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{ Practicing Physical, Mental & Spiritual Health }

Practicing Metta

The practice of Metta/Loving-Kindness meditation can be practiced as follows. There are a number of variations that you can search for on you own. The script below is my own adaption. It is simple and easy to remember (an important factor for me.) I’ve also rearranged the phrasing, because it seems more logical and in-line with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, safety/health/ease/happiness. This is especially useful when I carry these sentiments onto others, particularly for those to whom I have neutral or negative feelings.

metta symbol

In my own experience, metta requires that I be very settled and stable in my own meditation. If practicing it feels artificial or forced, then give it up and just come back to the breath or some present moment experience. In most cases it may require more time than the typical 20 minute sit. It might take just that long to settle into stillness, but sometimes, going right into metta is just what is needed. And some people are able to naturally flow right into this loving-kindness practice with a natural spontaneity.

May I be safe.
May I be healthy.
May I be at ease.
May I be happy.


First you begin with yourself. For some this may be the most difficult. But it is essential.

“To know the real situation within yourself, you have to know your own territory, including the elements within you that are at war with each other. In order to bring about harmony, reconciliation, and healing within, you have to understand yourself. Looking and listening deeply, surveying your territory, is the beginning of love meditation.”

Thich Nhat Hanh

Then you can bring to mind some close to you. This may be a loved one, a friend, a teacher, maybe a pet or a tree. It’s good to practice doing this for someone you are fond of to begin with.
Then you move to someone neutral. Perhaps someone you don’t know very well, but you know is struggling and could benefit from a kind thought.
Then you can bring to mind somebody who you find difficult. You may not want to pick the most difficult person in your life, instead choosing someone who is mildly difficult. Maybe it’s someone you find yourself agitated with or annoyed by.

If you still have the concentration and stability to continue, then you can move on to include everyone you’ve been thinking of and add more if you want:

May we be safe.
May we be healthy.
May we be at ease.
May we be happy.

If you can do this with sincerity, while maintaining focus you will find metta exercise renewing and refreshing. It will revive your outlook about yourself and the people in your life.

For those looking for a more in depth explanation of the metta meditation, enclosed is an article written by Thich Nhat Hanh entitled: Cultivating Compassion

Filed under: Education, Virtual Yoga, , , , ,

Tools of Practice: Metta

Probably many of you have heard of metta meditation. The meditation on loving kindness. There also a story about how the Buddha first introduced this practice with a sutra teaching. In many ways this teaching seems appropriate to making friends with our current situation of distancing and social isolation. So often the pat answer is to say: “just be with the strong feelings as they arise.” But emotions like anger, fear, sadness, envelop us in the the energy that then sweeps us into them. So to “just be” seems like a wishful afterthought. Stories like this helps me to realize there are concrete ways to bring mindfulness to life:

This version of the story is borrowed from a meditation and mindfulness teacher Manoj Dias , born and raised in the Theravada Buddhist tradition.

The Story Of The Metta Sutta

Some 2,500 years ago, in the time of the Buddha, there were 500 monks that were sent by the Buddha to go on retreat. They call it the rains retreat as it’s usually during the monsoon season. Whenever the monsoon season comes, the monks would be sent off to a particular part of the forest in the mountains to meditate with a particular practice and not come back until they had insight, until they had vipassana or wisdom.
These 500 monks were sent away to one particular part of the forest and back then there was the belief in devasDevas, we could refer to them as spirits, ghosts, or energies that lived in the trees and in the forest. These trees were initially very welcoming of the 500 monks as they came, they were meditating, they didn’t seem to disturb the energy of the forest or nature. But over time, every day they realized that these monks weren’t going away. So, they hatched a plan to get rid of them.
In the evening they decided to make some ghoulish sounds. They decided to let off some really bad smells and to really scare these monks into leaving. Sure enough the monks weren’t able to sleep at night. Their meditation was disturbed, and they became distracted, agitated, anxious and stressed. Like what many of us are feeling right now.
Soon enough the monks became quite terrified, which broke their concentration (samadhi) and disrupted their mindfulness. Some even developed fever and pain and dizziness in conjunction with the fear they were experiencing, and all felt it was impossible to continue practicing where they were. They decided that they had enough and were going back to the Buddha to ask him to send them somewhere else, so they could continue their practice. And they went back and they said to the Buddha, “Buddha, we can’t go to that particular part of the forest. Can you send us somewhere else? There’s ghosts, odd sounds and things that scare us.”
The Buddha sat there and he thought for a little while about the words of these monks. Then he said to them, “You’re right. I sent you into the forest, into this pitch black, dark forest without a weapon. I’m going to give you a weapon. I’m going to give you a weapon that you can defend yourself with no matter what.” And the monks were stunned. “ A weapon?” 
The Buddha sat all 500 of the monks down and he gave the discourse of what’s called the Metta Sutta. The Metta. It’s sometimes translated as the teachings of love or teachings on loving-kindness. Essentially, what it boils down to is, it is a teaching on friendship.
So, after these teachings were imparted to the 500 monks, they returned to the forest, and they practiced cultivating friendship towards everything that was in their lives. This included the spirits that were scaring them and themselves. All of them were feeling anxious and scared. This included the people that they love. This included teachers that had helped them along the way. This included people like their neighbors and friends. Through the quality of this kindness and friendship that they cultivated towards the devas, the devas allowed them to stay. As such stories go from back then, these monks eventually became Arahants, awakened ones.

KARANIYA METTA SUTTA*
from the Buddha

This is what should be done
By one who is skilled in goodness,
And who knows the path of peace:
Let them be able and upright,
Straightforward and gentle in speech.
Humble and not conceited,
Contented and easily satisfied.
Unburdened with duties and frugal in their ways..
Peaceful and calm, and wise and skillful,
Not proud and demanding in nature.
Let them not do the slightest thing
That the wise would later reprove.
Wishing: In gladness and in safety,
May all beings be at ease.
Whatever living beings there may be;
Whether they are weak or strong, omitting none,
The great or the mighty, medium, short or small,
The seen and the unseen,
Those living near and far away,
Those born and to-be-born,
May all beings be at ease!

Let none deceive another,
Or despise any being in any state.
Let none through anger or ill-will
Wish harm upon another.
Even as a mother protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all living beings;
Radiating kindness over the entire world:
Spreading upwards to the skies,
And downwards to the depths;
Outwards and unbounded,
Freed from hatred and ill-will.
Whether standing or walking, seated or lying down
One should sustain this recollection.
This is said to be the sublime abiding.
By not holding to fixed views,
The pure-hearted one, having clarity of vision,
Being freed from all sense desires,
Is not born again into this world.

*Translated from the Pali language by monks from the
Amravati Monastery in England.

Filed under: Education, Stories, Virtual Yoga, , , ,

Hands

So how many times in the course of the day do you think you wash your hands? While doing so do you ever notice your hands. Maybe you are aware of how chaffed or dried they may be, but do you ever just notice yours hands?

These useful instruments come with four digits and an opposable thumb. We eat with them, talk with them, pick up things, cook and write with them. They’re handy for making a point, waving, clapping, snapping, picking, and scratching. They are quite strong but resilient, yet also sensitive and fragile. These hands are usually busy, sometimes to the point of distraction. If they are not busy, they are somewhat tense, moving, wriggling, and yes oh no! — touching your face.

ASSIGNMENT: During the day let your hands relax and rest completely. For a few moments (a breath or two) let them be completely still. Place them in your lap or rest them on the table in front of you. Feel the subtle sensations in the quiet hands. To help remind yourself wear you watch backwards. If you don’t wear a watch, tie a string or put on a bracelet on the wrist.

When we relax our hands, the rest of the body along with the mind tends to calm down too. Noticing the hands can be way of stopping (shamatha), quieting the mind. You may also find that you are listening more attentively. As with any mindfulness practice, we will do this, then forget, then remember again. But it is an opportunity to rest in this present moment.


Friday Noble Silence Meditation

Again if any of you would like to join others from the Honey Locust Sangha for the Friday Noble Silence meditation, please do so. The schedule is as follows.

We begin the first sit at precisely 6:00 p.m. for 20 minutes.
The time for mindful walking will begin at 6:25,
Followed by the second sit at 6:40 for another 20 minutes.

If you have a bell, I encourage you to use it. To begin there is the half sound of the bell, then three full sounds. To end the sit there is a half sound the two full sounds. Begin and end walking with one sound of the bell. The Bell, when invited by you, makes the experience so much richer.

If you wish to sit for just one 20 minute periods or just mindfully walk, that would be fine. You don’t have to practice for the full hour. Just know that we’re here for each other. And you can surrender yourself to the sangha for help and support. And all you need to do is stop, come to your breath to dwell in the present moment, and know that your practice helps to support everyone. If you would like to let me know you are attending you can email me at omyogapath@gmail.com, but this in not required.

Filed under: Education, Home Practice, Virtual Yoga, , , ,

Doing It Right

Today is Friday, so again any who wish can join in the Noble Silence Meditation offered through the Honey Locust Sangha. As mentioned last week it is very beneficial to meditate with others, if not in space at least in time. And you don’t have to join us for the full hour, but can just sit for one 20 minute period if you choose.


The schedule is is the same as last week:
We begin the first sit at precisely 6:00 p.m. for 20 minutes.
The time for mindful walking will begin at 6:25,
Followed by the second sit at 6:40 for another 20 minutes.


If you have a bell, I encourage you to use it. To begin there is the half sound of the bell, then three full sounds. To end the sit there is a half sound the two full sounds. Begin and end walking with one sound of the bell. The Bell, when invited by you, makes the experience so much richer.


One of the biggest obstacles to meditating consistently is the belief that we are not doing it right. How do I know meditation is working? I feel like I’m just sitting there daydreaming; nothing is happening. I’ve recently shared this story in classes at the Path to help address this discouragement. The story comes from Dean Sluyter, who taught a workshop on Natural Meditation. This version comes from his book with the same title.

We can’t evaluate what’s going on while it’s going on. Meditation consists of resting the attention on some object of experience, such as the breath and remaining neutral and non-engaged with whatever’s going on. When we try to judge or evaluate the meditation, we give up our neutrality and become engaged. It’s like scowling into a mirror while complaining about the lines on your face . . . which is caused by scowling.
Also, because subjective experience is so, well, subjective, it’s an unreliable measure of what’s going on objectively. A friend of mine was one of the key researchers in some of the pioneering studies on the effects of meditation. By studying changes in such functions as brain waves, oxygen consumption, and galvanic skin resistance, he helped establish the physiological reality of the meditative state. At the end of the session, as he was taking the electrodes off a subject’s scalp, the subject would often say something like, “Ah! That was a nice, deep silent meditation. I’m glad you got that one on the record,” or “Oh, that was one of the those shallow, choppy meditations. All I did was think thoughts. I hope this one doesn’t throw off your averages.” To my friend’s surprise, once he examined the results he found that, physiologically, both subjects had undergone s similar degree of settling down. You just can’t tell.
That is, you can’t tell during practice. The point of meditation is not just to have some pleasant experience during meditation, then come back to the same-old-same-old. The real effects are experienced during the other twenty-three and half hours of the day.

Also this story helps us realize that even when we don’t think we’re getting any benefits from meditating, we actually are. If we can look at the doubts were having while sitting as just another thought, more thinking, then the doubts begin to lose their power over us.

Filed under: Education, Virtual Yoga, , ,

Meditate Together

In practicing meditation we don’t always have to sit alone. There is a great support in being with other people. This was a revelation to me after years of meditating by myself. That to be in community with others helps to nurture and cultivate this what seems like a silent, solitary endeavor. Yet think of going to a basketball game where the crowd brings it combined attention and focus on one singular event and supports their team. Usually by screaming and shouting. We perhaps think that the support needs to loud and raucous to be beneficial, but this isn’t necessarily so. We can do many activities together without talking or yelling. We share living space with each other, we cook together, we congregate church, theater, concerts, or dance recitals giving our attention to one thing collectively which adds to spirit and energy of an event. Meditating in community is just as powerful and just as helpful.

Now we’ve come to a place in history, where coming together in groups is not prudent for our health or the health of the community. At least not our physical presence. However, like many group activities we are meeting up on virtual platforms like Zoom to we can be present for each other. The Honey Locust Sangha does this every Monday evening and we average about 25 -30 participants a week. But also on Friday evening we have continued with what we’ve titled “Noble Silence Meditation.” This was started by members of the sangha who wanted to meet for an hour while having no discussion or dharma talks. Just quietly gather at the Yoga Path, set up, sit-walk-sit, then end. No talking. Just a smile, the sound of the bell, and the presence of one-another.

Blue Cliff Monastery

Since the beginning of the social distancing and the pandemic measures, we have been meeting not physically or virtually, but temporally. We schedule our meeting every Friday evening, synchronize our sit/walk/sit to we can be together in time with noble silence. Some people email to announce that they will be there. Some don’t. But of those who do check-in, we know there are about 10 -12 people attending; probably more.

If any reading this, would like to join us in the Friday Noble Silence meditation, please do so. The schedule is as follows.

We begin the first sit at precisely 6:00 p.m. for 20 minutes.
The time for mindful walking will begin at 6:25,
Followed by the second sit at 6:40 for another 20 minutes.

If you have a bell, I encourage you to use it. To begin there is the half sound of the bell, then three full sounds. To end the sit there is a half sound the two full sounds. Begin and end walking with one sound of the bell. The Bell, when invited by you, makes the experience so much richer.

If you wish to sit, but just one 20 minute period or just mindfully walk, that would be fine. You don’t have to practice for the full hour. Just know that we’re here for each other. And you can surrender yourself to the sangha for help and support. And all you need to do is stop, come to your breath to dwell in the present moment, and know that your practice helps to support everyone. If you would like to let me know you are attending you can email me at omyogapath@gmail.com, but this in not required.

“Meditation practice isn’t about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better. It’s about befriending who we are already.”

Pema Chodran

Filed under: Education, Virtual Yoga, , ,

Shamatā / Stopping

One of you emailed to ask if there could be a discussion about shamatā, the first wing of meditation. Shamatā as you all recall from the Winter session was practice of stopping, pausing.

Given the current situation in our world right now, this practice seems almost to have been enforced upon us. Some of us have stopped going to work, our kids are out of school, we’ve stopped going to movies, shopping, and going out to eat.

You could literally stop what you are doing, set it down for now and let yourself just be, rather than do. But it was also giving yourself space and time to just realize what is happening in the present moment. You don’t even have to stop what you are doing, you just allow your perception to shift to notice what you are doing. Instead of doing a thing, you let yourself notice this thing you are doing. This morning I was making breakfast when I “stopped” long enough, just for a moment to realize I was making breakfast. I didn’t stop what I was doing, I just noticed for a moment, there was this act of making breakfast. And that I was the actor.

It is not usually a big deal to “stop” in this way. Some might say I do it all the time. But actually most of the time we stop to do something else or to think about something else, or to remember something we forgot or need to do. We do deliberately stop, pause to see what is occurring right now. When we do though, the texture of the experience changes. Usually not dramatically, but subtly.

You could even call it sublime. You take a breath, see the activity in a less frenetic way. There is less possessiveness to the outcome of the action along with a feeling of spaciousness, sometimes even wonder. All just from “stopping” shamatā.

“When we learn to stop and be truly alive in the present moment, we are in touch with what’s going on within and around us” Thich Nhat Hanh

Filed under: Education, Virtual Yoga, ,

Tea on the Brain

Been a long time since making an entry in this category — tea, but I always marvel at the relationship of tea in Buddhism, Yoga, and meditation. Now here is a neurological explain for human predilection for Camellia sinensis.

Filed under: Tea, , , , ,

Sitting Spaces

Students at the Yoga Path have been invited to share images of the meditation space in their homes. Here are some of the initial entries.

“One of the most important ways you can transform your home space is to make a place to sit. Creating a peaceful sitting area can transform your whole house. This also an important way to support your meditation practice. If we sit in the same place each day, it takes us less and less time to remember to stop and return to our breath. Here, in this place, our bodies and minds can help each other relax”  Thich Nhat Hanh

Filed under: Stories, , , ,

Spring Mindfulness Retreat

Here is the announcement about Spring Mindfulness Retreat 2014 sponsored by the Honey Locust Sangha / Omaha Community of Mindful Living.

Filed under: Education, , , ,

George Orwell’s Tea

Those of us who come to the Yoga Path, have come to appreciate the tea ceremony at the end of our classes. It is an integral part of the practice. Yet it’s very difficult in America, the land of coffee, to find a decent cup of tea out in the world. One of my students recently shared this story from Orwell with me. It captures much of what I think goes into a good cup of tea. If there are an isolated tea drinkers out there in this coffee waste land, write in. You’re not alone.

A Nice Cup of Tea

by George Orwell
Saturday Essay, Evening Standard, 12 January 1946

If you look up ‘tea’ in the first cookery book that comes to hand you will probably find that it is unmentioned; or at most you will find a few lines of sketchy instructions which give no ruling on several of the most important points.

This is curious, not only because tea is one of the main stays of civilisation in this country, as well as in Eire, Australia and New Zealand, but because the best manner of making it is the subject of violent disputes.

When I look through my own recipe for the perfect cup of tea, I find no fewer than eleven outstanding points. On perhaps two of them there would be pretty general agreement, but at least four others are acutely controversial. Here are my own eleven rules, every one of which I regard as golden:

First of all, one should use Indian or Ceylonese tea. China tea has virtues which are not to be despised nowadays – it is economical, and one can drink it without milk – but there is not much stimulation in it. One does not feel wiser, braver or more optimistic after drinking it. Anyone who has used that comforting phrase ‘a nice cup of tea’ invariably means Indian tea.

Secondly, tea should be made in small quantities – that is, in a teapot. Tea out of an urn is always tasteless, while army tea, made in a cauldron, tastes of grease and whitewash. The teapot should be made of china or earthenware. Silver or Britannia-ware teapots produce inferior tea and enamel pots are worse; though curiously enough a pewter teapot (a rarity nowadays) is not so bad.

Thirdly, the pot should be warmed beforehand. This is better done by placing it on the hob than by the usual method of swilling it out with hot water.

Fourthly, the tea should be strong. For a pot holding a quart, if you are going to fill it nearly to the brim, six heaped teaspoons would be about right. In a time of rationing, this is not an idea that can be realised on every day of the week, but I maintain that one strong cup of tea is better than twenty weak ones. All true tea-lovers not only like their tea strong, but like it a little stronger with each year that passes – a fact which is recognized in the extra ration issued to old-age pensioners.

Fifthly, the tea should be put straight into the pot. No strainers, muslin bags or other devices to imprison the tea. In some countries teapots are fitted with little dangling baskets under the spout to catch the stray leaves, which are supposed to be harmful. Actually one can swallow tea-leaves in considerable quantities without ill effect, and if the tea is not loose in the pot it never infuses properly.

Sixthly, one should take the teapot to the kettle and not the other way about. The water should be actually boiling at the moment of impact, which means that one should keep it on the flame while one pours. Some people add that one should only use water that has been freshly brought to the boil, but I have never noticed that it makes any difference.

Seventhly, after making the tea, one should stir it, or better, give the pot a good shake, afterwards allowing the leaves to settle.

Eighthly, one should drink out of a good breakfast cup – that is, the cylindrical type of cup, not the flat, shallow type. The breakfast cup holds more, and with the other kind one’s tea is always half cold – before one has well started on it.

Ninthly, one should pour the cream off the milk before using it for tea. Milk that is too creamy always gives tea a sickly taste.

Tenthly, one should pour tea into the cup first. This is one of the most controversial points of all; indeed in every family in Britain there are probably two schools of thought on the subject.

The milk-first school can bring forward some fairly strong arguments, but I maintain that my own argument is unanswerable. This is that, by putting the tea in first and stirring as one pours, one can exactly regulate the amount of milk whereas one is liable to put in too much milk if one does it the other way round.

Lastly, tea – unless one is drinking it in the Russian style – should be drunk without sugar. I know very well that I am in a minority here. But still, how can you call yourself a true tea-lover if you destroy the flavour of your tea by putting sugar in it? It would be equally reasonable to put in pepper or salt.

Tea is meant to be bitter, just as beer is meant to be bitter. If you sweeten it, you are no longer tasting the tea, you are merely tasting the sugar; you could make a very similar drink by dissolving sugar in plain hot water.

Some people would answer that they don’t like tea in itself, that they only drink it in order to be warmed and stimulated, and they need sugar to take the taste away. To those misguided people I would say: Try drinking tea without sugar for, say, a fortnight and it is very unlikely that you will ever want to ruin your tea by sweetening it again.

These are not the only controversial points to arise in connection with tea drinking, but they are sufficient to show how subtilised the whole business has become.

There is also the mysterious social etiquette surrounding the teapot (why is it considered vulgar to drink out of your saucer, for instance?) and much might be written about the subsidiary uses of tealeaves, such as telling fortunes, predicting the arrival of visitors, feeding rabbits, healing burns and sweeping the carpet.

It is worth paying attention to such details as warming the pot and using water that is really boiling, so as to make quite sure of wringing out of one’s ration the twenty good, strong cups of that two ounces, properly handled, ought to represent.

Filed under: Tea, , , ,

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