BV-Metta–Ruth King Update

Tonight we’ll begin with a New Year’s message from Jack Kornfield:

Dear ones,

The year ends and we begin a new circuit around our own beautiful sun star, twirling amidst the galaxies. Take a breath, quiet your heart and listen deeply.
There is so much coming and going, and yet…
Feel how underneath it all is a vast silence and a spaciousness that holds everything in its balance.

Living in these seasons of change, I feel deep gratitude for the teachings of the dharma and for being connected to a loving community.

In the long run, I am hopeful. Yes, in human incarnation there are inevitable periods of difficulty, personal and collective. Yet with wisdom and a good heart, our personal sufferings can temper us and help us live with dignity and find an indestructible spirit in ourselves. And in the same way, we can learn to bear the difficulties of the world with compassion and courageously do what we can to mend the broken places.

Yet difficulties are never the end of the story. There is always a return of the light.

Solstice, Christmas, New Year’s, Kwanzaa and Chanukah are outer celebrations of an unstoppable renewal that is life itself. There is always grass that pushes itself through the cracks in the sidewalk. You are this life force constantly being reborn every morning at breakfast.

And while the news often features the worst of humanity, there are a billion acts of human kindness every hour of every day! Take another breath and sense this truth.

Recognize that even our big problems are part of a long march demanding us to honor our human connection, our interdependence with all life.

Our fears and terrors can be activated by the news, but they are not who we are.
We are consciousness itself, loving awareness, born into this body and having a wild human ride. What will you do with this human dance?

A most trustworthy and blessed project is to align yourself with compassion,
to plant seeds of goodness, to use the creative force of your life to bring understanding, awakening and love to all. Foster trust in life’s renewal power.

Martin Luther King, Jr. describes our collective journey with hope: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” And Pablo Neruda explains further, “You can pick all the flowers, but you can’t stop the spring.”

Renewal is happening. Take quiet time to listen to your heart, to meditate and to rest amidst the great turnings. Feel the renewal of spring that can be born in you.

Align yourself with goodness.

Let yourself blossom like a lotus or whatever unique flower you are, shining in the world, spreading your seeds of love amidst it all.   Blessings to you, Jack

We’ll welcome the new year by practicing the Divine Abode of Metta or Loving Kindness to open and balance the heart.  Metta is a universal, non-discriminating feeling of caring and connectedness. It’s possible to love a person whose behavior we dislike, not condoning unskillful actions, but caring for the person who committed them.

Practicing loving kindness purifies the mind and releases fears and doubts. Over time, we develop unconditional friendliness and let go of negative judgments about ourselves and others. Ruth King, author of Mindful of Race, says that Metta is like the high noon sun that shines on all things indiscriminately. Tonight’s practice is adapted from her book:

Sit in a relaxed posture with eyes closed and breathe into the area of the heart.

Recall a moment of loving presence with someone who is dear to you. Imagine this person sitting before you right now, wishing you well. Sense your body softening and opening into the kind of relaxation that occurs naturally when you are with someone you love and trust. Let every cell of your body be bathed in a sense of loving presence. Repeating the following phrases, send Metta to that dear person:

May you be peaceful and happy.

May you be healthy in body and mind.

From inner and outer harm may you be safe.

May you be free and at ease.

 Feel the good intention as these phrases resonate in your heart and mind.

Allow the image of this person to fade away, while you maintain the essence of loving presence and kindness. Stay connected to the sensations around your heart. Reflect upon your deepest desire for happiness and freedom from suffering.

Be aware of your heart’s sincere longing for wellbeing. With each breath, sense your wish to be safe and protected and to experience love and kindness.

With an intention to uncover the heart’s deepest loving responses, begin to offer yourself the following phrases, letting each word touch you with care:

May I be peaceful and happy.

May I be healthy in body and mind.

From inner and outer harm may I be safe.

May I be free and at ease.

You may begin to feel a sense of calm or stability from offering yourself Metta.

With an exhalation, connect with sensations around the heart.

We’ll expand the practice to include someone who is neutral, perhaps a person whose name you don’t know, a passerby on the street or an employee in a store. With the understanding that the desire for happiness and love is universal, begin offering this neutral person loving-kindness.

May you be peaceful and happy.

May you be healthy in body and mind.

From inner and outer harm may you be safe.

May you be free and at ease.

 Allowing the image of the neutral person to fade away, return to sensations around the heart.

Now bring to mind someone with whom you experience tension, dissatisfaction or difficulties. Visualize or have a felt sense of this person who is challenging for you. It might be helpful to imagine yourself a safe distance away.

Resisting is a normal part of the Metta purification process. Simply acknowledge whatever is happening and continue to practice in as merciful and friendly manner as possible. Noting any reactivity or anger, set an intention to keep your heart balanced.

Now imagine this person as a young child, sleeping with eyes closed, innocent and vulnerable. For a moment, simply observe the little child breathing and resting. Then if it feels right, you can come closer. From a space of kindness and tenderness, offer the classic Metta phrases.

May you be peaceful and happy.

May you be healthy in body and mind.

From inner and outer harm may you be safe.

May you be free and at ease.

 As you offer these wishes with the genuine intention to liberate yourself from reactivity towards this person whom you find difficult, observe how your body feels. What is the state of your heart and mind? Is there openness or tightness, relaxation or agitation? Anything else? If any judgments arise, note them and let them dissolve. Simply be with the sensations of the body and the movement of the breath.

Notice if there is any shift inside you regarding this one who has been difficult for you to accept. Exhale and return to sensations around the heart.

Finally, extending loving kindness to all beings everywhere, radiate loving wishes to everyone in our sangha, all those living in Houston, all those in Texas, in the USA, and in the hemisphere. In every part of the world, imagine kindness surrounding all those who are newly born and those who are dying, all infants, toddlers, children, adolescents, adults, and elders. Send positive thoughts for the wellbeing of animals—dogs, cats, elephants, fish, birds, butterflies—and for all of nature’s creations, offering Metta phrases far and wide:

May all beings everywhere be peaceful and happy.

May all beings everywhere be healthy.

From inner and outer harm, may all beings be safe.

May all beings be free and at ease.

Letting go of the phrases, bring attention back to the breath and body. Be aware of the sensations and emotions that are present.

Whenever you are ready, allow your eyes to open. With gratitude, notice how our circle of meditators generates a field of loving kindness, supporting the practice of each of us.

*Now we’ll break into small groups of three to discuss what tends to block our hearts and what allows us to be open-hearted. While sheltering in place during the pandemic, Metta practice may seem especially helpful or particularly challenging.