Try a little lovingkindness…

There are many variations of this classic Buddhist meditation known as the metta bhavana meditation from the Theravada Buddhist tradition. This version comes from meditation teacher Sharon Salzburg.   An ancient meditation, it was first heard over 2,500 years ago.  It is intended to cultivate compassion and empathy not just for others but for yourself as well.  As Unitarian Universalists, this meditation can be seen as an expression of our first principle, a way to honour the inherent worth of all beings, as well as our seventh, our connection to the interdependent web.

Loving Kindness Meditation

Find a quiet place where you will undisturbed for 15 minutes.  Sit in a chair or on a cushion.  Please get comfortable, closing your eyes. Settle your feet on the floor and get your back straight without tension.

Take a few deep breaths, relax your body. Feel your energy settle into your body.  Feel your energy settle into this moment.

The phrase to repeat: “May I live in safety.  May I be happy.  May I be healthy. May I live with ease.”

Gently repeat these phrases as you hold yourself and then others in your heart.  If you find your attention has wandered, don’t worry.  Just begin again. You may say them out loud or quietly to yourself.

Hold yourself in your mind and heart.  Hold an image of yourself, say your name.  Feel yourself be present in this moment. Repeat:
May I live in safety.  May I be happy.  May I be healthy. May I live with ease.

Call to mind somebody that you care about–a good friend, or someone who’s helped you, someone who inspires you. Visualize them, say their name. Get a feeling for their presence, and then direct the phrases of lovingkindness to them.
May you  live in safety.  May you be happy.  May you be healthy. May you live with ease.

Call to mind someone you know who you find difficult: to appreciate, to accept, to love.  Someone you have trouble with. If somebody like that comes to mind, bring them here. Imagine them sitting in front of you. Say their name. Get a feeling for their presence and offer the phrases of lovingkindness to them.
May you live in safety.  May you be happy.  May you be healthy. May you live with ease.

Think of someone who plays some minor role in your life, that you don’t have a particular feeling for, or against. Maybe the checkout person at the supermarket or the tim hortons staff. If someone like that comes to mind, imagine them sitting in front of you, and offer these same phrases of lovingkindness to them.
May you live in safety.  May you be happy.  May you be healthy. May you live with ease.

When we connect into these phrases, aiming the heart in this way, we’re opening ourselves to the possibility of including, rather than excluding, of connecting, rather than overlooking, of caring, rather than being indifferent. And ultimately, we open in this way to all beings everywhere, people, animals, all creatures, without distinction, without separation.
May all beings live in safety, be happy, be healthy, live with ease.

Take a final deep breath, and when you feel ready, open your eyes.  May this energy carry through into your daily round.

Source:  Beliefnet   (if you have Real Player there is an audio version).

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Just Breathe

“I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.”  Sylvia Plath

From long standing family tensions to the financial strain to the present giving pressures, the Christmas season can be difficult to navigate with grace. This week’s meditation is a time to stop and breathe. Mindful breathing is an ancient meditation practices, easy to learn and a powerful tool to calm the mind. With renewed calmness, we are better able to deal with all this season may bring.

Breathing meditation directs your attention to the breath, not making yourself breathe, but noticing it. You may find your mind wanders quickly off.  The practice is to keep returning to your breath, without guilt or struggle or shame, after each distraction.  Slowly, the distractions become shorter and it is easier to return to the breath. With regular practice, your mind will settle and you may become calm, steady, and peaceful.

While beginners can best practice breathing meditation at home, for 5 to 15 minutes, you can also tune in to your breathing at your office desk or at the mall. Taking a few moments to pay attention to your breathing can help ground and center you.

Meditation Oasis is one of my favourite sites for guided meditation.  This nine minute audio clip, which you can reach through either link, is a good introduction to the basics of a breathing meditation practice.

Breath Awareness Meditation

 

 

The Art of Meditation

Meditation is an ancient practice, first noted in writing in the Hindu tradition around 1500 BC.  Judaism, Sufism, Taoism and Buddhism have also developed forms of meditation, with Buddhism heavily influencing contemporary North American meditation practices. Many Unitarian Universalist congregations offer meditation groups led by members involved with Buddhism.  As UUs, we understand meditation as a way to calm and centre in a busy world, a way to re-connect with one’s self and the larger whole. To meditate creates the space to step back from an endless forward momentum and take time to simply be.  It encourages us to be more aware of life, and in being so aware, offers hope in the beauty of living.  Given the stresses of the holiday season, December seems like a good month to explore some basic meditation practices, starting with mindful meditation.

Mindful meditation – focusing on breathing or the body – helps focus the mind and develop our ability to pay attention and be present in the moment.  By scanning the body, the intention is to nurture a curiosity about these sensations your body is experiencing, not to explain them away but to simply be aware of them.  Today we’ll use an body scan meditation to learn some basic meditation skills.  Don’t worry if your mind keeps wandering – that is normal! Meditation is a practice which takes time to learn.

This is a very simple introduction to meditation.  Many more detailed introductions, such as Tara Branch’s video introduction, are available for those interested in going further with this practice.

Wear comfortable clothes and find a quiet place to listen to this short audio piece from Calm.com.