"They take care of me."
"They protect me."
"They are always there for me."
"They encourage me to be [happy, joyful, compassionate, strong, creative, kind to myself, ...]"
"They hold me in safety, security, comfort, belonging, ease..."
"They stroke me."

Those are complete meditation instructions.
But if your imagination is stable enough, you can go one step further and add BV phrases.
Simply imagine that it's your ideal parents who send or radiate those sentences to you.
(You could even imagine the actual letters of the phrases if you're so inclined.)
Or you could formulate it in a different way:
"They want me to be happy."
"They rejoice about me."
"He has compassion for me."
"She bathes me in loving kindness."

The other strategies except (2) can be combined with this as well, although it can feel rather clumsy to do too many things at once.
Evasion: Use this ideal parent method with different BVs and different phrasing.
Reflection: Imagine the ideal beings and drop some questions into the mind.
Focusing: Keep imagining the ideal beings and ask "what does this problem feel like in my body?"

It is noteworthy that this strategy can develop qualities which are not covered by pure Brahmavihara practice.
There is something about imagining a connection with other beings that enhances feelings of safety, warmth and belonging in a way that BVs do not.
I suppose that this is really important, but I don't have any sort of comprehensive theory about what exactly are those differences, and what exactly differentiates all those very similar qualities.

IV) Conclusion:
So, that's it.
[imagine useful conclusion here]

RE: My modified Metta / Brahmavihara instructions
Answer
6/1/17 8:29 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
V) More sources (on the traditional instructions):

Visu Teoh on Brahmaviharas:
http://visuteoh.net/teachings/metta-meditation-instructions.html
http://visuteoh.net/teachings/metta-in-everyday-life.html
http://visuteoh.net/teachings/mudita%20-%20the%20practice%20of%20appreciative%20joy.html
http://visuteoh.net/teachings/compassion%20that%20hears%20the%20cries%20of%20the%20world.html
http://visuteoh.net/teachings/metta%20questions%20%26%20answers.html
http://visuteoh.net/teachings/putting%20heartfulness%20into%20mindfulness.html

Bhante Sujato on Metta:
http://www.dhammanet.org/podcast/Metta_Retreat_Germany_2013
http://santifm.org/santi/downloads/Retreats/2007_Metta_Meditation_Course/#wpfb-cat-33

Gil Fronsdal on Metta:
http://www.audiodharma.org/series/1/talk/1728/

Bhante Vimalaramsi on Metta:
http://www.dhammasukha.org/metta-barebones-booklet.html
http://library.dhammasukha.org/uploads/1/2/8/6/12865490/breath-of-love.pdf

Bhante Sujiva on Metta:
http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/allmetta.pdf

Ajahn Brahm on Metta:
http://www.theworkbook.org/lovekind.htm

Bikkhu Thanissaro on Brahmaviharas:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/headandheart.html

A non-traditional take on Brahmaviharas:
https://meditationstuff.wordpress.com/2013/07/22/additive-meditation/

A christian take on gratitude:
http://www.gratefulness.org/

Some links on the DhO:
Noah on perfect parent practice:
https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/6103356?_19_delta=20&_19_keywords=&_19_advancedSearch=false&_19_andOperator=true&_19_resetCur=false&_19_cur=18#_19_message_6020070

Avi Craimer on doing something similar with insight practice:
https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/5302801


Books:
The above links should be sufficient.
If you still want to read more about this stuff, you could look for books by Bhante Gunaratana, Sharon Salzberg, Jack Kornfield and probably many others.

RE: My modified Metta / Brahmavihara instructions
Answer
6/1/17 8:28 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
VIa) FAQ about practice:

Q: You talk about Brahmaviharas, but you don't mention Upekkha once?!?
A: Yes, I have very little experience with that one.

Q: When I try to practice BVs, I never feel anything!
A: This is a common problem, which is thoroughly addressed by the sources I linked to.
The usual advice in this case is to try out different persons, different phrases and use memories or other kinds of visualization/imagination.

Q: Those problems you mention are child's play. I have real mental illness, such as bipolar, schizophrenia, psychosis or something else with a really threatening label. Are your instructions suitable for me?
A: I have no idea.

Q: If I try this, I accidentally uncover wild hidden Stuff and run into trauma-related things, then freak out completely. What should I do?
A: I don't know. Maybe learn some techniques to deal with this from a professional traumatherapist (I hear this exists) and then try again?

Q: It can't be as easy as you describe.
A: It's not easy. It takes a lot of time and experimentation to get familiar with those things. Collecting low-hanging fruit can happen fast, but this process deepens for years, with no obvious end.

Q: In the perfect parent practice, why don't you use a concrete person? Why an imaginary one?
A: Real persons can indeed be used, especially as a means to generate a BV feeling. The problem with this approach is that they don't only have the qualities which you imagine, but you are constantly reminded of all the other qualities which they also have.

Q: I can repeat all those phrases lots of times and also get the feeling, but there are so many hindrances that I can hardly concentrate.
A: High concentration is helpful, but not essential. If you can stay with the phrases and get the feeling, you're doing fine. Then you are developing good qualities and your mind slowly changes for the better.

Q: I read MCTB and it says that progress happens via vipassana nanas. Does this apply here, too?
A: In my experience, the basic territory is the same. I experience nanas 4-11 repeatedly, and over time this became more and more obvious. This is possibly due to more than 500 hours of insight practice which I had done beforehand.

Q: Does this mean I need to be scared because DARK NIGHT!!!!???
A: No. The different nanas do indeed colour my experience quite strongly, but even the unpleasant ones are experienced much more mildly than in pure insight practice. Apart from this, I think it's rather irrelevant what state is happening. A bit of insight may happen, but it's not your focus and not important in this context.

Q: This sounds vague. Does it mean that there is no particular 'Metta map'?
A: I think so.

Q: Then how do you know if you're actually making progress?
A: Usually this is quite obvious. As a complete beginner, you are unable to generate the BV feelings at will. After some days, weeks or months, it will be very easy. The more you do this, the better you get at evoking them in various situations. You will realize that you suddenly have the choice to react differently in certain situations. You meditate along, and suddenly something changes and you will be able to interpret certain situations differently. Sometimes you even get felt shifts from BV practice alone.

Q: This sounds great. Does it mean it's always fun and games?
A: Probably not. Often practice is just boring and it may even seem that you are going backwards or that you are merely seeing the same stuff again and again.

Q: What about off-cushion practice? Is that useful or necessary?
A: Off-cushion practice is not necessary, but certainly useful. But there's a problem: if you have giant hindrances against evoking BVs, then doing this off-cushion may make your day much less comfortable without any obvious benefit. Applying the 5 strategies is much harder to do off-cushion. Often it works, but not always.

Q: I read that you just have to accept all the difficult stuff and then everything will turn out right.
A: This is imprecise babble which doesn't really mean anything.


VIb) FAQ about whatever:

Q: Do you know what you're talking about? Do you have any credentials?
A: I'm neither a meditation teacher nor a psychologist, and I don't aspire to be either. I'm just talking from some years of personal experience.

Q: So all the observations are from a group with n = 1? Is this at all generalizable?
A: I don't know. I found those strategies because the traditional instructions didn't work, but for most people they do work. My ideas may be valuable for those few people who are also somewhat let down by the traditional instructions.

Q: I am a meditation teacher, and you are wrong about everything. The reason you experience those difficulties is because you are unable to control your mind. You simply have to note the hindrances, not get lost in them and always get back to the instructions. If this doesn't work, it means your morality is off. Everyone knows that good sila is sufficient that hindrances won't be too strong.
A: Dream on.

Q: You sound a little bitter.
A: I am. On the other hand, I'm also insanely grateful. BVs are part of the way to sanity, and I can hardly remember how life feels if you're not able to call up BVs at will.

Q: I am a complete beginner, and I have no idea how meditation works. Can I directly jump in and start with BV training?
A: I don't know. Possibly. Most people seem to start with something more neutral like Vipassana or breath meditation or something, as I did, too. I suppose that learning those first makes the BV endeavour somewhat easier, because they teach you some basics about meditation which are relevant for all methods. I do not think that MCTB stream entry is a necessary prerequisite, although this really sparks some people's interest in BVs.

Q: This is a lot of text. This seems to be important for you.
A: It is. I believe that the skills I'm talking about should be common knowledge and possibly be taught to small kids as early as possible.

Q: How could this be done? What do you think? What would be important steps?
A: I think we need to extract all those methods from the religious traditions. All the weird Buddhist (or Christian or...) stuff such as rebirth, karma, deitys, noble truths and whatnot are neither helpful nor important in this context. More likely, they are actually a distraction and push away people who would otherwise need and like them. Even worse, Buddhism is unsuitable for describing the big hindrances against BVs. Various western psychology approaches are simply better.

Q: This already exists. It's called MSC (Mindful Self-Compassion).
A: Yes, this looks like an attempt in the right direction, although it probably shares all the downsides of the MBSR model. However, it seems a bit off to me and very incomplete. If you are stealing from established traditions, you should at least do it right t_T

Q: Are there other good qualities apart from loving-kindness, compassion and joy?
A: Good question. When you play around with different phrases for expressing them, the difference often seems not very clear-cut. For example, is joy really the same thing as gratitude? And what about things such as forgiveness, strength, safety...? I don't know. In my experience, it's sometimes helpful to play around with these other things, but it's not obvious to me how you would build a system out of those.

Q: I'm fine, and I don't seem to have any problem with BVs. Do I still need to practice Brahmaviharas explicitly? I don't really get why this stuff is necessary or even important?
A: My advice is to just try it for 10-100 hours. Occasionally, people practice only Vipassana (or s.th. similar) for decades, and then they try this other thing and discover that their practice was really lacking without them realizing it.

Q: Those are nice ideas, but I have something that is much better.
A: Well, please tell me.

RE: My modified Metta / Brahmavihara instructions
Answer
5/27/17 7:51 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
A lot of good advice!

RE: My modified Metta / Brahmavihara instructions
Answer
6/1/17 6:34 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
Hey Bernd,

I am finding a lot of value in your posts. I'll make sure to check out your links. I just started Metta around a week ago. I think I am sometimes getting intense hindrances during breaks while using Pomodoro technique in daily work. The "run over by a truck" analogy is spot on. I am not surprised since I've had two intense approx 6 month long depressions since gunning for stream entry.

Do you know a good teacher? I was thinking of a Jhana retreat at Pa-auk, but anapana has seemed to bring up tension headaches in the past. So, I think I'll err on the side of a Metta retreat.

Also, it helps that we've both done Vipassana in the same traditions. So, we have a similar meditation technique history there.

I'll PM you soon and lets connect in meatspace.

RE: My modified Metta / Brahmavihara instructions
Answer
8/7/18 3:28 PM as a reply to Mettafore.
Metta works for me when I'm fairly concenrated - close to access concentration, it's sufficient then to imagine a friend and wish them well. When not concentrated, here's what happens with standard "may i be happy": mind starts to comment with various observations, for example that future is uncertain and repeating a phrase is pointless. What works for me is invoking a kind of small joy with very simple stuff like: 

- things could be much worse than they are now (undeniable fact)
- there are places in my body that aren't painful (there's always a place like that, or if not - there are places that are less painful than other places)
- there is a person that cares about my wellbeing - me - i'm doing this practice to feel better (fact)

The key for me is to state a FACT (not a wish or speculation) that's uplifting. Brain is not able to reject that, for example, things could be worse emoticon

My 2c.