Day 30, 31, and concluding
Day 29′s meditation didn’t go as well as I had hoped, and because of some external circumstances I made internal, I had trouble concentrating and then feeling the love for mankind. I still practiced, still tried to pull it together, but like frequently happens, turned it into a self critical time. I then switched to a different meditation. Day 30 went better, and I focused more on loving kindness for all. Yesterday, the last day, I felt was one of my better meditation, as well as mindful throughout the day, practices.
As I write this May is over. I expect occasionally, in my meditation, I will return to Metta meditation, and focus on being more loving and kind to all. It has been a goal, as I have a bit of a tough exterior, which has likely served as a protection. But in my meditation I use several practices, and enjoy all of them. I also find some days some are more beneficial than others. In fact, one day recently when I had trouble with Metta, I returned to my focus on life being illusion, perception, and working at not taking it so intensely.
I expect also that, because I have almost made it a new habit, that each time I begin to curse or criticize another driver, I switch to a Metta phrase. Hopefully, eventually, I stop cursing them at all, and instead just look with compassion. (although, let’s admit, sometimes they deserve a good cursing).
Alright, that is it for me in this journal. I hope showing that although I am a therapist, a meditation advocate, that my meditation is far from perfect is helpful to those beginning or wanting to quit because they can’t do it. Beth has continued her blog, and I encourage you to check out her writing here. You can also read some of my other experiences and thoughts on meditation in this article, or on the links it offers at the end of that post.
May you have peace, happiness, and freedom from suffering.
Day 28, 29
Yesterday’s blog by Beth hit the nail on the head for me. I have been admonishing myself (perhaps deservedly so) for falling fall short of my ideal the past couple of days. After reading Beth’s blog / meditation for the day I felt renewed in my practice, and tackled the days meditation with new fortitude. I had a successful meditation and felt I had a loving kindness level that was acceptable (but perhaps not optimum) throughout the day.
Todays meditation centers on using the directions. Two years ago I used this method and found it helpful. I will try it again today. My lack of client hours today allows me to go to the beach for a bit, where I will practice this afternoon. I will use the direction meditation, and hopefully will be able to carry a more loving and Zen attitude throughout the day.
Read the meditation, watched the Thich Nhat Hanh video, but never practiced. It was my most unstructured day, basically physically relaxing all day. Despite not practicing I didn’t fail as badly at loving kindness, and had a great day with my son. Could have been better though if I were more mindful.
Did my meditation today, but had trouble staying focused. Not sure what is going on, but despite feeling better after the meditation it wasn’t long before my patience was short. There were too many times today I had an epic failure at loving kindness. I hope I have a new grip on it now for the rest of the day, and into tomorrow.
Generally my practice has been going well. One of these days I only read, and never sat. Sometimes, the more time I have to get ready, the more a screw around, and then I have allowed my time to slip away and have to rush without meditation. But that is rare, and only two or three times this months have I missed actual sitting. I still read those days, and still practiced in some way.
Today is different, and I’m unsure why. I worked out today. When I sat in meditation I was feeling pretty negatively about others. First, it was that I keep getting notifications on Facebook of people declining the invitation to practice Metta. Now, if someone is really religious and follows some of dogma that religions propose, I get it. It might be a sin or some other type of transgression. But other than that, I have a tough time with people turning down an opportunity to be more loving to others, more kind to themselves. That annoyed me. Generally, and logically, I know people need to make their own choices. So in my practice I used the Facebook community. I wished them all of the positives we do in practice. I also did it for FIU, picturing people there I know, and other indiscriminate masses of students.
I felt pretty good about my practice. I meet with a colleague on Fridays about the text we are writing. It went well, and she pointed out how happy I seemed. Both a good workout and a good meditation were part of the reason. Perhaps it was some negative stuff that arose in our discussion that affected me, or perhaps I didn’t feel good about the session I had after, but my patience in traffic wasn’t what it has been. I had an enjoyable afternoon with my son and some friends and got endorphins going, but shortly after again I was irritable. Generally, I’m just really not happy with people.
I came home and checked my email, and read Beth’s post about it not always being easy to practice loving kindness. I thought she had read my mind, but her post is about being tough on herself (not that I also don’t relate to that occasionally too). I guess I am writing this to again demonstrate to new comers and experienced practitioners alike that difficulties arise. It is okay, and just keep practicing. I’ll be back to it tomorrow.
I was more distracted today than yesterday, both in meditation and throughout the day. I followed Beth’s suggestion for the benefactor, and chose a friend going through a rough time. I again focused on my office group, and offered the mantra to them as a group. I don’t have class on Tuesday’s right now, and had cancellations so only two clients. I did offer one person who drove exceedingly poorly well wishes, after an initial negative remark that I caught and altered. I hope someday I can do it without the initial negativity. Otherwise it was a rather routine day, but I am feeling more open to loving kindness and a bit nicer.
First, I did my foundational meditation, which included my small group of beloveds (ok, I took a little liberty here, and use my kids as a small group. It helps me build that loving-kindness feeling). I moved to my difficult person, as my work there isn’t done. Then I focused on the small group I work with at the office. Then I moved to my class, and to all FIU students.
I remembered to wish good things to people in traffic. I remembered to focus on loving-kindness at the office, and may have been more compassionate to clients today (although compassion is a prerequisite, so hopefully I am compassionate always). The challenge for me was taking it to class. This doesn’t mean I’m not compassionate to students, but that actually showing it is a bit unsettling. There remains a small, tiny, part of me that worries what the cool kids will think. I handled class, and moved toward a discussion of meditation. Since I couldn’t find an appropriate segue I simply talked about “May is for Metta” to them, explained taking Metta to work week, and, at the end of class, wished them all happiness, peace, freedom from suffering, and ease of living. Some laughed, which makes me wonder how they perceive me; even discussing that I am doing Metta meditation made some laugh. I don’t think they know (without slides) when I am serious….
Overall, it was a hell of a successful day in my Metta practice!
On day 18, I upped my ante further and wished someone I have been illogically harboring ill feelings for all the positive things the meditation asks to focus on. It went fine, and I really have nothing to report about it. I also have been wishing strangers positive things, especially when driving. Sometimes, right after I say something horrible about their driving (to myself), I then wish them happiness and peace or freedom from suffering or ease of living to combat the negativity I am experiencing in the moment. I think it is better, although I certainly haven’t mastered it yet.
I skipped a day 19′s practice, although I read Beth’s meditation for the day. I kept thinking I’d get to it, and finally when turning in for the night I tried while lying down, but dosed off too quickly. I hadn’t left the house either, so there wasn’t much wishing others positivity. Today I did the meditation late (after picking up my youngest and playing hockey for hours). I hadn’t felt negatively all day, and just reading the meditation made me feel more loving. Practicing the meditation also brought about a loving kindness feeling.
Following the suggestion Beth made today, and looking at my own irrationality in my post and meditation yesterday, I upped my ante today and made the difficult person(s) some folks I shied away from yesterday. There were some people I felt I no longer held ill-feelings against, yet had no desire to think about. So today I wished them all the things I wish for myself, even more so. It didn’t raise any ill feelings, and I felt good about the exercise. I might up the ante even further tomorrow, although I remain unsure about that. As an aside, I loved the video at the end of today’s meditation. It is beautiful both in loving-kindness and cognitively reframing hate.
I only managed to remember to wish strangers happiness and peace a couple of times early in the day. I spent a large part of the day in my office with clients, so that serves as an excuse I guess. But it did slip my mind on my way home tonight, so I own that. I really like that practice, and hope to make it a regular part of my life.
First, I really enjoyed wishing strangers (silently of course) happiness and ease of living yesterday. I found it to be quite uplifting. I plan to continue it, and did again today. Today’s focus was on the “enemy” (or difficult person). I initially had trouble picking someone for this category. The person I used two years ago was an old co-worker who reappeared, and for whom I held some resentment (for perceived hurt). The Metta meditation back then helped me overcome that. This made me aware of its power, and although it seems logical you would want this with any individual, sometimes you prefer to hang onto the anger a bit. So, I eliminated anyone I wasn’t ready to forgive, and also anyone whose image I just didn’t want to sustain in my mind, whether ill feelings exist or not. (perhaps I give some power to the energy of holding an individual in mind, which I fear will bring them back into my life, which, obviously, I don’t want despite not having negative feeling). With all that confusing thought process out of the way, I chose a person I find annoying. This individual is a client of a different clinician but whose perceived (by me) obnoxious behavior while waiting (and rescheduling) annoys me. I didn’t have much trouble wishing him well, and I certainly realize that his annoyance of me is more my perception (including that he likely reminds me of someone else from my history) than his actual being. It went well, and hopefully, with practice, when I encounter him in the future I will find him less bothersome.
After meditating again this morning, I realized my reproach yesterday was attached to my terminology. I had become accustomed to saying to my benefactor and beloved, “As I wish to be happy, more so may you be happy.” Saying “more so” to strangers really didn’t work for me. I changed the terminology and it was fine.
I hope to silently wish strangers happiness and freedom from suffering today, as Beth suggested. I find it a beautiful idea.
I can’t believe it has been this long since I added. Most days the meditation went as usual, some mind wandering, but a focus on loving kindness. Mother’s day I did focus on the earth, while on the beach, but I actually dosed off!
Today’s focus on a neutral person was interesting. I chose these two guys who came to the beach as I was getting ready to leave Sunday. They initially seemed a bit imposing, shaved heads and tattoos. I figured they’d be good for the practice as preconceived ideas can be banished with loving kindness. As I was meditating and wishing them good things, I felt a twinge of reproach. The idea arose, “what am I wishing these guys good things for, what about me” as if there is a limited amount of ease of living in the world and I was sacrificing mine for strangers. This was in direct contrast to meditating / wishing good to someone I love, where I actually found it easier than for myself.
Today was the first day I didn’t meditate in the morning (as I usually do).(Although I have meditated in the early afternoon at the beach a couple of times…). My daughter is visiting and that threw off my routine…So I meditated before going to sleep. I had trouble deciding on a “Beloved”. I didn’t want to use one of my children, because that would result in leaving the others out. But I couldn’t use anyone else. I eventually decided on my youngest, who I see the most often, and who my behavior probably most affects. My mind wondered a lot, but I came back to the mantra (As I create happiness more-so may you have happiness in your life…). Despite not meditating in the am, and having a competitive day playing sports, I felt it was a rather compassionate and kind day, (But boys will be boys playing, and I did bust ‘em for those around me…)
Overall it was a fair meditation day. I tried using the earth as the benefactor, but it didn’t feel right for me so I went back to my kids as the benefactors. I again repeated the saying to each one. I altered the saying though, because I felt “wishing” to be happy, peaceful, etc wasn’t in line with my buddhist beliefs about desire being the root of suffering. I changed it to “as I work to be happy (or free from suffering)” or as I develop ease of living (or peace). To me this wording feels better, more in line with my beliefs, and creates more of an internal locus of control. Of course, thinking about this while meditating witnesses to my mind wandering and not being focused….
Today’s meditation was better. I used all of my children, in succession, as the benefactor. I said the mantra to each one, twice. My children get me in touch with loving-kindness easier than anything else I could imagine. My mind wandered a bit, usually on what to write here (although because I meditate in the morning, I have pretty much forgotten whatever great idea I came up with then). My vulnerability rises in this meditation, and I feel more open and empathetic afterward. The only negative I continue to struggle with is defining love for those other than my children.
First, I let the morning get away from me and almost blew off the meditation. I struggled with choosing a benefactor. I wanted to use a mentor, like Beth had suggested. But none really bring a smile to my face with just a thought. The only people who really do that are my kids, and I didn’t want to use them. But I eventually acquiesed in the interest of time, and used my 7 y/o, because he is the most innocent.
I had great difficulty generating any loving kindness for myself today as I was in a self-loathing state of mind, and, again in the interest of time, moved quickly to the benefactor. This immediately got me in touch with a wealth of loving kindness. I altered the saying, and repeated “As I want to be happy, I more-so want happiness for you.” I followed this pattern for the four saying I use, and was filled with compassion and empathy. I was in touch with it, and feeling vulnerable, much of the day.
I could not focus at all on loving kindness in my meditation today. Nor did I focus on it very often during the day. I found my attempt at meditation today to be a waste of time, although intellectually I know that isn’t the case. Attempting, and accepting the outcome, is better than not attempting. Hopefully tomorrow will be better.
It seemed Beth wrote today’s guided meditation with my struggles in mind (of course not, but it related to what I’ve been writing). (If you haven’t been following her daily guidance for Metta, you will likely find it of benefit and can read it here. You could also subscribe so I don’t have to keep reminding you…) Anyhow, my focus has been on feeling loving kindness, and focusing on the chant. Admittedly I haven’t been as upbeat about it all as the first few days. In her suggestions for journaling Beth asks if any negative feelings have arisen. Although I would identify negative feelings related to feeling loving-kindness, I have felt pangs of cynicism in regard to the word love. In fact, I’m trying to avoid it, and use loving-kindness as one word. Other than that there isn’t any negative. I still struggle with a wandering mind (as I always have) and usually wander to writing either this blog, or an article or something. But I keep coming back, and trying to get centered on a feeling in my chest area. I hope that many who began this exercise are still going with it, I really believe it can be of great benefit. Peace.
The practice is the same. Today I didn’t bother with the circle of loving beings. I know this can be an important part of the practice, and please don’t let me discourage you from it. I focused today on feeling love for myself by using the suggested sayings, as well as my continued practice of detachment. I was aware of loving kindness throughout the day, although a kid at the game my son and I went to wore on my nerves, and I wasn’t much in touch with it then…
Despite this being my slowest time of year (Summer A) and not being as structured as usual, I’ve read each days meditation thus far and meditated daily. As with day 2, its been tough. I’m having trouble fighting negative thoughts about love and determining who I believe really loves me. In the two years since the last time we did this much has changed in my personal life, including with friends. After giving up on the circle (or semi circle in my case) I fill it with anonymous beings, tapping into some belief system that still lingers in the recesses of my mind and allows for loving beings beyond the scope of my current reality. Once I’ve settled into this, or abandoned it and only focused on love as a general theory radiating somewhere in my chest, I get a positive feeling. Then, out of some desire to share this, I think about what to write, how to spread the word, how to get others to buy into the benefit of meditation, and especially of metta meditation. Then, as I said in day one, its catching my mind wandering, and back to the breath, back to my heart.
I have also continued spending a couple of minutes in the meditation focused on detachment from thoughts, from what I assume is reality, and how everyone’s reality is different and that is okay. Basically this boils down to all being an illusion, which is also a tenet of Buddhism. For now both of these views, both of these perspectives, as working for me. I feel detached, unencumbered by life. At the same time I have been focused more on peace and loving kindness.
I had a tougher time with the meditation today. Bringing my “circle of loving beings” into the picture was difficult. I struggled, and compared this years meditation to the one two years ago. This left me somewhat downhearted. Another contributor was that I hadn’t slept well, and was probably a little irritable. But it was most certainly my struggle with my differences in perception about being loved that caused the most difficulty.
Regardless of the struggles and my poor mood, I did find myself being in touch with loving-kindness throughout the day. The act of sitting with it, even when the experience is less that optimal, keeps the idea fresh in my mind and in the forefront of many of my interactions. This in and of itself is worth it.
First, you can join the movement by clicking here and tuning in daily to “The Heart of Awakening” blog.
Second, I decided to journal some of my experiences with my second experience with this formal meditation.
Generally I spend about 10 minutes in sitting meditation (although I try to be mindful much more than that in the course of a day). I meditate more days than not (although not daily). Lately I have been focused in meditation on realizing everyone has a story, and none of it is truth (my next post for Psychology Today will address this more thoroughly, look for it this weekend). I want to keep this as part of my focus, but today the primary focus was the Metta meditation.
I need to say I suck at meditation. I’m an energetic person, and my mind races (others might call this Adult ADHD). During the course of any 10 minute meditation I will catch my mind wandering at least 5 times (this may be a gross underestimate).
I began May is for Metta excited about again doing a formal meditation on loving kindness, that I know others are also focused on. As Beth suggested I tried to focus on a time when I felt completely loved. I had a tougher time this year. My beliefs about love have changed, I’m in a more cynical place, and recreating a time when I felt completely loved was more of a struggle than I anticipated. I finally settled on simply focusing on the heart, like Beth had suggested, and focusing on this being the center and of it being filled, and filling, with love.
My mind wandered to sessions I had scheduled today. Back to the heart. My mind wandered to how my beliefs have become more cynical, back to the heart. My mind wandered to how I could spread the word of this wonderful practice, back to the heart, but then a debate about what was more focused on loving-kindness: spreading the word or meditating on it. These are tricks the ego plays, or the mind plays, to secure its place as the dominant part of our life.
My day seemed more serene. I actually felt more loving throughout the day (that is until I watched the Flyers play nearly the entire game in their defensive zone).
Anyhow, my point is that even though my mind wandered, it was a successful meditation. I’ll check in periodically with my experience.