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?


  1. It was really wonderful and comforting to read this. I shall try (? do)
    this. This makes total "sense"!! Thanks very much for posting!!

  2. This is delightful! Rewiring the mind mechanism through redirecting our awareness, through play, through imagination... :) Reminds me of the Care Bear cards back in the late 70's or early 80's. Greeting cards with little colored bears with hearts on their bellies (do you remember them?). Most of the themes were about just sending love to people. I used to imagine myself dressed up in a Care Bear suit spreading love everywhere - oh dear... But maybe that's a valid image to rewire this brainf :) So I'm going to hop in my Heart Mobile with hearts all over it and toot on down the road. Thank you for the heart giggles this morning!
    Sending you love ♥ ~ ~ ~ Christine

  3. What a thoughtful post. I come from a family whose "cultural belief system" is that our actions all stem from our genetics and thus there is no hope. More and more, I am interested and truly believe in the idea of rewiring the brain. Not only does it give me access to a new way to approach my life but, it gives my life a broader "mission". The subject of this post is such a hopeful concept. Thank you! Thank you!

  4. Jann - yes, try it. I'd love to hear about your experience.

    Christine - yes I remember Care Bears. My daughter was crazy for them. Happy travels in the HeartMobile!

    Mary - I think a lot of us believe that old accepted ideal that we are bound by the ties of genetics and habit. Rick Hanson at "Wise Brain" has done a lot of research (so have others) regarding the ability of the brain to actually change. Great news, isn't it!

  5. Perfect timing...I was feeling a huge disconnect from the world and myself in the area of loving kind easy to forget...I'll be pleased to give it a go...thank you!

  6. Yes, good timing, good reminder. Having been on a rant lately, I appreciate your totally positive invitation to broadcast loving kindness in all directions. Thank you Carole!

  7. What a truly beautiful post. I needed every word. And I'm going to try it myself - what better time to begin than sunday afternoon :) Thank you.

  8. This sounds wonderful - and that farm retreat sounds like a place I'd like to visit!

    "These minds need training if they are going to behave any differently than they normally do." So true. I've noticed how much my mind has been wandering lately, and am craving a structure like the one you describe.

    I love the idea of sending love and compassion out to ourselves and others as a focus for the whole weekend. Knowing how deeply negative feelings affect us, I can imagine how good this kind of practice would be on the body and the energy you're putting out in the world!

  9. Hello Blue Sky - long time no see! It is amazing what some wholesome thoughts can do for the mind/body. Amazing really.

    David- The energy of activism can be good but it is nice to balance it out with some nourishing metta. The more I go on, the more I realize this need to feed my being.

    Anna - Happy Sunday afternoon! A perfect time to feed the soul.

    Spirit- Your comment reminds me of the Zen quote (RM Jiyu Kennett) "the mind makes a good servant but not a very good master"

    Yes, doing this for a prolonged period was so helpful and you are right, the body responds in an amazing way. And Stowel Lake Farm is truly a world class retreat spot, a hidden gem really.

  10. What a wonderful gift that retreat was! I tend to forget how wonderful metta meditation is sometimes. Thanks for the reminder :]

  11. How lovely that retreat, Carole! Metta is my "favorite" form of meditating (should I be picking favorites?!...hhhmmm... ;o) I find the loving energy of sitting metta really expands the mind and body. :o)

  12. beautiful.
    thank you for this post!
    like it

  13. Wonderful blog!!! I will practice it at home. The meditation would be helpful and hope it would help me.
    Thanks for such an informative post.

  14. thanks for the post man, i really enjoy reading your blog…so many great stuff…
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