Author Topic: Is this Metta Bhavana? What am I doing?  (Read 11455 times)

Fabrice

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Is this Metta Bhavana? What am I doing?
« on: July 02, 2010, 11:54:05 PM »
Dear all,

I have a seious question, it was difficult to Google for answers.

After doing three 10 day retreats, I started doing this thing which I only assume is Metta Bhavana. I assume it is because we were told that's what the teachers did.

Coincidentally during these retreats, everytime we medtated close to the teachers or soon after, I felt this "wave" of very pleasant sensation. It seems to originate in the center of the chest. It felt very "fine" or "white".. it 's hard to put sensations in words right? But it would be so strong that I could not hide a smile, or sometimes tears.

So anyway.. after the second course I tried to do the same myself. I bow my head, because I feel it helps to lower the "ego". Then I feel like I "remove" myself from my face. It's a little physical sensation, like perhaps stress comes out of the face because I dont want to be there anymore. And then I do something like Metta Bhavana, but I dont visualize a family member, a person I dont like and so on. I just try to FEEL loving kindness towards all people in the building, or the room, or in the bus or wherver I may be, or perhaps indeed a person I know but there is no visualization.

And increasingly I can get a similar pleasant feeling, like a wave... but it is nowhere near as strong as what I felt came from the teachers during 10 day retreat (and that was just my ASSUMPTION, I only assume the teachers were sending something.. which would defy the laws of physics but hey ;-))

So I assure you while I do enjoy the feeling, I am not looking for "speical effects" or a special experience. But I genuinely want to understand what it is that am I doing. Is this some kind of energy work?

I am trying to understand:
- whether I'm doing it properly
- whether it has a prupose and is worht continuing
- whether it is something potentially dangerous (eg. messing up with sankhara without being in a retreat environment)

Then generating this loving kindess inside, could it be a way to "tune up" into some kind of energy? Which would explain the sensations? Which may explain why teachers appears to be able to send it to others?

I looked up a lot of sites about metta bhavana and all of it is theory and steps about persons to imagine, but none talk about actual SENSATIONS. That's what I'm interested in. What is this thing?  ???

Morning Dew

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Re: Is this Metta Bhavana? What am I doing?
« Reply #1 on: July 03, 2010, 08:47:42 AM »
Quote
- whether it has a prupose and is worht continuing

Hi friend,

Besides practising Shamatha and Qigong I am also practising Japanese Reiki System of Energy Healing and one thing I can tell you in my experiance;

You ego self is going to get involved in this energy sending trip KNOW THIS for sure! I am not saying stop the practice but be aware of the ego wanting to be a healer sending LOVe and what not to the world! Ego even when good to others is still ego trying to get good feeling out of it.
Watch this ego of yours daily through sitting in Shamatha, watch it like you would watch a snake sitting beside the road you walk on!
For energy to be able to flow through us we MUST unify our Mind-Heart and this can be done via pealing off our ego self.

Kind regards, MD

soma

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Re: Is this Metta Bhavana? What am I doing?
« Reply #2 on: July 03, 2010, 11:14:04 AM »
Hello Fabrice !

In my experience, starting the meditation session with 10 - 15 minutes of Loving Kindness is a very purifying and effective way to calm down and weaken the hindrances, and it leaves you in a perfect state of mind for shamata/vipassana.
Whenever I feel some ill will or aversion in my daily life i also try to counter this with a few moments of loving kindness towards myself and the 'object' of my ill will, and I have found that it works really well and makes me more patient and compassionate. highly recommended  :)

 

Fabrice

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Re: Is this Metta Bhavana? What am I doing?
« Reply #3 on: July 03, 2010, 12:31:17 PM »
Morning Dew:

Point well taken. I am very much aware of it. Actually what I find interesting is that whenever these pleasant sensations occur, if my mind turns to "me" , they go away. It feels as if to bring forth this feeling of, you could say, empathy, the ego has to take a back seat anyway.

For example sometimes at the end of a Yoga class we lie in savasana posture (corpse posture). Sometimes, I'll feel tinglings sensations coming up one leg, or arm, or other places. As soon as my mind goes "Yay! It's happening (to me)" (the last part I dont voice it but the ego can be felt), then the sensation disappears.

So it appears that to bring forth this feeling of empathy, the mechanic itself prevents ego from growing alongside.

With that said I am really talking about a sensation, and not an idea.

Years before I went to a retreat I also read about Metta Bhavana, but somehow even when I tried to feel it, it didn't feel the same at all. It felt just like imaginging love. I think it was more of a conceptual thing. I'm talking about a very pleasant sensation, that can quickly wrap over you, a bit like "chicken skin", but it's not on the skin.

I fully understand what you mean though. This is an interesting question.

I am personally convinced that we all help ourselves. As such doing such practice, even though perhaps on the fringe of science, there is some energy being sent out, I feel that the change is foremost for oneself. We can delude ourselves that we help the world, but we help ourselves. You could jokingly say that being very selfish is the best thing to do: ie. work on ourselves first.

So I'll admit the sensation is pleasant, hence I want to develop it. I don't want to "heal" others. I don"t want to ask others if they have felt something. That ego consideration would be a problem for people who truly want to be come healers?

I dont think it is about healing, but about tuning into something. I experimented and found I dont even have to think about anyone in particular. But like I said, my sensation is very weak, nowehere comparable to what I have felt came from Vipassana teachers.

For example I have read a Metta Bhavana article yesterday and it said that advanced practitioners simply radiate the loving kindess with no specific destination. The article explained this meant the practiconer no longer discriminates.

So anyway for me it isn't about healing others, but more about opening my own heart.

soma:  I understand thank you.

Crystal Palace

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Re: Is this Metta Bhavana? What am I doing?
« Reply #4 on: July 03, 2010, 07:32:27 PM »
Dear Fabrice


And then I do something like Metta Bhavana, but I dont visualize a family member, a person I dont like and so on. I just try to FEEL loving kindness towards...a person I know but there is no visualization.


I wonder how this is possible.

Quote

I am trying to understand:
- whether I'm doing it properly


While practicing metta, as Mr. SN Goenka points out, it is okay and even advisable to generate pleasant sensations and then not only restrict them to your own body but spread them throughout. You are even allowed to visualize.

So even though you do not visualize, you are not doing anything wrong, although I find it hard to understand how you can send metta to ones you know without even the slightest of visualization.

Quote

I am trying to understand:
- whether it has a prupose and is worht continuing


If it did not have a purpose it would not be taught in the course. Till such a time comes that a fountain of infinite metta flows from throughout your body 24x7, it is always advisable to practice metta. It can have tremendous effects on one's ego, anger, lust, fear and other defilements. This is not a part of the practice to be taken lightly or brushed aside.

Quote

I am trying to understand:
- whether it is something potentially dangerous (eg. messing up with sankhara without being in a retreat environment)


In my view, metta bhavana is the safest practice of the entire vipassana spectrum, even safer than anapana. It would take some good misunderstanding of the practice to screw this one up and end up harming oneself.

Quote

So I assure you while I do enjoy the feeling, I am not looking for "speical effects" or a special experience. But I genuinely want to understand what it is that am I doing. Is this some kind of energy work?


One of the reasons the ATs sit there is to keep sending their metta to you so that the hindrances in meditation are lessened. I am guessing this was probably a strong metta that you picked up from your teacher although there could also be other reasons for this strong wave of sensations. Its difficult to tell the exact cause.


Warmly,
Crystal Palace
"Abstain from unwholesome actions,
Perform wholesome actions,
Purify your mind"

Buddha

Fabrice

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Re: Is this Metta Bhavana? What am I doing?
« Reply #5 on: July 04, 2010, 10:10:33 PM »
Thank you, that clears up a few things.

I think I understand better now. I was doing a lot more yoga than usual and it appears that helped "metta" coming through (if that was that...). I stopped Yoga for a week and some "heaviness" is back and I can't get the same kind of feeling.  :(

Before this experience I couldn't feel what it was about so I wasn't motivated for it. So all is good  ;D

Lokuttara

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Re: Is this Metta Bhavana? What am I doing?
« Reply #6 on: July 25, 2010, 05:46:10 PM »
I've read some books where Goenka has talked at length about this very subject. One of the reasons that teachers sit at a higher level than students on courses is that apparently the vibrations of energy flow from higher to lower places more easily, so this enables teachers to send metta to all students and also to see that all students are doing ok. Also, we receive energy from the top of the head, so focusing on this area helps to receive metta and loving kindness from other sentient beings (invisible or visible). To spread metta to others, we can focus on hands and feet and the also the rest of the inner energy field.

Goenka also mentions that when you send metta vibrations to some person that they will indeed feel your vibrations; so a person may feel some good vibrations or may feel more positive but they don't know why. But it's because they were receiving metta from you. Also, at times when you feel good for no reason, it may be possible that somebody is sending you metta, either intentionally or unintentionally. I think similar laws for for negative energy, so if you feel bad it's possible that somebody is sending you negative energy.

Whether you accept all of the above as fact is up to you. My advice is that you experience it and find out for yourself. But like the original poster said, I often feel a flow of "white energy" when doing metta after my 1 hour sit. It's a totally different feeling to full body shamatha, or vipassana. Sometimes there may be deep compassion or even tears. It is definitely a useful force, and I often feel like I am being helped by other peace loving beings.
"One may be surrounded by great beauty, by mountains and fields and rivers, but unless one is alive to it all one might just as well be dead." Krishnamurti

Crystal Palace

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Re: Is this Metta Bhavana? What am I doing?
« Reply #7 on: July 25, 2010, 06:41:18 PM »
Good to see you back Lokuttara  :)

CP
"Abstain from unwholesome actions,
Perform wholesome actions,
Purify your mind"

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Morning Dew

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Re: Is this Metta Bhavana? What am I doing?
« Reply #8 on: July 25, 2010, 10:23:49 PM »
Quote
Also, at times when you feel good for no reason, it may be possible that somebody is sending you metta, either intentionally or unintentionally. I think similar laws for for negative energy, so if you feel bad it's possible that somebody is sending you negative energy.

with all respect but this is just delusional and very likely can cause paranoia in a case one starts to believe in this. I feel bad... Must be my neighbour thinking badly about me or i feel good today must be Matthew TIB or Crystal Palace sending me good energies or i feel bad today Matthew and CP forgott to send me some good energies today ;)

i can buy that metta can help you open your heart towards others but believing that metta send by others to you can effect you is just ... Well :)

metta is a self development practice not a distant healing magical tool.

Remain relaxed.

pamojjam

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Re: Is this Metta Bhavana? What am I doing?
« Reply #9 on: July 27, 2010, 02:18:54 AM »
metta is a self development practice not a distant healing magical tool.

Once asked Pha Auk Sayadaw how metta send to Hungry Ghost could ever help.

He answered: "Though very unlikely, they might perceive that wholesome volitions are send to them, which in turn might indeed create some little wholesome mind-moments, with all their own benefits. No magic involved."

with all respect but this is just delusional and very likely can cause paranoia in a case one starts to believe in this. I feel bad...

Well, in the case you believe in metta, delusional or otherwise, this very likely causes metta only..

Coincidentally during these retreats, everytime we medtated close to the teachers or soon after, I felt this "wave" of very pleasant sensation. It seems to originate in the center of the chest. It felt very "fine" or "white".. it 's hard to put sensations in words ...

Morning Dew

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Re: Is this Metta Bhavana? What am I doing?
« Reply #10 on: July 27, 2010, 07:13:15 AM »
I did not put Metta (loving kindness) in question but the Belief that the teacher or else can heal/make you feel better by sending metta without you being aware of it, or as mentioned that someone who thinks bad about you can make you feel bad.
Such belief can lead to attachments to deluded ideas that others can control you, which they can if one gets into such believing.
Feeling good around a teacher or a group can only be a feeling of being part of something, meaning not being lonely or in the case of the teacher one can easely make a father figure out of it or a mother figure if the teacher is a female.

And what is this nonsense that if teacher sits at hifher level metta is stronger because he is over our crown level :) energy does not know about up and down it sure is a deluded concept.
In the universe what is up and what is down? ;)

remain relaxed and put down those teachers on your level! 

pamojjam

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Re: Is this Metta Bhavana? What am I doing?
« Reply #11 on: July 27, 2010, 12:42:12 PM »
Such belief can lead to attachments to deluded ideas that others can control you, which they can if one gets into such believing.

I think here you complicate the whole thing a bid. It has simply been my experience that bad company can drag you down, just as spiritual friends could lift you up. Likewise a passing bad attitude of a spiritual friend, or a moment of brightness with a not so spiritual friend..

Not necessarily any believes in this. And some are much more sensitive to such influences, it could get inflate up to delusional paranoia. It could as well make one choose one's friends better, or know how to to protect oneself better in bad company..

Feeling good around a teacher or a group can only be a feeling of being part of something, meaning not being lonely or in the case of the teacher one can easely make a father figure out of it or a mother figure if the teacher is a female.

Agreed, though the 'feeling' coupled with good intentions Fabrice describes does really goes beyond such projections - it indeed could still get mingled with them.

And what is this nonsense that if teacher sits at hifher level metta is stronger because he is over our crown level :) energy does not know about up and down it sure is a deluded concept.
In the universe what is up and what is down? ;)

Agreed again. Just reread and had to chuckle with what kind of seriousness I readjusted these up and downs for myself with a whole forum as result some years ago..

Though certainly up to discussion like anything else, even the Buddha differentiated between followers out of their own investigation -Pannanusaris - and those who follow out of believe in the Dhamma, Saddhanusaris:

Quote
Sarakani Sutta, Samyutta Nikaya 55.3.4:

... Sarakani the Sakyan had died, and the Blessed One had declared him to be a stream-enterer, no longer bound to the nether world, fixed in destiny, with enlightenment as his destination.

There upon a number of Sakyans, having met and assembled, deplored this, grumbled, and complained about it, saying: 'It is wonderful indeed, sir! It is amazing indeed, sir! Now who here won't be a stream-enterer when the Blessed One has declared Sarakani the Sakyan after he died to be a stream-enterer... with enlightenment as his destination? Sarakani the Sakyan was too weak for the training; he drank intoxicating drink!'

- Then Mahanama the Sakyan approached the Blessed One, paid homage to him, sat down to one side, and reported this matter to him.

...'Here, Mahanama, some person does not possess confirmed confidence in the Buddha ... nor in the Dhamma ... nor in the Sangha. He is not one of joyous wisdom, nor of swift wisdom, and he has not attained liberation. However, he has these five things: the faculty of faith ... the faculty of wisdom. And he has sufficient faith in the Tathagata, sufficient devotion to him.
This person too, Mahanama, is one who does not go to hell, nor to the animal realm, nor to the sphere of ghosts, who does not go to the plane of misery, the bad destinations, the nether world.'

...'Even if these great sala trees, Mahanama, could understand what is well spoken and what is badly spoken, then I would declare these great sala trees to be stream-enterers, no longer bound to the nether world, fixed in destiny, with enlightenment as their destination.
How much more, then, Sarakani the Sakyan? Sarakani the Sakyan, Mahanama, undertook the training at the time of his death.'

kind regards..
« Last Edit: July 27, 2010, 12:45:59 PM by pamojjam »

Morning Dew

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Re: Is this Metta Bhavana? What am I doing?
« Reply #12 on: July 27, 2010, 07:50:29 PM »
Did the Buddha recieve metta from anyone, teacher, guru or else? Or did he only follow him self, the self he actualy was?
I can see loving kindness not as something forced like a mantra but something which gets (cant find the right word) naturaly born out of the mindfulness/awareness practice.
One is not to manipulate with what can not be clearly seen, clearly experianced.
One can not command the metta to flow! Why? Thoughts are the commander!
I see Metta as something non-controlable something which is to radiate at all times or not at all.
Once mind and body are one metta becomes the actual reality, imo :)

 

nelcalb

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Re: Is this Metta Bhavana? What am I doing?
« Reply #13 on: January 02, 2011, 07:42:44 PM »
On the first retreat  (S.N. Goenka school) I kind of discarded Metta as just imagination.

On the second one, three years (of almost no meditation) later, on the 10th day I went to say Thanks
to the Manager for his help. Then I felt this pleasant vibration coming from his. Then went back home, and when hugging my girlfriend (very stressed because of her mam who had a very bad cancer), I started feeling sensations on my body, somehow I knew that I was feeling what she was feeling (strees on the shoulders, angish and pain in the chest and abdomen area, etc).

On the third retreat (as kitchen volunteer) I asked the asistent teacher about that. She said that it's not that I feel what she's feeling, its more that her vibrations wake up related stuff (sankaras?) I have inside.

Since then, often I feel sensations on my body or vibrations from other people (I realized also that I (and most people) does that, you feel better if someone on a good mood is close to you, you can even notice if someone is looking at you), it's just that now I'm more sensitive and aware to that.

To me, those vibrations (being of pain or loving kindness) are kind of electromagnetic waves somehow detected by us. There are studies of Brainwaves patterns on Tibetan Monks who have meditated on Metta more than 10.000 hours, finding very strong Gamma (40hz) brainwave pattern, not common on most people.

Last month I've become more and more interested on see how this works, I've searched the web about Scientific Research on that topic. Besides the monks studies, there are studies about benefits in health on Metta meditation. As an engineer in electronics, I'd like to research on that topic, so far it's an idea... maybe eventually I will.

thats my experience and ideas so far. Metta!

Nelson
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« Last Edit: January 02, 2011, 11:26:25 PM by The Irreverent Buddhist »

Matthew

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Re: Is this Metta Bhavana? What am I doing?
« Reply #14 on: January 02, 2011, 11:28:40 PM »
1. Nobody "sends" Metta to a anyone in a way that makes a difference directly or influences in any way the other. No energy passes between people in this way. Any felt affect is entirely self generated.

2. The purpose of Metta practice is it's effect on you - your way of thinking about others, perceiving others, and, most importantly the way you deal with others as a result. It is a form of Shamatha practice where the object is these fabricated thoughts. It does serve a purpose, quieting the mind and putting you in a state where you learn to be nice to people in real life.

Welcome Nelson,

I removed your email as this is a public board.

Matthew
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Quardamon

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Re: Is this Metta Bhavana? What am I doing?
« Reply #15 on: January 03, 2011, 11:39:18 AM »
Hello Nelcalb,

You mention that you are an engineer in electronics and might like to do research on the topic of sending metta and on brain wave. I will mention a link here that might interest you: http://annawise.com. I knew Anna Wise as a teacher in Natural Dance when she was a young woman. Now I read that she did research on brain waves, and tested a lot of accomplished meditators. I myself am not into this, but it might interest you.

regards,

Quardamon

jeepneyko

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Re: Is this Metta Bhavana? What am I doing?
« Reply #16 on: January 03, 2011, 02:26:17 PM »
1. Nobody "sends" Metta to a anyone in a way that makes a difference directly or influences in any way the other. No energy passes between people in this way. Any felt affect is entirely self generated.

2. The purpose of Metta practice is it's effect on you - your way of thinking about others, perceiving others, and, most importantly the way you deal with others as a result. It is a form of Shamatha practice where the object is these fabricated thoughts. It does serve a purpose, quieting the mind and putting you in a state where you learn to be nice to people in real life.

i've seen that!  ;)

in my adventure into consciousness, i could very well see that.. and understand that the sending and the feeling is entirely self generated. at first it sounds like a negative thing, but when i looked deeply on it.. the activity of thinking about the AT's presence at the metta bhavana, the sending and the feeling generated... are all self-generated, meaning, it all happens in my consciousness. and looking further... it happens in the stream we call ''Consciousness''. the seeming volition/ movement of generating metta appears like a self ignition. or am i still caught up with the ''self'' igniting the whole process? hehehe ;D

nelcalb

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Re: Is this Metta Bhavana? What am I doing?
« Reply #17 on: January 04, 2011, 06:45:40 PM »
1. Nobody "sends" Metta to a anyone in a way that makes a difference directly or influences in any way the other. No energy passes between people in this way. Any felt affect is entirely self generated.

2. The purpose of Metta practice is it's effect on you - your way of thinking about others, perceiving others, and, most importantly the way you deal with others as a result. It is a form of Shamatha practice where the object is these fabricated thoughts. It does serve a purpose, quieting the mind and putting you in a state where you learn to be nice to people in real life.

Welcome Nelson,

I removed your email as this is a public board.

Matthew

I understand that practicing  Metta has clearly an effect on me and the way I think about others, and the meaning of being kind, gentle, loving and compassionate to others.

As a scientific minded person, I understand that there's no proof of transmission of brain waves from one individual o another.

But I cannot deny that I've had experiences where I've physically felt a Metta related vibration (not because I was expecting it, it was kind of surprising). That's why I cannot agree with the affirmation " Nobody "sends" Metta to anyone in a way that makes a difference directly or influences in any way the other. No energy passes between people in this way. Any felt affect is entirely self generated." .

As has been proved, expert metta meditator have brainwaves patterns different from non expert meditators, specially on Gamma frecuency (40 hz,
see www.investigatinghealthyminds.org/pdfs/davidsonBuddhaIEEE.pdf). Experiments could be made evaluating brainwaves pattern of people near to the Metta meditation, or on people to whom Metta is being sent (both near and on  far locations), having control groups where the meditator is false and no Metta is sent...

Greetings,
Nelson





jeepneyko

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Re: Is this Metta Bhavana? What am I doing?
« Reply #18 on: January 04, 2011, 08:17:42 PM »
i still maintain my position as like what matthew said: it is self-generated.

no matter how many studies and reports are said about transference effect, for as long as i havn't seen it in my flesh and bones, i wouldn't know for sure that there's still the seemingly-I that generates it, although i cant really explain why a psychic can sprout a jar of beans much faster than other religious healers (i forgot the name of the lady psychic and the study that was conducted) by just praying over them.

i guess we speak from different vantages, me on the subjective side, and some on the objective side, while others on the ''in-betweens''. but this i've seen in my sitting, in my flesh and bones: there is a tree outside our house, when i close my eyes and sleep, at that moment, there's no tree, but that tree may still there. when i am gone, everything is gone, but that may still be there.  ;D

Quardamon

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Re: Is this Metta Bhavana? What am I doing?
« Reply #19 on: January 04, 2011, 09:39:50 PM »
My parents were with the sufi-movement around Hazrat Inayat Khan a few years, around the time that I was born (1950). My mother told me once (when I was already thirty or so):
"It was so funny with Inayat Khan. When you sat close to him, after a while you would think: 'Oh, this is not my problem, what I always see as my problem. My problem really is  . . .  ' And then after a while: 'No, that is not really my problem - the deeper problem is  . . .  '  And after a few of such changes, in the end, you would not have any problem at all. And then, in the evening, when you came home, all the problems would be there again."

She felt, that being in the vicinity of the master would change her thoughts and outlook - temporarily.
I just want to say, that it is a tricky subject.
I have experiences similar to those of you, NelCalb, and to those of Fabrice who started this thread.

Regards,

Quardamon

P.S. Jeepneyko, please be careful to keep a connection between what you experience and the world outside. Many, many experiences are possible. Even contradictory ones. Of course it is allright to experience, and to come to conclusions. You have learned - I suppose - not to take your thoughts too serious. Now, on a deeper level, the art is not to take your insights and worldview too serious. I hope you understand what I mean. There is a certain concietedness in taking it for real that the trees are gone when you close your eyes. Even if it is your experience, it need not be your conviction.
I have too much respect for trees to just allow that to happen. ;)
A beautiful thing of this platform that Matthew keeps up here, is that we have a forum to see we have different world views, and still can acknowledge one another as existing and as valuable.
Thanks for sharing.

Matthew

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Re: Is this Metta Bhavana? What am I doing?
« Reply #20 on: January 05, 2011, 10:46:08 AM »
The basis of Metta meditation is developing compassion and loving kindness for oneself. If you don't have it you can't give it away. Metta is a form of Shamatha practice. It calms the mind and progressively removes hindrances of hatred and aversion by practicing the opposite emotions.

Metta is not some magic universal vibration you can tap into.  Whatever you may think you felt it was 100% self generated.

This is not to say that Metta makes no difference to those around us - it does - but only because we have changed. This is not to say Metta is unimportant - it is not so, it can lead to deep and profound change.

But when Buddhists with a sick mum ask their Sangha to send Metta it does absolutely nothing at all to help mamma get better. It is a misunderstanding of the practice, the point of the practice and the outcomes of the practice, grown out of wrong view and ignorance.

When you are around someone who embodies this compassion so very deeply in their bones it can lead to effects on you. But not because they are sending out vibrations or their brain is humming at 40Hz or any such nonsense. It affects you because the calm serenity and loving kindness of that person shine out in their every word and action - and non-action. If you are sitting all messed up and worrisome next to someone who embodies total calm and endures all with love and compassion you absolutely can not help but notice and be changed by this. So Quardamon I do not disagree that by being near the master your mother was changed, but I would say it was because she saw the possibility of peace in a being, built up an expectation of change and her state of mind set her into action relieving herself of these worries when she neared the master and sat in quietude with him.

It's not just me that says this. I'll find some juicy quotes from far "higher" authorities from me when I get round to it.

Matthew
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Vivek

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Re: Is this Metta Bhavana? What am I doing?
« Reply #21 on: January 05, 2011, 12:20:25 PM »
I concur. I see a tendency in some people to compare Metta with Reiki and other energy-healing disciplines, and think there is something mystical/magical about it which makes it powerful for healing even over long distances. Such things are absolute rubbish and does not do any good to a Vipassi as far as his practice is concerned. And that was definitely not the intention of the Enlightened One when he introduced the practice. IMO, bringing in such beleifs makes the practice impure. I think every practitioner who intends to incorporate Metta, should make this clear in their mind that Metta is primarily for deepening their own practice, and should be only concerned with that. 
Let's go beyond this illusion, shall we?

jeepneyko

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Re: Is this Metta Bhavana? What am I doing?
« Reply #22 on: January 05, 2011, 02:20:37 PM »
P.S. Jeepneyko, please be careful to keep a connection between what you experience and the world outside. Many, many experiences are possible. Even contradictory ones. Of course it is allright to experience, and to come to conclusions. You have learned - I suppose - not to take your thoughts too serious. Now, on a deeper level, the art is not to take your insights and worldview too serious. I hope you understand what I mean. There is a certain concietedness in taking it for real that the trees are gone when you close your eyes. Even if it is your experience, it need not be your conviction.
I have too much respect for trees to just allow that to happen. ;)
A beautiful thing of this platform that Matthew keeps up here, is that we have a forum to see we have different world views, and still can acknowledge one another as existing and as valuable.
Thanks for sharing.


thanks for the warning!  ;D

i'm not totally pontificating on what i see or believed to have learned (insight?).

just like what i said: ''but that may still be there''.  ;)

nelcalb

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Re: Is this Metta Bhavana? What am I doing?
« Reply #23 on: January 05, 2011, 03:48:05 PM »
Very interesting thread and responses from everybody.

Whether if Metta is radiated or not may be an interesting topic, and different people have different experiences. But I agree that that is not the purpose or should be the focus of the practice.

First time I practiced Metta, years ago, I just felt "Why should I be doing this? If I work I get the merits, why share them?", and because of that discarded Metta practice.

Years later, on another retreat I began to see value on the practice, and started practicing. Eventually it has become easier, and as time goes by, on my daily life I've started to care more about others, to feel a profound affect for them, actually I want them to be happy.

I felt that before for people very close to me, but starting feeling that for other beings, that's been new to me, and I think it's mostly related to Metta practice.

Metta!
Nelson

Matthew

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Facets of Metta - by Sharon Salzberg
« Reply #24 on: January 06, 2011, 09:25:36 AM »
Facets of Metta

by Sharon Salzberg

A pearl goes up for auction
No one has enough,
so the pearl buys itself
-- Rumi
Love exists in itself, not relying on owning or being owned. Like the pearl, love can only buy itself, because love is not a matter of currency or exchange. No one has enough to buy it but everyone has enough to cultivate it. Metta reunites us with what it means to be alive and unbound.

Researchers once gave a plant to every resident of a nursing home. They told half of these elderly people that the plants were theirs to care for -- they had to pay close attention to their plants' needs for water and sunlight, and they had to respond carefully to those needs. The researchers told the other half of the residents that their plants were theirs to enjoy but that they did not have to take any responsibility for them; the nursing staff would care for the plants.

At the end of a year, the researchers compared the two groups of elders. The residents who had been asked to care for their plants were living considerably longer than the norm, were much healthier, and were more oriented towards and connected to their world. The other residents, those who had plants but did not have to stay responsive to them, simply reflected the norms for people their age in longevity, health, alertness, and engagement with the world.

This study shows, among other things, the enlivening power of connection, of love, of intimacy. This is the effect that metta can have on our lives. But when I heard about the study, I also reflected on how often we regard intimacy as a force between ourselves and something outside ourselves -- another person, or even a plant -- and how rarely we consider the force of being intimate with ourselves, with our own inner experience. How rarely do we lay claim to our own lives and feel connected to ourselves!

A way to discover intimacy with ourselves and all of life is to live with integrity, basing our lives on a vision of compassionate nonharming. When we dedicate ourselves to actions that do not hurt ourselves or others, our lives become all of one piece, a "seamless garment" with nothing separate or disconnected in the spiritual reality we discover.

In order to live with integrity, we must stop fragmenting and compartmentalizing our lives. Telling lies at work and expecting great truths in meditation is nonsensical. Using our sexual energy in a way that harms ourselves or others, and then expecting to know transcendent love in another arena, is mindless. Every aspect of our lives is connected to every other aspect of our lives. This truth is the basis for an awakened life. When we live with integrity, we further enhance intimacy with ourselves by being able to rejoice, taking active delight in our actions. Rejoicing opens us tremendously, dissolving our barriers, thereby enabling intimacy to extend to all of life. Joy has so much capacity to eliminate separation that the Buddha said, "Rapture is the gateway to nirvana."

The enlivening force itself is rapture. It brightens our vitality, our gratitude, and our love. We begin to develop rapture by rejoicing in our own goodness. We reflect on the good things we have done, recollecting times when we have been generous, or times when we have been caring. Perhaps we can think of a time when it would have been easy to hurt somebody, or to tell a lie, or to be dismissive, yet we made the effort not to do that. Perhaps we can think of a time when we gave something up in a way that freed our mind and helped someone else. Or perhaps we can think of a time when we have overcome some fear and reached out to someone. These reflections open us to a wellspring of happiness that may have been hidden from us before.

Contemplating the goodness within ourselves is a classical meditation, done to bring light, joy, and rapture to the mind. In contemporary times this practice might be considered rather embarrassing, because so often the emphasis is on all the unfortunate things we have done, all the disturbing mistakes we have made. Yet this classical reflection is not a way of increasing conceit. It is rather a commitment to our own happiness, seeing our happiness as the basis for intimacy with all of life. It fills us with joy and love for ourselves and a great deal of self-respect.

Significantly, when we do metta practice, we begin by directing metta toward ourselves. This is the essential foundation for being able to offer genuine love to others. When we truly love ourselves, we want to take care of others, because that is what is most enriching, or nourishing, for us. When we have a genuine inner life, we are intimate with ourselves and intimate with others. The insight into our inner world allows us to connect to everything around us, so that we can see quite clearly the oneness of all that lives. 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 towards happiness, and realize intimacy in this shared urge.

If we are practicing metta and we cannot see the goodness in ourselves or in someone else, then we reflect on that fundamental wish to be happy that underlies all action. "Just as I want to be happy, all beings want to be happy." This reflection gives rise to openness, awareness, and love. As we commit to these values, we become embodiments of a lineage that stretches back through beginningless time. All good people of all time have wanted to express openness, awareness, and love. With every phrase of metta, we are declaring our alignment with these values.

From this beginning, metta practice proceeds in a very structured way and specific way. After we have spent some time directing metta to ourselves, we then move on to someone who has been very good to us, for whom we feel gratitude and respect. In the traditional terminology, this person is known as a "benefactor." Later we move to someone who is a beloved friend. It is relatively easy to direct lovingkindness to these categories of beings (we say beings rather than people to include the possibility of animals in these categories.) After we have established this state of connection, we move on to those that it may be harder to direct lovingkindness toward. In this way we open up our limits and extend our capacity for benevolence.

Thus, next we direct lovingkindness to someone whom we feel neutral toward, someone for whom we feel neither great liking nor disliking. This is often an interesting time in the practice, because it may be difficult to find somebody for whom we have no instantaneous judgment. If we can find such a neutral person, we direct metta toward them.

After this, we are ready for the next step -- directing metta toward someone with whom we have experienced conflict, someone toward whom we feel lack of forgiveness, or anger, or fear. In the Buddhist scriptures this person is somewhat dramatically known as "the enemy." This is a very powerful stage in the practice, because the enemy, or the person with whom we have difficulty stands right at the division between the finite and the infinite radiance of love. At this point, conditional love unfolds into unconditional love. Here dependent love can turn to the flowering of an independent love that is not based upon getting what we want or having our expectations met. Here we learn that the inherent happiness of love is not compromised by likes and dislikes, and thus, like the sun, it can shine on everything. This love is truly boundless. It is born out of freedom, and it is offered freely.

Through the power of this practice, we cultivate an equality of loving feeling toward ourselves and all beings. There was a time in Burma when I was practicing metta intensively. I had taken about six weeks to go through all the different categories: myself, benefactor, friend, neutral person, and enemy. After I had spent these six weeks doing the metta meditation all day long, my teacher, U Pandita, called me into his room and said, "Say you were walking in the forest with your benefactor, your friend, your neutral person, and your enemy. Bandits come up and demand that you choose one person in your group to be sacrificed. Which one would you choose to die?"

I was shocked at U Pandita's question. I sat there and looked deep into my heart, trying to find a basis from which I could choose. I saw that I could not feel any distinction between any of those people, including myself. Finally I looked at U Pandita and replied, "I couldn't choose; everyone seems the same to me."

U Pandita then asked, "You wouldn't choose your enemy?" I thought a minute and then answered, "No, I couldn't."

Finally U Pandita asked me, "Don't you think you should be able to sacrifice yourself to save the others?" He asked the question as if more than anything else in the world he wanted me to say, "Yes, I'd sacrifice myself." A lot of conditioning rose up in me -- an urge to please him, to be "right" and to win approval. But there was no way I could honestly say "yes," so I said, "No, I can't see any difference between myself and any of the others." He simply nodded in response, and I left.

Later I was reading the Visuddhi Magga, one of the great commentarial works of Buddhist literature which describes different meditation techniques and the experiences of practicing these techniques. In the section on metta meditation, I came to that very question about the bandits. The answer I had given was indeed considered the correct one for the intensive practice of metta.

Of course, in different life situations many different courses of action might be appropriate. But the point here is that metta does not mean that we denigrate ourselves in any situation in order to uphold other people's happiness. Authentic intimacy is not brought about by denying our own desire to be happy in unhappy deference to others, nor by denying others in narcissistic deference to ourselves. Metta means equality, oneness, wholeness. To truly walk the Middle Way of the Buddha, to avoid the extremes of addiction and self-hatred, we must walk in friendship with ourselves as well as with all beings.

When we have insight into our inner world and what brings us happiness, then wordlessly, intuitively, we understand others. As though there were no longer a barrier defining the boundaries of our caring, we can feel close to others' experience of life. We see that when we are angry, there is an element of pain in the anger that is not different from the pain that others feel when they are angry. When we feel love there is a distinct and special joy in that feeling. We come to know that this is the nature of love itself, and that other beings filled with love experience of this same joy.

In practicing metta we do not have to make a certain feeling happen. In fact, during the practice we see that we feel differently at different times. Any momentary emotional tone is far less relevant than considerable power of intention we harness as we say these phrases. As we repeat, "May I be happy; may all beings be happy," we are planting seeds by forming this powerful intention in the mind. The seed will bear fruit in its own time.

When I was practicing metta intensively in Burma, at times when I repeated the metta phrases, I would picture myself in a wide open field planting seeds. Doing metta we plant the seeds of love, knowing that nature will take its course and in time those seeds will bear fruit. Some seeds will come to fruition quickly, some slowly, but our work is simply to plant the seeds. Every time we form the intention in the mind for our own happiness or for the happiness of others, we are doing our work; we are channeling the powerful energies of our own minds. Beyond that, we can trust the laws of nature to continually support the flowering of our love. As Pablo Neruda says:

Perhaps the earth can teach us, as when everything seems dead in winter and later proves to be alive.

When we started our retreat center, Insight Meditation Society, in 1975, many of us there decided to do a self-retreat for a month to inaugurate the center. I planned to do metta for the entire month. This was before I'd been to Burma, and it would be my first opportunity to do intensive and systematic metta meditation. I had heard how it was done in extended practice, and I planned to follow that schedule. So the first week I spent directing lovingkindness towards myself. I felt absolutely nothing. It was the dreariest, most boring week I had known in some time. I sat there saying, "May I be happy, may I be peaceful," over and over again with no obvious result.

Then, as it happened, someone we knew in the community had a problem, and a few of us had to leave the retreat suddenly. I felt even worse, thinking, "Not only did I spend this week doing metta and getting nothing from it, but I also never even got beyond directing metta towards myself. So on top of everything else, I was really selfish."

I was in a frenzy getting ready to leave. As I was hurriedly getting everything together in my bathroom, I dropped a jar. It shattered all over the floor. I still remember my immediate response: "You are really a klutz, but I love you." And then I thought, "Wow! Look at that. Something did happen in this week of practice."

So the intention is enough. We form the intention in our mind for our happiness and the happiness of all. This is different from struggling to fabricate a certain feeling, to create it out of our will, to make it happen. We just settle back and plant the seeds without worrying about the immediate result. That is our work. If we do our work, then manifold benefits will surely come.

Fortunately, the Buddha was characteristically precise about what those benefits include. He said that the intimacy and caring that fill our hearts as the force of lovingkindness develops will bring eleven particular advantages:

1) You will sleep easily. 2) You will wake easily. 3) You will have pleasant dreams. 4) People will love you. 5) Devas [celestial beings] and animals will love you. 6) Devas will protect you. 7) External dangers [poisons, weapons, and fire] will not harm you. 8) Your face will be radiant. 9) Your mind will be serene. 10) You will die unconfused. 11) You will be reborn in happy realms.

People doing formal metta practice often memorize these eleven benefits and recite them to themselves regularly. Reminding ourselves of the fruit of our intention and effort can bring a lot of faith and rapture, sustaining us through those inevitable times when it seems as if the practice is not "getting anywhere." When we consider each of these benefits, we can see more fully how metta revolutionizes our lives.

When we steep our hearts in lovingkindness, we are able to sleep easily, to awaken easily, and to have pleasant dreams. To have self-respect in life, to walk through this life with grace and confidence, means having a commitment to nonharming and to loving care. If we do not have these things, we can neither rest nor be at peace; we are always fighting against ourselves. The feelings we create by harming are painful both for ourselves and for others. Thus harming leads to guilt, tension, and complexity. Sleeping easily, waking easily, But living a clear and simple life, free from resentment, fear, and guilt, extends into our sleeping, dreaming and waking.

The next benefit the Buddha pointed out is that if we practice metta we will receive in return the love of others. This is not a heartless calculating motivation, but rather a recognition that the energy we extend in this world draws to it that same kind of energy. If we extend the force of love, love returns to us. The American psychologist William James once said, "My experience is what I agree to attend to. Only those items I notice shape my mind." Perhaps this is partially how this law works -- opening to the energy of love within us, we can notice it more specifically around us.

It happens on other levels as well. If we are committed in our lives to the force of lovingkindness, then people know that they can trust us. They know we will not deceive them; we will not harm them. By being a beacon of trustworthiness in this world, we become a safe haven for others and a good friend.

The next set of benefits the Buddha points out promises that if we practice metta we will be protected. Devas, and other invisible beings, are classically taught as part of the Buddhist cosmology, but we don't have to believe in the intervention of invisible forces in order to comprehend how the practice of metta protects us. This assertion does not mean being protected in the sense that nothing bad will ever happen to us, because clearly the vicissitudes of life are completely outside our control. Pleasure and pain, gain and loss, praise and blame, and fame and ill repute will revolve throughout our lives. But nevertheless we can be protected by the nature of how we receive, how we hold that which our karma brings us.

Albert Einstein said, "The splitting of the atom has changed everything except for how we think." How we think, how we look at our lives, is all-important, and the degree of love we manifest determines the degree of spaciousness and freedom we can bring to life's events.

Imagine taking a very small glass of water and putting into it a teaspoon of salt. Because of the small size of the container, the teaspoon of salt is going to have a big impact upon the water. However, if you approach a much larger body of water, such as a lake, and put into it that same teaspoonful of salt, it will not have the same intensity of impact, because of the vastness and openness of the vessel receiving it. Even when the salt remains the same, the spaciousness of the vessel receiving it changes everything.

We spend a lot of our lives looking for a feeling of safety or protection; we try to alter the amount of salt that comes our way. Ironically, the salt is the very thing that we cannot do anything about, as life changes and offers us repeated ups and downs. Our true work is to create a container so immense that any amount of salt, even a truckload, can come into it without affecting our capacity to receive it. No situation, even an extreme one, then can mandate a particular reaction.

Once I had a meditation student who had been a child in Nazi-occupied Europe. She recounted an instance when she was around ten years old when a German soldier held a gun to her chest -- a situation that would readily arouse terror. Yet she related feeling no fear at all, thinking, "You may be able to kill my body, but you can't kill me." What a spacious reaction! It is in this way that lovingkindness opens the vastness of mind in us, which is ultimately our greatest protection.

Another benefit of cultivating of metta is that one's face becomes very clear and shining. This means that an unfeigned inner beauty shines forth. We know in life situations how mind affects matter, how if we are enraged about something, it shows in our face. If somebody is full of hatred, it shows in the way they stand, the way they move, the way their jaw is set. It is not very attractive. No amount of make-up, jewelry, or embellishments bring beauty to a sullen, disgruntled, angry face. In just the same way, when someones mind is filled with the rapture of lovingkindness or compassion, it is beautiful to see the expression of light, of radiance, on their face and bearing.

With the practice of metta one also has a serene mind. The feeling of lovingkindness generates great peace. This is the mind that can say, "You are really a klutz, but I love you." It is a feeling endowed with acceptance, patience, and spaciousness. This great peace allows union with all of life, because we are not relying on changing circumstances for our happiness.

The peace of metta offers the kind of happiness that gives us the ability to concentrate. Serenity is the most important ingredient in being able to be present or being able to concentrate the mind. Concentration is an act of cherishing a chosen object. If we have no serenity, the mind will be scattered, and we will not be able to gather in the energy that is being lost to distraction. When we can concentrate, all of this energy is returned to us. This is the potency that heals us.

If we practice metta, another major benefit is that we will die unconfused. Our habitual ways of thinking, acting, and relating to life tend to be the ones that are strongest at the time of death as well. If we spend a lifetime feeling separate, apart, cultivating anger, giving way to frustration, to fear, to desire, that will likely be the mental-emotional environment within which we face our death. But if we have lived our life in a way that honors our connectedness, reflects our oneness, and cultivates caring and giving, that is likely to be how we will die.

The last specific benefit the Buddha spoke of was being reborn in happy realms as a result of filling our hearts with lovingkindness. The potential for rebirth again and again in various realms of pleasure or pain is part of the Buddhist worldview. For someone who subscribes to this vision of life, rebirth in a realm where one can attain liberation is most important. For those who don't subscribe to this vision, the benefits of metta can surely be seen to come to us in this lifetime.

Metta is the priceless treasure that enlivens us and brings us into intimacy with ourselves and others. It is the force of love that will lead beyond fragmentation, loneliness and fear. The late Hindu guru Neem Karoli Baba often said, "Don't throw anyone out of your heart." One of the most powerful healings (and greatest adventures) of our lifetime can come about as we learn to live by this dictum.

Sharon Salzberg

Excerpted from "Loving-kindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness" by Sharon Salzberg, 1995, Shambala Publications.


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