Dear MMM Folks,
Sitting, gazing out the window at gray skies and wet earth here in Barre, I'm feeling quite grateful for the rains. I'm also in touch with that "Appreciative Heart" that Jane mentioned last week in MMM.
The bee balm alongside Betsy's kitchen door had shown signs of distress, with leaves beginning to curl, as I arrived here in Barre on Tuesday. (My Beloved Buddhy had sounded weak and still sick on the telephone on Tuesday morning and I abbreviated my "Greenfield Workweek" and the Noon Sit with #OMG! to beat feet to the bus.)
Now, a couple of days later, adorned in raindrops, the bee balm stands firm and crisp and Betsy is seemingly full of piss and vinegar once again. A hint of sunshine just played through the clouds, as I wrote this.
Sitting here at the laptop, I'm profoundly aware that the AH I feel at the moment doesn't just emerge from the crispness of the bee balms and Betsy's smile this morning. That "AH" isn't dependent on just experiencing the "high side" of the ongoing dance of life. A splendid morning?! This, too, will change.
The depth of the gratitude and appreciation I feel this moment emerges from that very soft
and vunerable, achy breaky, tender heart that I, like many of us, have learned to avoid most the time. That place is what I think the Tibetan Buddhists call "relative bodhichitta". It is the source of the tears I felt during last evening's practice--before it was obvious that either Betsy or the bee balm would be resurrected with the dawn today. It is the source of the tears I feel as I sit here this morning with sunshine promising to create rainbows in the raindrops lingering across the greenery in the backyard. In neither case can these tears be readily defined as either "joy" or "sadness". It's simply the outpouring of an Appreciative Heart no longer afraid to totally embrace the dazzling--yet fragile--majesty of our existence as human beings. I am sooooo grateful to the Practice for supporting my ability to feel Life so fully--without freaking out!
We spent some time last week in MMM looking at Metta Practice, a traditional Buddhist practice that has been useful to many in the cultivation of what we may call the "positive" qualities of heart: loving kindness, compassion, joyfulness and equanimity. (I've put the term "positive" in quotes because, as we've discussed, being in touch with the whole realm of emotional qualities--including fear and anger and confusion and jealousy and passion and insatiable grasping--are, in actuality, just as crucial in cultivating an open heart.).
As promised, I'm including the wording that Claire has learned to the mental recitations used in Metta Practice (as well as including all the MMM participants as recipients so that everyone has everyone else's email address).
Here is what Claire sent me last week. I think it is pretty much the same as she offered in class:
"May I be filled with loving kindness
May I be well,
May I find peace and be at ease in my mind and in my bodyAnd may I be happy.
Once I've said that a few times, until I pay attention all the way thru and "feel" it, I broaden it to include others: May all of us in Greenfield……, then May all of us in Western Mass…..
May all of us in New England…etc. ending with may all sentient beings in the world be filled with loving kindness…..
I like the way this makes me feel and maybe all that repetition of "loving kindness" brings it to mind throughout the day. I remember mentioning this in class when we talked about the meditation timers and how some could be set 5 minutes before the three ending bells. At that time I'd like to use the loving kindness meditation."
In addition, here's the recitations I mentioned, which I believe I learned from IMS teacher Steve Armstrong of Vipassana Metta of Maui.
May I (etc.) be free from all mental and physical danger.
May I (etc.) support myself with ease and grace.
I've also found, as I mentioned in MMM, that these phrases can be adapted to apply specific qualities of heart to specific people--yourself included. Although in Buddhist circles the term "prayer" isn't usually used, Metta practice is, I think, certainly akin to a "petitional" prayer in Christianity. The major difference is, perhaps, the way we are conceptualizing the "source" of the blessings we are seeking to bestow. I don't think there is too much value in quibbling about that--although as an old Zen aficionado I can get into the dialectics of a good dharma debate at times. LOL
Perhaps, next week we can take some more time to explore Metta Practice as part of our individual and collective practice!
Thank you so much for these thoughts and reminders. They have given me a sense of peace.
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