I took a half day meditation seminar yesterday that, I’m certain, changed my life.
I know, I know. I’ve said this before. But this time I mean it.
The specific kind of mediation we did was metta, or loving-kindness meditation, which is different than the usual kind of meditation I do.
In the Insight practice I usually do, it’s a focus on breathing, and then opening up awareness to see what comes up. It’s fairly rigorous in that you sit for 30-45 minutes at a time, just focusing on your breathing.
This meditation was also 45 minute sits, but the instruction was to cultivate a sense of ease in the body and mind so that you could really tap into your heart energy.
The basic gist of metta is that you repeat the same 4 mantras over and over.
May I (you/they) be safe (alternatively, you can say, free from danger).
May I (you/they) be happy.
May I (you/they) be healthy.
May I (you/they) live with ease.
The practice in the way it’s usually taught begins with yourself. Then your Benefactor – someone in which your relationship is easy and love seems unconditional. Then someone who is Neutral, where there lies no attachment either way. Then you work to someone in which your relationship seems difficult.
I spent the first seated session trying like hell to work those mantras and turn them towards myself. It was intense; physically I was hot and sweaty and my back and hips were killing me, and I wanted to fly off my cushion and run the hell away.
Really, I can’t believe how hard it was.
Then, during our first walking session, it struck me that I didn’t need to fight it as much as I was. Our teacher had said that if you found it hard to get the heart energy moving when you focused on yourself, then maybe switch to your Benefactor, your teacher.
Owen is my Benefactor. And as I walked, I saw him in my head, and the mantras flowed freely, and I could FEEL the love welling in my heart.
From there, I was free to turn it on anyone who popped into my head – and man, people did. I’d walk 10 lengths, and then someone else would show up, and I could say the four mantras to them.
I was even able to turn the metta on myself and NOT react, once I had stoked the fires of love within me.
And then, in the final sit, my family – Owen, Jeff, Finley and I – were right there with me, in the room. I felt such a deep sense of happiness and love and joy that I was smiling and almost crying at the same time.
The piece that’s been missing from my practice is joy.
Being aware of my default habits and thinking and patterns has been good for me, but my patterns do not contain joy or happiness, and so I’ve been trying to find a way to really recognize joy when I see it. It’s SO hard.
I left the retreat feeling that deep sense of contentment, of connectedness – and with a purpose to bring it to my practice on a daily and weekly basis. I think it’s going to be the key for me.
I can’t wait to see where it leads me.