trying on meditation

February 2, 2011

I haven’t been blogging much lately, in part because I have so much to say about the spiritual ideas I’ve been exploring, and because they are still so new to me that it’s difficult to explain them concisely. Almost every time I happen upon a new idea, I want to share it with Kelsey, but as soon as I start to explain it, I realize I sound a like I have no idea what I’m talking about!

I think what I’ve got to do is keep reading and thinking about the new ideas I’ve happened upon, and talk about them little by little; i.e. tackle smaller concepts. So, today I thought I’d describe the type of meditation I’ve been exploring.

I was introduced to Metta meditation by Helen when she visited recently. My only other experience with meditation had also been with Helen, many years back, when we were visiting a meditation center in Vermont. It had been just the two of us in a small, silent room, and we had been trying to clear our minds… any thoughts that came into our heads, we would just release. This was terribly difficult for me. Also, to be honest, I got rather bored. Helen is a master meditator, so my endurance was nothing compared to hers.

Metta meditation, however, does not ask for this clearing of the mind. Instead, you spend your time sending out love and kindness (‘Metta’ means loving kindness) to someone. There are five stages of ‘difficulty’, so to speak, and you practice them in this order: first you send loving kindness to yourself, then to a benefactor, then to a friend, then to someone neutral, and then to someone with whom you have conflict.

You focus your mind on sending the loving kindness by picking a few phrases that help you focus good energy and happiness their way. Here are the ones suggested by the book I mentioned before (Loving-Kindness, by Sharon Salzberg), which I tend to amend only slightly.

“May I be free from fear.”

“May I have mental happiness.” (or, “May I be happy.”)

“May I have physical happiness.” (or, “May I be healthy.”)

“May I have ease of well-being” (or, “May I live in peace.”)

The self-focused meditation basically comes down to befriending yourself. And, to be honest, it’s almost impossible not to feel pretty happy by the time you’re done. I usually find myself smiling and feeling calm. And it’s nice, because it only has to be about 5 or 10 minutes, sitting however is comfortable, wherever you like.

If you’re new to meditation, it can initially seem kind of funny to spend time on yourself; it can feel kind of selfish or conceited. But really you’re making a commitment to your happiness such that you can then offer genuine joy to others. Sharon Salzberg makes the connection that such an intimate inner life allows us to be intimate with others. She explains, “We see that all beings want to be happy, and that this impulse unites us. We can recognize the rightness and beauty of our common urge toward happiness, and realize intimacy in this shared urge.”

More on this as it develops!


One comment

  1. ooh, this sounds wonderful. i’ve tried to meditate in the past, with not much luck. i’m glad you’ve found something that is working for you. also, how goes the buddhism adventure?

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