Bits of zen flotsam & jetsam from the daily practice of a zen fool with shards of modern Buddhist art from my studio. Sometimes cranky, sometimes inspiring, mostly entertaining.
Saturday, June 18, 2011
The Spiritual Electrician, Adding a Higher Amp Service
If metta were a cloud would it look like this? Would your metta cloud be pink? Metta, if you're not familiar with it, is the practice of generating loving kindness, offering well wishes and blessings to ourselves and others. Two weekends ago I sat a metta retreat for the first time.
It is a wonderfully nourishing practice, very different from traditional meditation, different in that you are using words and images in your meditation. Our Dharma teacher described it at one point as "rewiring" our systems. We become spiritual electricians, installing a higher amp service. We engage ourselves in the work of planting seeds of generosity and kindness in minds that habitually subsist on a diet of leaner and meaner fare.
We started by creating a set of 3 to 5 wishes for ourselves. There are standard ones such as: May I be happy. May I be well. May I be peaceful. It was suggested that we personalize the wishes so that they would really speak to what resonated for us.
I chose: May I be healthy and at ease. May I be peaceful and content. May I love myself completely. May I be kind.
We were to repeat the phrases but also to try and feel what it was like to experience them in a visceral, body way. How does it feel to be truly peaceful and content? We were reminded that generating these wishes for ourselves was not selfish or self centred but that everyone benefits from each of us experiencing these blessings. They ripple out into the world through us in many ways, tangible and ethereal.
Next we chose a loved one to offer these wishes to, then a neutral person and then a person we found difficult. It is of course easy to send warm wishes to a loved one, no stretching required. And choosing a neutral person was interesting. I often have fairly instant reactions to people, based on their appearance and behaviour ( ie this person is so sweet, this clerk is grumpy), so surprisingly it was a bit hard to find a neutral person. Finally after combing the local shops I found a new sales clerk at the local hardware store.
I had no trouble choosing a difficult person! I decided to generate the wishes for both of us together and then the person who had been the loved one decided they should be part of it, so off we went in our little metta mobile (kind of like a smart car, but a kind one instead). There was a lightness to it, so the mind didn't seem to bawk at wishing my difficult person well.
We were invited at another point to create wishes for all sentient beings and radiate those, feeling what it was like to send our blessings out to the unknown, to send them out on a large scale.
It was a delicious, sun filled day at Stowel Lake Farm. Red winged black birds wobbled on old bullrush stalks around the pond, waiting to swoop for the next bug. A giant cat named Gorilla wandered into the meditation hall to soak up all the metta rays. We were reminded to drink it all in, to appreciate the beauty when outside doing our walking meditation. We were reminded to savour the wonderful meals and think about all the people it had taken to bring this food to our table.
There was a delicious expansive feeling to the weekend, as if you could feel your heart growing larger. And it was truly a rewiring of the habitual focus on what is wrong in the world. The energetic shift was amazing and after a weekend the phrases became burned into the brain for retrieval. These minds need training if they are going to behave any differently than they normally do. For the most part they run wild, generating thoughts that are often not particularly helpful, worries, fears, desires, dramas. These metta phrases have become a nice thing to fall back on when I need a little reorienting or when I find myself in a difficult situation, just pull out a metta phrase or two.
So I invite you. Hop in your own little metta mobile and go out for a spin. I don't think the roads can get to crowded. What metta wishes will you put in your tank?
Buddhism & Art...if I had to pick two words that give an overview of what I get up to in this world those would be my choices. Buddhism is the ground upon which I rest all else. I like to think it brings me some sanity. It helps me think in some logical way about what I am doing and look at it as deeply as possible. What did I just do? Why ? What's that all about? ...To try and look at my life without sliding over things or fooling myself...To be present for life, not rejecting or preferring one experience over another. Buddhist practice makes my life full and rich, sometimes filled with joy and sometimes with a deep experience of the suffering present in this world.
After all those words does it seem odd to say that it is the simplicity of Zen that appeals to me? This inclination to simplicity pulls me to try and integrate my practice and work, to paint Buddhas, to observe my process as I work.
I am drawn to mixed media, integrating script and words with images and colour.