Dear Still Water Friends,
Several weeks ago I sat in a cave shrine in western Tibet where 800 years earlier Gotsampa, an esteemed Tibetan monk, lived and practiced for three years. I was there in the middle of the day when few others were around. For twenty minutes I sat quietly, opening my self to the energy of the cave and to whatever images might come to me. Then, without any forethought, I began saying blessings for the people in my life — for my family, my friends, and my community — and also blessings for all the people on our planet and all sentient beings.
I would bring someone (or a group) to mind, and then say a phrase such as: "May you be safe, may you be happy, may your heart be filled with joy.” A stream of blessings just flowed. A person would come to mind, a phrase would be there, and I would softly say it. Then another person, another phrase. I was especially aware of the intentions in my heart: "Yes, that is what I want." “May you be free of suffering. May you know peace and contentment. May you blossom.” After about twenty minutes of blessings, Tibetan pilgrims filled the small cave and I felt like I had said what I needed to say. I left feeling at ease and quietly joyful. It was one of the high points of my pilgrimage.
The practice that spontaneously came to me in the cave is called Metta practice, or loving-kindness practice, and was taught by the Buddha.
The Buddha recognized that one of the great obstacles to a joyful life is our self-centeredness, our habit of putting our own interests, desires, goals, above others. In Metta practice we recognize and nourish our intention that not only ourselves, but that others should be happy as well. My experience is that at first it may seem to be just words, the intentions are hardly perceptible. Over time, however, we can develop our capacity to differentiate loving intentions as well as neutral and non-loving intentions. The Metta meditation comforts us directly, and, because we are more aware of our deep intentions, also helps us to make better life choices.
This Thursday after our meditation period we will practice free-form Metta meditation and share our experiences and insights. You are invited to join us.
If you are interested, you are also invited to see diary entries and photos from my six weeks in Nepal and Tibet at KissingTheJoy.Wordpress.com.
Two other quick announcements:
- The Buddhafest Film Festival occurs June 17 – 20 at The American University.
- The Still Water community is offering Touching Life Deeply, a Day of Practice at Blueberry Gardens, on Sunday, July 11.
The best times to join our Thursday evening gatherings are just before the beginning of our 7 p.m. meditation, just before we begin walking meditation (around 7:35), and just after our walking meditation (around 7:45).
The Metta Sutta — The Buddha’s Discourse On Love
“He or she who wants to attain peace should practice being upright, humble, and capable of using loving speech. He or she will know how to live simply and happily, with senses calmed, without being covetous and carried away by the emotions of the majority. Let him or her not do anything that will be disapproved of by the wise ones.
“(And this is what he or she contemplates): May everyone be happy and safe, and may their hearts be filled with joy.
“May all living beings live in Security and in Peace — beings who are frail or strong, tall or short, big or small, visible or not visible, near or far away, already born or yet to be born. May all of them dwell in perfect tranquility.
“Let no one do harm to anyone. Let no one put the life of anyone in danger. Let no one, out of anger or ill will, wish anyone any harm.
“Just as a mother loves and protects her only child at the risk of her own life, we should cultivate Boundless Love to offer to all living beings in the entire cosmos. We should let our boundless love pervade the whole universe, above, below and across. Our love will know no obstacles, our heart will be absolutely free from hatred and enmity. Whether standing or walking, sitting or lying, as long as we are awake, we should maintain this mindfulness of love in our own heart. This is the noblest way of living.
“Free from wrong views, greed and sensual desires, living in beauty and realizing Perfect Understanding, those who practice Boundless Love will certainly transcend Birth and Death.”
— from the Plum Village Chanting Book