May 21

May, Thoughts for…

Posted by William Berry | Filed under Blog | 4 Comments

Photo by Alexi Berry

22. First you try to meditate and after a while you become meditative. J.Kleykamp

I wanted to bring “May is for Metta” to a close with a quote on meditation. I have discussed how beneficial I have found a return to sitting meditation to be to me. I have also said I plan on continuing it. Several year ago I was practicing a mindful sitting meditation pretty regularly. I had an experience I can not begin to describe. It was blissful.  I continued the sitting meditation for a short time, but I always sat hoping for that experience again. I knew this was not proper form for meditation, and I tried to overcome it. But each sitting brought more frustration until I gave up sitting meditation for other Zen Mindfulness exercises. These are excellent exercises, and I still practice these and encourage others to work at being completely mindful in as much as possible during their day. But the sitting Metta meditation has brought about a change that I like, and I hope to keep (attachment, I know).

Good luck in your practice, whatever it might be.

21. All are my teachers on the path of life. Berry

I spent the last hour trying to find a quote related to how we all rely on one another on our path to enlightenment. I know I read it recently when seeking other quotes. But I cannot find it, so I offer my abbreviated version.

When I discussed my experience with the benefactor portion of Metta meditation, I mentioned how I have had many teachers. When I am actually practicing Metta, As I expand my awareness to the difficult person and all other living things, I also focus on how they have taught me. The other day when I was presenting my seminar on Anger Management I discussed how I learn from my students, and how I hoped to learn from those at the seminar as well (and of course I did). Beyond all of this, we learn from those we come in contact with, whether friendly or unfriendly. We can learn about ourselves when we immediately feel an aversion for someone. There is a checkout person at Publix, who when I was looking for a neutral person for my practice I disqualified because of an aversion, that I learned about myself from. I questioned why I had the aversion, and this taught me about me.

The quote I read recently had something to do with all humans being essential to our becoming enlightened. We will not achieve our full potential without our interaction with others and the “grist for the mill” it provides us. All others provide me the opportunity to practice my loving-kindness and to grow.

20. Better indeed is knowledge than mechanical practice. Better than knowledge is meditation. But better still is surrender of attachment to results, because there follows immediate peace. Bhagavad Gita

I thought today, after discussing my experience with Metta practice previously, I would focus on the benefit of meditation. I think this quote says it all.

19. Perhaps the way to selflessness is by first being selfish. Berry

Many of you who are familiar with my writing know my views of altruism: that if it exists it is extremely rare, and what we often claim is altruism is actually self serving, despite its service to others. Yesterday I had an interesting discussion with a client in addiction recovery regarding a book he had read. This book discussed AA as a selfish program, because you have to take care of yourself before you can be of help to others. Therapy is the same: the therapist who doesn’t take care of their needs is just another model of “do as I say, not as I do.” Many people believe you have to love yourself before you can truly love another. And isn’t this additionally what we have learned through Metta practice? By first focusing on our receiving loving-kindness we then radiate this energy to others.

This is not a pass to act selfishly throughout our day /our lives. But it is a call to meet your needs, especially those for self-love. By loving and caring for yourself in a nurturing manner, you will grow to understand the balance and interplay of selfishness and selflessness, how being selfish can lead to selflessness, a notion that appears paradoxical to the uninitiated.

18. You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger. Buddha

Although I’m not really into the word “punished” in this sentence, because I do not believe Buddhism, in my limited knowledge of it, promotes punishment, perhaps the word is necessary for he point. Anger hurts you is the theme. Ridding yourself of old anger is of benefit to you. I like these types of quotes because the focus is on you. Its not on how damaging anger is to society, or to others, or how its against any religious more, but how it works against you. There is no deity to punish you for a transgression, but holding onto this feeling turns against you.

I am doing an anger management seminar in a couple of days, and I always explain that anger is a natural human emotion. The goal is not to eliminate anger, but recognize it and manage it effectively. Feeling anger in a moment is a natural phenomena. At times anger can be a motivator to bring about change. But holding onto it, (or in the cases when anger management is necessary, handling it inappropriately) is of detriment to the self. If you get angry feel it, be mindful of it. But work at not getting sucked into it where it controls you, and work to let it go when any positive purpose is complete. This is how I perceive the Buddhist vision of anger.

17. Anger will never disappear so long as thoughts of resentment are cherished in the mind. Anger will disappear just as soon as thoughts of resentment are forgotten. Buddha

Today in her guidance on loving-kindness the leaser discussed hatred and its relation to loving-kindness. As I continue to focus on how anger, resentment, and ultimately hatred are intertwined, I add this quote for today. Although this quote does not foretell how to dispel of anger and resentment, I believe the previous quotes for this month do, as does the quote from Buddha the Metta meditation leader wrote today: ” Hatred cannot coexist with loving-kindness, and dissipates if supplanted with thoughts based on lovingkindness”.

16. A little Consideration, a little Thought for Others, makes all the difference. Winnie the Pooh

This morning I meditated, as has become routine. Then I headed out to my youngest son’s kindergarten graduation. I left feeling like there was way too much negativity for what should have been a happy event. What I noticed is when people are excited about their child they show little consideration for others. Parents all seemed to worry that they wouldn’t get the best picture of their child, and this resulted in blocking and maybe a little pushing. Those who weren’t able to get good photos held ill feelings for those who were in front for long periods (too early, too long). Perhaps the event could have been organized better, I’m sure the lunch lady felt so (she was shouting at people and obviously irritated that lunch for the rest of the grades would start and we were cluttering her area). But small events like this seldom are. I found myself trying not to absorb the negativity, but despite my practice and new found calm  I had difficulty. My thought through much of the event was if everyone were just a little considerate, this negativity wouldn’t prevail.  Those wanting the best picture of their children being mindful to let others also get that great shot, and those who weren’t able to because of inconsiderate others just understanding that everyone is just trying to capture these moments as well, and let go of the ill feelings. (Yesterday at the seminar I attended the presenter said rather than using the term “let go” she preferred “go with” in an observing fashion). Regardless, a little consideration, a little thought for others, goes a long way.

15.I am providing one of my favorite Zen stories today, rather than a quote. It is an often told story about letting go. As I am focusing on anger and resentment, I feel this story is an excellent parable to make the point of letting go, and living in the moment. As best I can tell the author is unknown.

Two Buddhist Monks were on a journey, one was more senior than the other.  During their journey they approached a rough and raging  river.  On the river bank they saw a young woman. She was clearly in need of help to cross to the other side of the river without drowning.

The junior monk walked straight past her without giving it a thought and crossed the river. The senior monk offered to help the woman and carried her across the river.   Once across they parted ways and the two monks continued on their journey.

As the journey continued, the senior monk could see that the junior monk had something of concern on his mind, and asked what was wrong. The junior monk replied, “How could you carry that woman like that? You know we can’t touch women, it’s against our way of life”. The senior monk answered, “I left the woman at the rivers edge a long way back, why are you still carrying her?”

In searching this story out again, one person added that throughout the day litter clutters our minds. Meditation is a way to clean it.

I’m at a seminar today on Mindfulness-Based Awareness Skills for Emotional Well-Being. Hopefully I can bring something back from it to share in the near future.

14. To be angry is to let others’ mistakes punish yourself. To forgive others is to be good to yourself. Master ChengYen

I suppose I continue to focus on anger, resentment, and forgiveness because in working with clients these issues are often a part of the presenting problem, whether it is resentment of others or the self. Additionally I am presenting a seminar on Anger Management next Friday, and so I am somewhat focused on these topics. I find this quote to be excellent for a couple of reasons: As I said in an earlier post, I really believe the loving-kindness practice for oneself is of the utmost benefit. But in working with those who carry resentment for others, this part of the Metta practice, which focuses on those who arouse negative feelings in you, is also of great benefit.

This quote relates to the one from a couple of days ago by the Buddha: holding on to anger hurts you more than anyone else. We may do it believing we are protecting ourselves, but ultimately the negative feelings and energy are felt more by us than by any other. The other may not even know you carry this anger. You may rarely if ever see them, and even if you do you may try, for whatever reasons, not to demonstrate your true feelings. So this / these negative feelings you carry are only burdening you. Letting go of the anger is being good to yourself.

13.  It is natural for the immature to harm others. Getting angry with them is like resenting a fire for burning. Shantideva

Although the Metta practice has moved beyond the difficult one to the inclusion of all beings, I wanted to keep the focus on forgiveness and decreasing anger and resentment a little longer (perhaps I am a little slow).

This quote I find provocative. I want to decrease some of the focus on the word immature, as this can be perceived as a judgment, and one that puts the thinker above another. Instead, I believe the definition meant here when referring to the immature as the one who is unenlightened as of yet, and the one who purposely harms another. As we have been focusing on in practice, everyone is on their own path to enlightenment, and some struggle more than others.  This is how I would define the immature for this quote.

It is the second sentence in the quote I find most enlightening. Getting angry for what naturally happens is like resenting a fire for burning. How often are people angry for what normally occurs? Traffic happens. Accidents happen. Yet we sometimes get angry at what we should expect to occur. In therapy this is called unrealistic expectations. People often get upset about things because of their expectations, which are often unrealistic. This, of course, is also natural. We get upset when things don’t go the way we want at times. But a good place to focus on loving-kindness is on these natural occurrences that we resent for happening.

12. Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned. Buddha

This is a quote I often use in Anger Management counseling. It refers predominately to resentment, although it can be applied to any anger we hold onto: meaning we experience but do not allow to pass (as I always teach, anger is a natural /normal emotion, and I never make the goal to eliminate anger, but rather to understand it and handle it appropriately).  As the Metta practice has moved into fostering loving kindness for “the enemy” or as the leader of the group I am in put it, “a difficult person” I felt this quote was appropriate.

11. Today I bent the truth to be kind, and I have no regret, for I am far surer of what is kind than I am of what is true. ~Robert Braul

I was really attracted to this quote. I consider myself a very honest person, and have sometimes been honest when it wasn’t necessary and was hurtful. This quote most eloquently reports that kindness is a lot more knowable than truth. What a great concept. Of course I still believe honesty to be of utmost importance, but in many instances, where only the moment matters, wouldn’t kindness be a better choice?

10. Simple kindness to one’s self and all that lives is the most powerful transformational force of all. David R. Hawkins

I have found this to be true of late, and plan on writing a bit about it in a blog this weekend or next week. This Metta practice has had a definite impact on my days in a most positive way. When I have more time, I will describe what I have found. I hope it is helping others similarly.

9. I expect to pass through life but once. If, therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, for I shall not pass this way again. William Penn

When I saw this quote the other day while looking for quotes on kindness, it moved me. I wanted to save it for a day when I could address both the current topic, loving kindness, as well as something that is always a topic for me, embracing your one life. The two together captured in this quote is awe striking for me.

Many people think that when you don’t believe in an afterlife of any kind, it will make you hedonistic. This is not the case, and William Penn’s quote seems to evidence that. In today’s Metta practice we are to focus on a stranger, someone we wouldn’t have noticed if we weren’t being mindful, and focus our practice of loving-kindness on them. I encourage you to take it one step further and practice this quote today. Be mindful this is your one time through this life (whether or not there is an afterlife, this is your one time in this incarnation and form) and embrace it and those around you.

8. By the accident of fortune a man may rule the world for a time, but by virtue of love and kindness he may rule the world forever. Lao Tzu

I chose this quote today not because I expect any of us to rule the world, but I hold out the hope that Loving-kindness might.

7. If you want to be happy, cherish others. Unknown

I read this on a bumper sticker as I left the office last night. It seems appropriate for the current topic, loving-kindness. I want to analyze it a bit:

This isn’t as simple as just trying to feel love for others (as if that were simple). But when I read this I take it to mean really accept others and cherish them. Think of how much of our displeasure is based on what others do. If instead we cherished this other person, despite whatever inconvenience befell us at the time, our displeasure would be decreased. I am by no means saying this is an easy task. But all change starts with mindfulness. Recently I’ve been trying to eliminate the word “like” from my vocabulary (when it is inappropriate). The first step is mindfulness. I’ve also been more mindful of practicing loving-kindness. Mindfulness. As part of the practice I will now try to identify when I am feeling displeasure, and instead try to accept and cherish the other. I hope this is helpful for you also.

As a final thought on this, be mindful that perfection is not the goal. I still use like inappropriately at times in my speech. I am not radiating loving-kindness 24/7. And in all likelihood I will still experience displeasure as a result of my expectations of others. But in all these areas I will improve, as I am mindful.

6. Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence. Erich Fromm

I told my daughter, who posted this quote as her facebook status a week ago, that I was going to steal it and use it for my meditations on loving-kindness. So, there it is, a great quote about the importance of love from Erich Fromm. My daughter read it in a book she is / was reading called the Art of Loving. I’m pretty sure I read it when I was wondering what in the hell love was many years ago. And while I was away I spotted it on a cab drivers floor. At first all I saw was the author’s name, and I said to my girlfriend, wow, I read The Art of Loving by him. And she replied,” that is what the book is” (she reads and speaks Spanish, among other languages). What synchronicity! I can’t remember much of the book, it was over 15 years ago I read it, but the quote is quite powerful, and the synchronic nature of the events surrounding it provides importance to me.

I’ve been a bit slack in my practice while vacationing. But at the very least I was mindful of when I was, and wasn’t, exhibiting loving-kindness. I am back on track this morning, and being mindful of this quote.

5. One man practicing kindness in the wilderness is worth all the temples this world pulls. Jack Kerouac (The Dharma Bums)

I chose this quote today for a few reasons. First, I love the title Dharma Bums. (I liked the novel, just not as much as the title). Second, I just started reading “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” and it reminded me of “On the Road” (same author). Third, we are talking about loving-kindness lately. And forth, I just finished a book that talks about the way we treat each other being more important than religion. (Plus I love the Dalai Lama quote “My religion is very simple, my religion is kindness“, and it relates to this quote).

But a final reason I chose this is because I will be away the next few days, away from technology, and to some extent in the wilderness. (ok, so maybe not wilderness, but away from technology, lol). I plan to keep up my Metta practice, to continue to sit in meditation on loving-kindness throughout my trip. I hope that those of you who are also practicing this are experiencing the same type of mindfulness and calmness and peace that I am. If not, keep at it, it will come. Science has proven that meditation affects neurotransmission. Just relax, be kind to yourself, and keep practicing. It is not a race, it is not a contest. It is simply some time taken for you.

Enjoy.

4. We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves. The Dalai Lama

This seems rather commonsensical to me. As I’ve been stating, the first goal of Metta practice is to feel loving-kindness for yourself, to foster a sense of self-acceptance and love. It is the same with peace. If I cannot be peaceful on the inside, how can I expect to exist in a peaceful world?

I do not believe this quote is simply about war and countries, and the such. To me it is also about your personal world. How many of us have a chaotic life? This past semester I taught a course on personal growth, and several of the chapter referred to people being “crazy busy”. Most of the students agreed that they were crazy busy, and others admitted if they weren’t, they surely behaved as if they were. This is where this quote and meditation practice can come in. I’m not sure how many of my readers are practicing meditation, but it has definitely had an impact on my days. I have been calmer, and I believe more loving toward the masses since practicing Metta practice. I encourage all to try it for this month.

Enjoy.

3. First you have to look deeply into the nature of your anger, despair, and suffering to free yourself, so you can be available to others. Thich Nhat Hanh

The first step in Metta (Loving-kindness) practice is to focus on yourself. This quote, by the author of over 20 books related to Buddhist teachings, demonstrates the importance of looking within.

As a therapist I consider one of my primary responsibilities to the client is to help them foster a sense self acceptance. So many people come to treatment ashamed of themselves. I’m not saying they’re ashamed of something they did, but I speak of a more profound shame of who they are. There is such a tendency in this culture (and others I am sure) of putting on a facade. When some people view this facade in others, they assume that person is better, healthier, or more together than they are. They also put on a facade, but underneath is a shame they aren’t as good, worthy, or healthy as others.

Metta practice is an excellent start at removing the shame, and beginning self acceptance. Continued practice can take you beyond self acceptance to self love, and the practice of taking care of yourself. You would be amazed at how much time is spent in therapy encouraging clients to take care of themselves, take time for themselves, nurture themselves.

Enjoy your practice.

2. The truest greatness lies in being kind, the truest wisdom in a happy mind. Ella Wheeler Wilcox

This seems like a good quote to continue the theme of loving kindness, especially beginning with oneself. I have been engaging in sitting meditation on loving-kindness and it has definitely helped me be mindful of practicing loving-kindness throughout the day. I hope some of you will join me in the practice (if you are on facebook you can join the group “May is for Metta” and the group leader will provide daily readings). I will also be focusing some of my quotes for the month on this topic, as I believe it can be very beneficial.

1. If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete. Jack Kornfield.
Today is the first day of May, and I joined a group on Facebook called “May is for Metta”. It is a group where daily meditation practice (and hopefully mindful practice throughout the rest of the day) focuses on Metta, the ultimate in loving-kindness. Metta, as the Facebook group leader Beth Shekinah Terrence describes it, is the type of love a mother has for a child. The goal is to foster this love for all of humanity. It seems, as the quote above suggests, this starts with yourself.
I hope to post some thoughts regularly this month focusing on this topic. (I am away for a few days at the end of this week, likely without a computer). I also intend to practice sitting meditation daily this month. I hope you will join me in this practice. I strongly encourage you to hurry up and join the group on Facebook as well. It is open for membership until Monday, so hurry. Ms. Beth Shekinah Terrence will be posting and emailing suggestions, and it seems a wonderful opportunity to take time for yourself and begin some meditation practice.
Enjoy.

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This entry was posted on Friday, May 21st, 2010 at 8:00 AM and is filed under Blog. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

4 Responses to “May, Thoughts for…”

  1. Belinda on May 24th, 2010 at 12:19 PM

    I finally found some time to read your blog and almost daily updates. I now wish I’d done so sooner because I’ve been feeling angry, resentful (and some days down right hostile), and not very loving or kind. Reading this helped me reflect and bring things back into perspective. Thanks.

  2. William Berry on May 24th, 2010 at 12:24 PM

    That is quite a compliment. Thank you Belinda.
    Are you doing the practice? I really can’t say enough (although those around me might say I’m trying) about how much of a difference it is making for me.
    Thanks as always for reading.

  3. Mari Sahonero on May 27th, 2010 at 2:58 AM

    In most of the Psychology classes that I have taken altruism seem be viewed as “self serving” and also as “extremely rare”. However, I feel that is truly impossible to really know, We can’t say that is rare as much that we can say that is mostly self serving. I feel that we all at one point or another have experience moments of being fully altruistic and other times we just do things because there are self serving. No one can be fully anything not even Mother Teresa. I feel that we are all everything in different variations and intensity.
    Love is such a complex word, it means so many different things for everyone. However, society has its guidelines as to what it should be. Maybe I’m getting out of subject here but what I’m trying to refer back to, is to what is self love? I had been married for 16 years with someone who is in my opinion a good men but unfortunately a cheater. Now, I have been told more than once that I didn’t love myself enough because I stayed with him for that long. However, I truly don’t believe so. I think I was caring for myself in a nurturing way even if it didn’t look like I did. I believe I was because thought the pain of finding the betrayal I genuinely loved him, and love was the basis for all my actions not neediness, or past experiences or trying to fill a void, no. Now, If I would loved myself and thought with my head as some people said I should have done then I would have miss so much and I don’t think I would have loved myself much because I would have not honor the love I felt. So, if one is going to be selfish knowingly I feel that selflessness never arrives because there is energy, I believe that the knowing denial of not giving, that blocks it.
    This is not to say, that accepting unhealthy behaviors from a partner is ok in the name of love, absolutely not. The only thing that I’m trying to say is that in doing and saying there will be always misunderstandings. I feel that one can be a great therapist even if he/she is not fully everything. Because being everything and having all the corners covered is unrealistic and inhuman. So, “do as I say, not as I do is a model that doesn’t fit anyone. Because at one point or another we don’t do as we say nor say as we do. If we don’t do as we say but still want others to do, I feel that is extraordinary because we are able to recognize that we are not able to be everything but we have the sensibility to recognize that others might have the potential to be.

  4. William Berry on May 27th, 2010 at 10:42 AM

    I agree nothing is always so black and white. Whether your staying with him was altruistic or not, I cannot say but only hypothesize, and I choose not to. But from what I know of you, you are loving person with a big heart and closer to altruism than most.
    Thanks for the comment.

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