We’ve now finished our 5 weeks of Loving Kindness practice and Mary and I really enjoyed it so much. We met quite a few new people and they brought such a fresh outlook to the class. Everyone was so happy to try something new and go with the flow of the guided practices. And the results were fantastic, with folk saying they already found themselves with a changed – and improved – outlook in their day to day lives.
But now we’re on a break for Easter holidays, and we’ll start back on Wednesday 6 April with our next meditation course – the Unifying Practice. Don’t miss it!
Whether you’re starting out or starting again, these 10 short videos will help you with the basic instructions for posture and using the breath as a focus of meditation. Perfect as an introduction or a reminder.
In our last session we heard more about the benefits of meditation practice in terms of health and well-being and learned more about how to place our attention on the breath by using the ‘three principles of shamatha’: mindfulness, watchful awareness and resting spaciously (or ‘spacious abiding’). Mindfulness is placing your attention on your breath. Awareness is being aware of the times when your mind wanders and gently bringing your attention back to the breath. Resting spaciously is resting the mind in the peace that comes when your mind is not distracted. Like anything else, it takes a bit of practice to get the balance right. So, we’ll be practising more in our next session and learning about some scientific investigations into the benefits of meditation which can inspire us to continue with our daily sittings.
Yes, we spent lots of time meditating, but we also had lots to think about too. We heard that the whole teaching of the Buddha could be essentialised in 3 lines:
Commit not a single unwholesome action OR If you can’t help, at least don’t harm
Cultivate a wealth of virtue OR Have a good, kind, compassionate heart
To tame this mind of ours OR Train the mind because it is the creator of happiness and suffering
There was much discussion about what comes first, the trained mind or the ethics. Leave your comments at the foot of the page! But we all related to the teaching on the appearance and nature of mind, and understood the analogies of the sun (nature of mind) and the rays of the sun (appearance of mind) and the clouds (appearance of mind) and the sky (nature of mind).
In our second session we went into more detail about posture, learning about how paying attention to how we sit helps us to settle the ‘monkey mind’. Often our minds are stirred up by a kind of mental cinema which projects thoughts about the past and future, so it was helpful to watch a teaching called ‘Contentment’ explaining how meditation can help us to discover the kind of ‘inner peace and contentment’ in which we can let go of our projections and preoccupations and relax into the present moment. Meditation can bring this kind of relaxed state in which we are ‘not trying to get anything or ‘trying to attain anything’. Next week we will look at what to do with our minds in meditation.
In our first session of ‘Meditation Made Easy’ we discussed the meaning of meditation and watched ‘A simple practice of meditation’, a teaching which included details about posture and the benefits of resting the mind. We also learned about the restlessness of ‘monkey mind’ and how meditation can help us to calm it down by watching the breath. We did several short sittings to try out this method, known as shamatha, and we are encouraged to establish a daily practice so that we can allow the benefits to benefits to enter our lives and daily activities.
We’ve explored how we are all linked closely with each other (interdependent) and depend on kindness of others on a daily basis for our food, shelter, transport etc. Being grateful for this kindness unlocks our ability to show kindness to others. We’ve discovered there is love potential in us all, and we’ve considered how science is proving that compassion practice can bring us a myriad of benefits, both physical and mental.
Watch an amusing clip on love from one of the scientists Barbara Frederickson here.
We have started with developing love for ourselves, with all our inadequacies- being a kind friend to ourselves, before sharing our love with others: those who have shown us kindness, then with strangers and those folk we have difficulties with.
We’d been developing the scope and extent of our practice over 4 weeks, so that by the time we did the last guided practice on the last evening of this course, it’s remarkable how effective it was and how much we all connected to some extent with our inner goodness. We know this can be difficult to sustain, but if you can, invest half an hour on this guided loving kindness practice by Sharon Salzburg. If you don’t feel ready for that, just listen to the first 10 minutes or so which is loving kindness for self. Only when you feel ready, you can move on to follow the whole practice. Let us know below how you get on.
This week we have further explored how our lives might change if our minds were free from our usual fears and emotions and instead were filled with love and compassion. We heard an analogy for this – our mind being like a crystal – reflecting whatever we fill it with. And we can choose what to fill it with.
So with this positive aspiration, we slowly extended the scope of our loving kindness practice from ourselves, first to a good friend, then to someone we don’t really know, to someone we don’t like so much, and finally to everyone in our area, then eventually to all beings everywhere. Although this may seem like a bit of a stretch, we first contemplated how other people are actually just like us. They too are looking for happiness and they too want to avoid suffering. This allows us to share our loving kindness with less judgement.
This week we reflected on a particular situation, either in childhood or at any time, when we recognised that we were given unconditional love by someone. We reconnected with this feeling to remind ourselves that whatever we feel now, there was a time someone genuinely showed us love. This helps us to unblock our potential for unconditional love. From this, we are then able to feel lovable and worthy of love. When we have such open heartedness, we become ready to share this love with others, knowing that this only increases it and so does no harm to ourselves, in fact it benefits us too.