The following are instructions on Metta (Lovingkindness) Meditation from my book “Metta Meditation and Positive Attitudes.” Please read through them and start the practice of Metta. I would be pleased to guide you and answer questions by email at email@example.com.
“Metta is a Pali word that means goodwill, lovingkindness, friendliness, benevolence, non-hatred, non-anger, and non-resentment. Metta meditation is very helpful in checking the unwholesome tendency to hatred and anger in us and promoting and strengthening the wholesome states of non-hatred, non-anger, non-resentment, patience, tolerance, calmness, coolness, goodwill, lovingkindness, benevolence and friendliness.
In addition to Vipassana (Insight) meditation the Buddha often exhorted us to practise metta as one of the four divine ways of abiding. The other three divine abidings are karuna (compassion), mudita (appreciative joy) and upekkha (equanimity).
We offer simple instructions below on how to practise metta meditation. Please try to do it on a daily basis in the sitting posture as a formal meditation and also casually every now and then as you go about your everyday activities. As you do so you will find a great improvement in your life by way of an increasingly warm, loving, kind, friendly, understanding, patient, helpful, and happy disposition.
RADIATING OF METTA
You may sit cross-legged in a comfortable manner on meditation cushions on the floor or you may sit on a chair. It doesn’t matter whether you sit on the floor or on a chair as long as you are comfortable and can stay in a position for some time without having to move or fidget.
Initially you can sit for 15 minutes, progressing to 30 minutes, 40 minutes, an hour, or even longer as you become more skilled in the practice.
Begin radiating metta by mentally reciting the following lines, which express goodwill and warm wishes for the person you radiate to.
When radiating to yourself, recite:
May I be happy.
May I be safe.
May I be peaceful.
May I be healthy.
May I take care of myself happily.
When radiating to another person, say, John:
May John be happy.
May he be safe.
May he be peaceful.
May he be healthy.
May he take care of himself happily.
You can also address the person directly, saying, “John, may you be happy. May you be safe….”
Wish for this person for as long as you like and then change to another person, wishing, say: “May Mary be happy. May she be safe,” and so on.
When you like to switch to somebody else, you may go on to yet another person, say: “May Richard be happy. May he be safe,” and so on.
You can radiate to one single person (and also to yourself, of course) for a long time – even for a whole session. Or you can keep changing persons, now this person, now that person.
You can also think of a few persons, grouping them together, and wish, “May they be happy,” and so on. Or you can radiate to all beings in general, saying “May all beings be happy. May they be safe…”
If we radiate to one person or all beings for a long time or a whole session, our concentration (samadhi) can become very deep because we don’t need to think of which person to wish for next. However, with practice we find that even when we change persons frequently we can also gain a deep state of concentration.
Sometimes instead of reciting the five lines, you can just think, “May this person be happy. May that person be happy.”
So there is no fixed one way. If you feel like reciting all the lines recite them; if not, just say, “May he/she be happy.”
You can also make specific wishes for the person, what you think or observe he/she may need. In the case of a person suffering from a serious illness you can wish, “May he be healed. May he be able to bear up with the suffering. May he recover fully and quickly. However, should he not be able to recover, may he be able to bear up with the suffering, may he have mental strength, patience and endurance,” etc.
You can think of his loved ones and wish, “May they also be able to bear up with the suffering of seeing their loved one suffer. May they be calm and strong.” When we say “May he be healed”, we understand healing not just as a physical cure, but also as mental healing, that the mind may be healed in the sense of being able to accept and reconcile with the illness if it cannot be cured. And, of course, the mind can be healed of a lot of other mental wounds and anguish.
Naturally you can radiate to your spouse or partner, wishing, “May he/she be happy,” etc., and also say “May I love him/her well and true. May I take good care of him/her,” because we want to love our spouse/partner/lover well, ever improve on our love, grow and learn how to be an even better and more loving partner. Of course “well and true” can be defined further in many ways: being faithful to one’s spouse, showing gratitude and appreciation, understanding, forgiveness, being nurturing and caring towards each other, helping and supporting each other along the spiritual path.
Equally we include our children, parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, and all other family members, relatives and close friends.
Say, if you want to have a good working relationship with somebody, you can think of that person and address him or her directly, “May you be happy. May we relate well with each other. May we have a good collaboration. May we have lots of goodwill and harmony. May we work together for the greater good of all beings.”
When you wish for yourself, “May I be happy,” you can also wish for specific things, making positive resolutions, such as, “May I have faith and trust in myself and the Dhamma,” “May I be patient,” “May I have strength, confidence and courage to face all the challenges in the life,” “May I be focused and concentrated in all that I do,” “May I be hardworking, diligent, disciplined,” etc., whatever is relevant or meaningful at the time.
So sometimes you can just keep on repeating the five lines, or one or two of those lines, and sometimes you can add in more specific wishes or affirmations, and then go back to the standard lines.
MEANING OF THE PHRASES
As regards the standard lines, the meanings are as follows:
To be happy means not being sad, miserable, unhappy, or depressed; it means being happy, joyful, cheerful, lighthearted, content. We can feel happy by counting our many blessings and considering how fortunate we are to have the Dhamma or Good Teachings as our guide; that we have loved ones who love and care for us; that we have enough for our basic needs such as food, clothing, and shelter in life; that we have friends who are good and kind to us; that we have reasonably good health; etc. We can put a little smile on our face as we wish for ourselves, “May I be happy.” A smile is a way to make us feel immediately lighter and better.
To be safe means to be free from harm and danger, both internally and externally. Internal danger refers to our own mind when it is out of control and causing us suffering. External dangers are accidents, mishaps, calamities, disasters, misfortunes and people that may be hostile or have ill intentions towards us.
To be peaceful means to be free from mental suffering such as worry, anxiety, fear, hatred, anger, irritation, annoyance, sorrow, depression, unhappiness, misery, despair, envy, jealousy, miserliness, mental agitation, confusion and delusion.
To be healthy means to be free from physical suffering such as bodily pain and sickness. However, we do know that we can’t be free from physical suffering all the time and we have to face sickness at times and even death eventually. At such times when we have to face sickness and death we wish that we can be able to face them calmly, peacefully and cheerfully even as we try to find a cure for our ailments. Generally though we wish that we can be as healthy as possible.
To take care of oneself happily means to be able to take care of one’s mind and body; take care of one’s work, responsibilities, tasks and duties, that is, being able to carry them out well; take care of one’s relationships, that is, cultivating and maintaining as far as possible skilful, healthy, happy, harmonious, loving, kind, understanding, meaningful, beneficial and constructive relationships; take care of all aspects of one’s life.
THE POWER OF METTA
Metta meditation is a way to cultivate lovingkindness towards all beings in our own minds and hearts. As we radiate we feel better simply by freeing ourselves from feelings of hatred, anger, ill-will, animosity, and resentment and replacing them with love and goodwill.
Brain science studies have shown that meditation brings about positive changes in the brain. As we radiate metta we are creating a neural pathway in the brain that will become a big highway as we keep going down the metta route. As those metta neurons continue to fire away we can imagine how the mind/brain is conditioning itself towards goodwill and lovingkindness as opposed to hatred and anger.
While cultivating goodwill is well and good, some people might question whether these wishes are practical or realistic since they cannot be fully realized as nobody can be completely free from suffering in life or be happy all the time. While it is true that we have to accept and face a certain amount of suffering in life, it is still good to wish for wellness; it is like saying a prayer for the well-being of oneself and others. It means we are wishing to be happy as much as we can. It will condition our mind or brain to go in the direction of happiness, to cultivate the skilful attitudes that are conducive to happiness.
There is mental force/power/effect in wishing; it can bring about positive results, subject of course to other factors such as the law of kamma. When we wish well for others, we are sending good mental vibes that can have a positive effect on their wellbeing. Who knows how these vibes or this mental energy may help to uplift or support them mentally and physically?
Controlled double-blind studies carried out at two American hospitals in San Francisco in 1998 have shown that sick people who were prayed for, recovered more quickly and have fewer complications that those who were not prayed for. Furthermore, the people who were prayed for had no knowledge of the efforts made in their behalf. In Korea researchers were amazed to find that women trying to conceive at a fertility clinic and who were prayed for at a distance got pregnant at twice the rate than those who received no prayers.
People have reported that after radiating metta to difficult persons their relationships with them improved dramatically. Generally people experience a happier state of mind in their everyday life as they practise metta regularly, coupled with having wisdom and right attitudes in life.
Double-blind studies are impressive as no one knows who is receiving prayer and who isn’t, thus eliminating or reducing the placebo effect, which is the power of suggestion or positive thinking. However, what is even more impressive, according to American doctor Larry Dossey, are studies done on non-humans. For example, he said, when bacteria are prayed for, they tend to grow faster; when seeds are prayed for, they tend to germinate quicker; when wounded mice are prayed for, they tend to heal faster. “I like these studies because they can be done with great precision, and they eliminate all effects of suggestion and positive thinking, since we can be sure the effects aren't due to the placebo effect. Mice, seeds, and microbes presumably don't think positively!” he added.
Botanist Luther Burbank believed that the secret of improved plant breeding, apart from scientific knowledge, is love. While conducting experiments to make spineless cacti he often talked to the plants. “You have nothing to fear.” he would tell them. “You don’t need your defensive thorns. I will protect you.” Gradually the useful plant of the desert emerged in a thornless variety.
Japanese researcher Masaru Emoto found that even water responds to prayer and positive thoughts by forming beautiful crystalline patterns while the opposite is the case when it is exposed to negative and violent thoughts.
THE WANDERING MIND
As you radiate, various thoughts might come in, the mind might wander here and there, but that’s okay; just notice that the mind has wandered off and bring it back to the metta radiating. Eventually the mind will wander less and stay on the metta track.
Be careful when you radiate to a person not to be lost in thoughts about the person. Just stick to the theme which is the radiating of metta, the repetition of the lines. However, you can occasionally recollect the kindness this person has done for you, the good times you had together, so you can feel gratitude for the person, and even say to the person, “Thank you very much for your kindness and friendship, for all that you have done for me,” and then wish that he may be happy, etc.
You can sometimes be mindful of the body as you radiate. You can feel your body being here, the sensations at the touch areas between the buttocks and the seat, the legs, hands, etc. From time to time you can also know how your mind is; you can notice when the metta lines are flowing smoothly and how the mind is becoming more calm, absorbed and peaceful. You can notice quite clearly how the mind has dropped into a state of calm.
At times when you feel tired of repeating the phrases or you find the mind stopping by itself, you can rest in the awareness of the body and mind. This, too, can be relaxing and calming. Then when the mind is ready it can resume the radiating.
As regards pains and aches in the body you don’t have to note it as you are not doing vipassana meditation. You can continue radiating metta, just tolerating or ignoring the pain and after some time, it might not be felt. But if you find the pain or body discomfort distracting or intolerable, you can always mindfully change your posture, move your legs or body for relief, and continue to radiate. If you find sitting on a chair more comfortable for the metta radiating, feel free to do so.
When you radiate, if you like, you can initially picture the person in your mind and feel your metta going out to him or her. Visualization is optional and can be done if you find it helpful. What counts primarily is just the good wish that you are making for the person.
As regards the speed in reciting the lines, you can recite slow or fast as you like. Initially you might recite slowly, saying “May John be happy”, etc., feeling the meaning of those words, but after some time, if you like, you can pick up the speed. Go according to the pace you like - fast, slow, or moderate. Even though you might not contemplate on the meaning of the words as you recite, the meaning is already understood and the good will is there being expressed through those lines. So you can adjust the speed accordingly, like driving a car, now going fast, now slowing down. Do it in the way you like, in a way that you find agreeable and which will lead to a pleasant and peaceful state of mind. There is no hard and fast rule. The mind changes – sometimes it feels like doing it this way, and sometimes that way. You can be creative. You can experiment and see how it goes. There is no one fixed way but many ways of doing metta.
TYPES OF PEOPLE
There are many kinds of people you can radiate to, such as loved ones, relatives, friends, teachers, benefactors, people who have been kind to you (even from long ago) and to whom you feel gratitude; casual acquaintances, people you don’t know well or only know just by sight; and difficult ones. Difficult ones may be those who don’t like you, who are hostile to you, who might consider you like their enemy (though on your part you do not wish to consider anybody as an enemy but perhaps as just somebody you have had difficulty with). Difficult ones may be those you have had conflicts with in the past or have conflicts with now. Difficult ones may be those who have hurt us very much in some ways. Yet we would still like to wish them well, letting bygones be bygones, and wanting to radiate metta, to have goodwill for all beings, without exception. Remember also that whatever happiness you wish for another person is always a wholesome kind of happiness, not a happiness that comes at the expense of hurting or abusing others but a happiness that comes from being loving and kind to others. With this prior condition and understanding, you should find it easier to radiate to the difficult one.
If you still have to meet or relate with a difficult person, you can wish “May he be happy. May the relationship improve. May we get along better,” etc. If you feel this person has the need to change in certain ways, you may wish, “May he change for the better for his own good. May he become more like this or like that”, though you know, of course, that ultimately we can’t change anybody; the person has to change himself; we can only change our own attitudes and our way of relating to others with equanimity, compassion, understanding, love and detachment.
Difficult ones may sometimes be our own very close and loved ones, because when we are so close we can have conflicts and difficulties with each other. So we need to cultivate a lot of love, kindness, compassion, tolerance, patience, understanding, wisdom, and forgiveness. If you find it too hard to radiate to a difficult one, you can do it at another time when you feel more ready or prepared to do it.
Forgiveness itself is a practice. Harbouring vengeful thoughts and grudges is painful. We forgive to free ourselves from the toxic and painful feelings of hatred, anger, bitterness and resentment. We forgive even if the other person is unrepentant and does not seek our pardon. Granted a person has hurt us but we don’t have to ‘relive’ this hurt again and again in our mind. We want to let go and move on. We want to live happily in the present moment.
We may forgive a person without reconciling with him though reconciliation is desirable wherever possible. We can forgive a person from afar without having to associate with him again. Forgiving does not mean that we condone or approve what the person did. Forgiving does not mean that we continue to allow ourselves to be hurt or abused. We can stop associating with the person or take suitable steps to protect ourselves and preserve our self-dignity.
Some people can forgive more easily than others. Forgiveness is a process that may take time. But as we keep working on it, keep doing wise reflection to help us to let go, we find that the hurt we feel becomes less and less. Eventually we find we have forgiven.
CAN ONE RADIATE METTA TO A DECEASED PERSON?
Yes, why not? In Buddhism we believe that the person has been reborn somewhere. So we can think, “May this person, wherever he is now, be happy, be safe….” We are directing the metta to the continuation of the person in his new existence. Even in this very life we are not the same but a changing person, changing from young to old, changing from moment to moment. Our metta for a person need not stop when he or she is dead. We can continue to radiate metta thinking “I wish you well…may you be happy wherever you are now…” What a wonderful way to remember our departed ones! Our relationship with them does not stop just because they have passed on.
There are many ways of radiating metta. You can always experiment and find out which way works for you. Some people find reciting lines too monotonous and that it does not work for them. They might find visualization works better for them. For example, they might visualize or imagine their metta radiating out to beings in the form of a ray of light from their heart. They might imagine the person smiling or being happy; being surrounded by beautiful scenery; or being enveloped in golden light. Whatever works for you is fine. What’s important is to keep the metta going, and to do it in a relaxed and comfortable way. And eventually you will get better and better at it. There’s no substitute for practice. Practice is the key to success.
RADIATE METTA AS YOU GO ABOUT YOUR DAILY LIFE
In everyday life, we can do metta anytime, anywhere, in any posture, whether sitting, walking, lying down, standing, working, eating, driving, etc. All we need to do is to just think the thought, “May all beings be happy”, or “May so and so be happy” or “May all these persons around me be happy.”
When the phone rings you can immediately send the caller a thought of metta, “May this person (whoever it is that is calling) be happy!” And as you pick up the phone, you can continue to wish, “May this person be happy.” And then of course when you speak to the person you give him or her your full attention and goodwill, responding as best as you can. Similarly whenever you make a phone call you can radiate metta to the person just before making the call and even as you are making it or while you are waiting for him to answer the call. The same applies when you hear an SMS message coming in or when you are sending an SMS.
You can be mindful as you open a door, knowing as you stretch out your hand and as your hand touches the door knob and turns it you can wish, “May all beings be happy.” So, too, when you switch on or off a light you can incorporate both mindfulness and metta, mindful as you stretch out your hand and wishing as your finger presses on the switch, “May all beings be happy.”
When you see a picture frame on the wall or shelf, you can wish for the person or persons in the picture that they may be happy. When you see fish in an aquarium you can wish that the fish be happy. (Often I also wish that they may take rebirth as humans in their next life!) When eating food you can while chewing also radiate metta. So, too, when bathing, washing, brushing teeth, sitting on the toilet, stirring a cup of coffee, etc. When somebody is talking to you, you can while listening, just take a few moments to radiate metta to that person.
Whenever somebody comes to your mind in the course of the day you can immediately wish well for the person. As you go about your daily life you can wish well for the people around you. Even when you are standing in a queue in the supermarket, stuck in a traffic jam, waiting at a clinic or somewhere for something, walking along the road, you can radiate metta. You can send your metta to animals – dogs, cats, birds, fish and insects – and spirit beings. When you hear the drone of an aeroplane in the sky you can send metta to the pilot, crew and passengers on board. When you hear an ambulance’s siren you can wish well for somebody who may be injured or seriously ill and the driver and attendant rushing him to the hospital. When you hear the muezzin calling the Muslims to prayer, you can send metta to him. In fact, wherever the sound comes from (e.g. birds chirping, a hawker calling out his ware for sale) you can send metta to the being or beings from whom or where the sound originates.
As your practice progresses you find you have an ever growing list of people to radiate metta to, ranging from those you have known from long ago to those you have just come to know. You find yourself in the habit of sending metta to someone or all beings every now and then throughout the day. Also our practice of metta and mindfulness go together. As you are mindful of the body and mind you also find many moments in between when you are radiating metta. You become more and more ingenious and adept in radiating metta in all kinds of situations and scenarios. Your mind will become more wholesome and happy, filled with both metta and mindfulness. Consequently there will be less space and time for the occurrence of negative and stray thoughts which only zap away your energy in the course of the day.
And when you go to bed at night you continue to radiate metta until you fall asleep. When you wake up in the morning you put on a bright smile and naturally wish well for all beings even as you get up to wash yourself. You are determined to face the day cheerfully and happily with courage and confidence.
It is important to do metta often. The Buddha has spoken of the liberation of the mind through lovingkindness (metta-cetovimutti). Metta is like the moisture. Vipassana (insight meditation) can, in comparison with metta practice, appear rather dry or impersonal; for vipassana is about seeing non-self and ultimate reality; seeing nama-rupa (mentality and materiality/name and form) as being devoid of permanence, durable happiness, and selfhood. Metta is different. It operates in the realm of conventional reality. It connects us with others. It provides a complementing balance and supplement to Vipassana; it’s like moisture and sustenance for the heart, especially when the going is tough. It makes us feel good to wish well for others, especially our loved ones, friends, and benefactors. It is nice simply to bring them to mind and to wish them well.
Metta removes a lot of ill-will, weakens the root of hatred, anger, and aversion. It helps to reduce our anger, annoyance, irritation, impatience, and intolerance, to a great extent. It makes us more warm, friendly, kind and loving. We tend to smile more often. We get along better with others and make more friends. Thus metta is a wonderful supplement to vipassana.
Vipassana is essential for seeing the four noble truths, uprooting the mental defilements, making an end of suffering and realizing Nibbana – the highest peace and happiness that comes with the removal of greed, hatred and delusion, while metta fills our hearts with loving-kindness and goodwill towards all beings.
Metta (loving kindness) is one of the four brahma viharas (divine ways of dwelling). So besides metta, we cultivate compassion, appreciative joy and equanimity at the appropriate occasions, in addition to all the noble values in life.
Briefly, in compassion (karuna) practice we focus on those who are suffering physically or mentally and wish that they may be healed and free from their suffering. We also wish that they may be able to bear up and keep their mind calm and peaceful. Just as in metta practice we keep repeating the relevant phrases. Naturally we can also wish for ourselves to be healed and free from suffering.
For appreciative joy (mudita), keep repeating the phrase, “I rejoice. I am happy, I am grateful” and think of all the many blessings in your life. When you direct your mind towards counting your blessings you’d be surprised at the many things you can find to be grateful and thankful for. Then think of others who are fortunate in one way or another and say, “I rejoice. I am happy for you.” Occasionally you can add, “May what you have not be lost. May you continue to prosper and flourish.”
As for equanimity (upekkha), repeat one or more of the following pharases: “May I be equanimous.” “May I be peaceful.” “May I be calm.” “I am open, balanced and peaceful” “I am accepting, balanced and peaceful.” “I am cool, calm, peaceful, easy, relaxed.” “May I see the rise and fall of things with equanimity.” “May I be at peace with myself and the world.” “May I be equanimous towards the eight worldly conditions.” (The eight are gain and loss, pleasure and pain, praise and blame, and fame and disrepute.)
How fortunate it is for us that we have all these wonderful practices that can help us make a garland of our life. May we live with joy and peace and, with the flowering of lovingkindness, compassion and all the values we hold dear, become a true blessing in the world.
Spirit, courage, gung-ho, a refusal to be cowed, to have faith and confidence in oneself, in one’s goodness, sincerity and integrity, in one’s commitment to live a value-oriented life, certain that one can face all the challenges and difficulties in life and come out all the wiser and stronger – these are the qualities we want to inculcate in our life.
Positive affirmations work on the same principle as metta meditation. You make phrases on what or how you want to be and you keep reciting these phrases to yourself. As you do so you will be programming or conditioning your mind to become what you want to become. You will be etching new and positive neural pathways into your brain. You will become what you think. These repeated affirmations will condition you to take the necessary action to become what you wish to be.
As in metta radiating, positive affirmations can be practised like in formal meditation, sitting down and mentally reciting the phrases to yourself for as long as you like, even a whole hour, until the words are flowing smoothly. When you become absorbed in the recitation, it is very pleasant as the mind falls into a calm and tranquil state.
Besides the formal sitting, you can recite these phrases to yourself anywhere and anytime, even as you are going about your normal daily activities. A combination of formal and casual practice can only strengthen your mental resolve to be what you want to be.
Below are some examples of positive phrases. Of course, it is up to you to compose your own lines, what you find is meaningful and relevant for you.
I have faith and trust in myself and in the process (meaning the process of life one is going through, that one will learn and grow along the way).
I have confidence, strength, and courage to face all the challenges and difficulties in life.
I will live with joy and ease, with a lightness of heart and spirit (not so tense and struggling).
I will not live with worry and anxiety. I will banish negative, oppressive, and unskillful thoughts from my mind.
I will look at my limitations with ease and humour (and not with self hatred. I will also see how I can gradually transcend these limitations).
I will stop reacting with anger.
I am patient, loving, gentle and kind.
I am patient. I can wait. I can tolerate and endure.
I will keep on trying and not give up.
I am tough. I can suffer. I am not afraid of suffering.
I can take a lot of suffering (if I have to).
I have inner strength, poise, and capability.
I will be a good and true friend to all.
I am patient, mindful, and calm.
I am happy and cheerful (not melancholic and depressed).
I am calm, cool, easy, and relaxed.
I will smile and laugh more often.
I will take everything as a challenge and an opportunity for learning and growth.
I will turn vicissitudes and suffering into a blessing. (How then can we find the blessing in suffering? Suffering humbles us, teaches us to be more compassionate and understanding, checks our arrogance and conceit, arouses and develops strength, courage, patience, fortitude, determination, faith, trust, effort, skill and ingenuity in handling the situation. And later we can inspire and benefit others by sharing our struggles and experiences with them.)
I will turn up openhearted for class. (Taking life as a school from which we are always learning new lessons and making new discoveries.)
I will live in the present, not in the past or future.
I am concentrated and focused in everything I do.
I am confident, motivated, and inspired.
I am letting go easily and joyfully.
I am receiving gracefully and gratefully.
May I appreciate all that I have.
I rejoice. I am grateful for all the blessings in my life.
This, too, will pass. I will feel better again.
May I learn to look at myself with the eyes of understanding and compassion.
May I be able to recognize and touch the seeds of joy and happiness in myself.
Of course, you can’t be reciting all those many lines above. You may choose one or two or a few lines which you find meaningful and relevant for your present situation. As and when the need arises, you can select the phrases or themes that are relevant or compose lines that you find most apt for your situation.
Remember happiness is an attitude. We can cultivate a happy, cheerful and positive frame of mind. Then even when things are getting a little or more difficult we find that our cheerful attitude will stand us in good stead. We realize that peace and happiness are more an inner state of mind, that we can choose to be happy no matter what, since the alternative is to be unhappy and miserable which is not an alternative at all for us. Thus we are determined to be happy in all situations. We come to appreciate that in fact there is no way to happiness but happiness itself is the way.
We should measure our success and self-worth by the wisdom we have, by the core values we live by, by what we are inside, by our true heart of love and compassion, by the good that we do, by our accomplishments in life, and not by our material possessions, name, fame, and status. As long as we are trying our best, we should not think poorly of ourselves but think well of ourselves.
“I am only one. But still I am one.
I cannot do everything but still I can do something.
I will not refuse to do the something I can do.”
– Helen Keller
“My will shall shape my future.
Whether I fail or succeed shall be no man’s doing but my own.
I am the force. I can clear any obstacle before me or I can be lost in the maze.
It is my choice, my responsibility.
Win or lose, only I hold the key to my destiny.”
– Elaine Maxwell
"It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul."
– William Ernest Henley
“Be patient with everyone but above all with yourself.
Do not be disheartened with your imperfections but always rise up with fresh courage. There is no better means of attainment to the spiritual life than by continually beginning again and never thinking that you have done enough.”
– St Francis de Sales
WAY TO GO
“I am daily making myself what I am.”
I always remind myself and others that the practice is more on how we respond from moment to moment — how we keep our minds and hearts in a wholesome state for as much of the time as possible, throughout the course of the day and night.
Therefore we make an effort to cultivate the following mind states:
calm, cool, equanimous, peaceful, relaxed, steady, serene, tranquil;
mindful, aware of how the body and mind are in the present moment, how they are reacting and responding;
cheerful, happy, content, grateful, light-hearted, smiling, laughing, having a sense of humour;
kind, loving, compassionate, helpful;
generous, giving, sharing, treating;
tolerant, patient, understanding, forgiving, magnanimous, humble;
confident, courageous, having faith and trust in oneself and in the good teachings;
determined, persistent, resolute, persevering, not giving up;
diligent, hardworking, consistent;
responsible, disciplined, ability to restrain and spur the mind
honest, upright, sincere, having integrity;
focused, concentrated, interested;
wise, seeing the bigger picture,seeing things in perspective, seeing and understanding the five aggregates (body, feeling, perception, mental formations, consciousness), the six sense consciousnesses (seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, thinking), the three marks of existence ( impermanence ,inherent suffering, non-self); and the four noble truths (suffering, cause of suffering, cessation of suffering, and the way leading to the cessation of suffering);
and all other skilful and helpful states of mind and attitudes.
When unskillful or unwholesome states of mind arise such as hatred, anger, sorrow, unhappiness, depression, worry, anxiety, fear, envy, jealousy, miserliness, mental agitation, confusion and delusion, we become aware of them, try to remain calm, and with awareness and wise reflection, we can overcome these unwholesome states and re-instate the wholesome states.
Through directing and conditioning the mind we make it a habit to stay most of the time in a wholesome state, i.e., cheerful, peaceful, mindful, kind, loving, generous, understanding and wise.
WE NEED TO CULTIVATE JOY IN OUR LIFE
Sometimes we think that joy is something that arises spontaneously, that there is nothing or little we can do about it, that it is something solely dependent on external conditions and factors.
How wrong we are!
Joy is something that we can create. We can cultivate joy until we can’t help but being joyful most of the time. We can condition the mind to become habitually cheerful – even in the face of adversity.
How can we do this?
It is simply a matter of attitude and approach. Attitude may seem a little thing but it sure can make a huge difference in our lives.
First we must be resolved upon cultivating joy in our life. We must realize that we need to cultivate a joyful frame of mind, a joyful attitude towards life, that such an attitude can be cultivated and we must start to cultivate it from this day onwards, that is, if we had not already started doing so.
Now, what are the attitudes conducive towards a joyful frame of mind?
For a start, begin with a smile. Cultivate the habit of smiling. Smile. Smile a lot! Smile as you read this. Notice that the moment you smile you immediately feel better. You smile for no other reason than to feel good or better. So the moment you wake up you can smile and wish happiness for yourself (May I be happy!) and for others (May all beings be happy!).
Smile as you walk to the bathroom. Smile as you look into the mirror. And tell yourself: “Here you see the person that is responsible for your life!"
Then take responsibility for your life. Don’t blame others for causing you unhappiness. Don’t let them cause you to become bitter, miserable, grumpy, depressed.
This is a far from perfect world. Many things are not right with it. It is up to you to make your own happiness.
How can you do it?
There are many people you can be kind, friendly and good to. Be as kind to as many people as possible. Make kindness your practice. Make kindness your way of life. Kindness is the way to happiness.
Get into the habit of flashing a smile at others. By smiling you make two persons feel immediately better — yourself and the person you are smiling to.
A smile is a sign of friendliness. It is also an act of kindness. It can cheer up another, put the person at ease, make someone feel better, and wonderfully, even put your ownself in a good frame of mind. And it costs absolutely nothing!
What a shame that a lot of people have forgotten the simple art of smiling! It is such a simple and inexpensive way to creating a pleasant state of mind.
Listen to the songs: “You are never fully dressed without a smile” and “Smile though your heart is aching…” (you can look them up on YouTube) and you will appreciate the value of a smile.
Practise kindness in thoughts (wish well for all), words (speak kind, gentle, comforting, motivating and encouraging words), and deeds (offer a cup of coffee or tea, food, etc; give some of your money, possessions; offer your services; be a good friend, parent, child, sibling, husband, lover, employer,worker, politician, teacher, leader, etc).
When you practise kindness you feel happy. More often than not you receive kindness back which makes you happy. Even when you don’t receive kindness back you are still happy that you were kind.
And at times when you found that you could not be kind, at least you were not unkind. At least you would not hurt or harm anybody. Thus, at the very least you practise non-violence and harmlessness. And you can still send a thought of metta to the person whom you may not feel so well-disposed to.
Relationships can be a source of much happiness or suffering. We are always in relationship with somebody in society. Therefore, try to create happy and harmonious relationships with everybody or with as many people as possible – with your spouse, family members, loved ones, relatives, friends, teachers and anybody who comes into your life.
As regards vexatious people, avoid them as much as you can, because conflicting and suffering causing relationships are toxic and can lead to sickness besides destroying happiness in your life. But if you cannot avoid a difficult and suffering causing person, take special care of your mind. Whenever you encounter that person or think of that person, practise equanimity. Cultivate a mind of detachment and non-expectation so you won’t continue to be hurt by that person.
Don’t allow a negative or difficult person or situation to affect your mood. If you allow yourself to be affected, then you will always be vulnerable, for wherever you go you will find difficult persons and situations.
So tell yourself to stay cool and calm when in the presence of difficult people and situations. Be skillful in how you respond to them. Respond calmly and wisely rather than emotionally and angrily.
Often repeat to yourself the calmness mantra: “Cool, calm, peaceful, easy, relaxed,” and the metta (lovingkindness) mantra: “May all beings be happy! May so and so be happy! May I be happy!”
And when you feel pained or hurt by a person, observe that pain with mindfulness and it will eventually decrease. Exercise wise reflection and learn to let go. Remind yourself to be equanimous and not continue to be pained, hurt or angry.
Take life’s challenges and difficulties in your stride. Consider them all as grist for the mill, something we can learn from and turn into wisdom. They are not all negative. We can find the positive and blessings in them when we learn patience, equanimity, and the wisdom to respond skillfully.
* * *
Cultivate a sense of humour. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Learn to see the lighter side of things and laugh as much as you can. Whenever we smile and laugh the pituitary gland in our brain creates endorphins, the chemical that makes the mind and body feel good. Endorphins are our body’s natural and healthy opiates. They relieve pain and promote happiness.
My kind of humour includes what is called black humour. One of my favourites is “Don’t take life so seriously, for you are never going to get out of it alive!” Another is "Cheer up, the worst is yet to come!" Or “Cheer up! For life is short and soon we will all be dead!”
The way or one of the ways I look at it is like this: When things are going tough, I tell myself, it is okay, I’m already 61 years old. I have lived thus far quite well and happily. I’m satisfied with my life. If I were to die today I would have few regrets. My memories are mostly happy ones. I can find blessings even in my times of suffering. Life has by and large been kind to me. I don’t have all that many years to go now. Knowing how fast time passes, soon I will be dead and it will all be over. I just have to be patient to keep going for the not-so-many remaining years until death comes and then it will all be blissfully over — at least for the person in this life — then it is up to the person who comes after me to carry on from where I last stopped. (Here, being a Buddhist, I’m subscribing to the belief in rebirth.)
It may seem to some a rather bleak way of looking at life, but sometimes when I think of death in this way, I immediately feel lighter and better. It is not so bad. I can carry on.
Thinking of death also helps me to let go in many ways. If I were angry I realised there was no point in my getting angry. It only hurts me and others. It’s better for me to keep my inner peace and stability. Many of the dramas in life seem rather petty and insignificant when one reflects on death. It is easy then to let go and move on.
If I’m attached to my money and possessions and could not give, when I think of death and that I cannot take all that I have with me to my next life except the sum of my good and bad deeds (that is, my karma) I find it easier to let go and give and share whatever I have with others.
When I think of death and the brevity of life, I want to live a meaningful and joyful life. I don’t want to spend my days being depressed, bitter, grumpy, angry, worried and miserable. There's the saying, "Don't sweat the small stuff." And lots of things that happen to us everyday are small stuff. No point getting so worked up over them. Better to let go, to laugh and move on. And even when the big stuff hits us one day we still have to face it with equanimity. That's the time when we need to apply all the wit and wisdom we can muster.
Therefore I cultivate joy and peace. I make it a priority to be at peace with myself and the world. And being cheerful and joyful in my approach to life.
* * *
But here let me emphasize that we are not denying the suffering in life. We have no intention to be flippant or make light of it. In fact, the Buddha proclaimed in his very first noble truth that life is suffering. Yet the Buddha asserted that he was the happiest man in the world!
Why did he say that? Because he had uprooted the craving for sensual pleasures and attachment to anything in the world. He was perfectly content and peaceful. Furthermore, he had great compassion for living beings and from the time of his Awakening at the age of 35 till his death at 80 he taught people the path to happiness.
If we can reduce our craving and attachment, take up meditation to develop inner calm and peace, be kind and compassionate, be content with less and count our blessings, and cultivate all the right values and attitudes in life we can live more joyfully and peacefully.
There is suffering but we know how to respond to it equanimously and cheerfully. We need not become depressed and sad. We can continue to cultivate joy and peace, to practise patience, perseverance, lovingkindness, generosity, courage, confidence, persistence, determination, honesty, integrity and all the beautiful values in life.
And don’t forget the value of a smile!
FROM THE DISCOURSES OF THE BUDDHA:
11 BENEFITS OF METTA
Thus have I heard:
On one occasion the Blessed One was living near Savatthi at Jetavana at Anathapindika's monastery. Then he addressed the monks saying, "Monks." — "Venerable Sir," the monks replied. The Blessed One then spoke as follows:
"Monks, if the liberation of the mind by lovingkindness is developed and cultivated, frequently practised, made one's vehicle and foundation, firmly established, consolidated, and properly undertaken, eleven blessings may be expected. What eleven?
1. One sleeps peacefully.
2. One has no bad dreams.
3. One awakes happily.
4. One is dear to human beings.
5. One is dear to non-human beings.
6. Devas (gods) protect one.
7. Fire, poison, and weapons cannot harm one.
8. One's mind becomes easily concentrated.
9. One's facial complexion is serene.
10. One dies unconfused.
11. If one fails to attain arahantship (the end of rebirth) one will be reborn in the brahma world.
Anguttara Nikaya, 11.
THE SIMILE OF THE SAW
"Bhikkhus, even if bandits were to sever you savagely, limb by limb, with a two-handled saw, he who gave rise to a mind of hate towards them would not be carrying out my teaching. Herein, bhikkhus, you should train thus: 'Our minds will remain unaffected, and we will utter no evil words; we shall abide compassionate for their welfare, with a mind of lovingkindness, without inner hate. We shall abide pervading them with a mind imbued with lovingkindness; and starting with them, we shall abide pervading the all-encompassing world with a mind imbued with lovingkindness, abundant, exalted, immeasurable, without hostility and without ill will.” That is how you should train, bhikkhus.
"Bhikkhus, if you keep this advice on the simile of the saw constantly in mind, do you see any course of speech, trivial or gross, that you could not endure?” - “No, venerable sir.” – “Therefore, bhikkhus, you should keep this advice on the simile of the saw constantly in mind. That will lead to your welfare and happiness for a long time.”
- from the Majjhima Nikaya, Sutta No. 21 (translation by Bhikkhu Nanamoli and Bhikkhu Bodhi)
THE LIBERATION OF THE HEART THROUGH LOVINGKINDNESS
"No other thing do I know, bhikkhus, on account of which unarisen ill will does not arise and arisen ill will is abandoned so much as on account of this: the liberation of the heart by lovingkindness. For one who attends properly to the liberation of the heart by lovingkindness, unarisen ill will does not arise and arisen ill will is abandoned." - Anguttara Nikaya
THE ESCAPE FROM ILL WILL
“Here, friends, a monk might say: ‘When the deliverance of the mind by lovingkindness is developed and cultivated, frequently practised, made one's vehicle and foundation, firmly established, consolidated, and properly undertaken, ill will nevertheless still invades my mind and remains,’ he should be told, ‘Not so. Let the venerable one not say so. Let him not misrepresent the Blessed One. It is not good to misrepresent the Blessed One. The Blessed One would certainly not speak in such a way.’
‘Friends, it is impossible, it cannot happen, that when the liberation of the mind by lovingkindness is developed and cultivated, frequently practised, made one's vehicle and foundation, firmly established, consolidated, and properly undertaken, ill will can invade the mind and remain. For this, friends, is the escape from ill will, namely, the liberation of the mind by lovingkindness.’”
- from the Digha Nikaya, Sutta 33
A DIVINE WAY OF LIVING
“And he should wish: May all beings be happy and safe! May they all have happy minds! Whatever living beings there may be, whether they are frail or strong, without exception, long, large, or middling, short, subtle, or gross, seen or unseen, living near or far, born or coming to birth – may they all be happy!
Let no one deceive another, or despise anyone anywhere. Neither in anger nor ill will should anyone wish harm to another. As a mother would risk her own life to protect her only child, even so towards all living beings one should cultivate a boundless heart of love. Let one develop this boundless heart of love for the whole world – above, below, and across, unobstructed, without hostility and without ill will.
Whether standing, walking, sitting or lying down, or as long as one is awake, one should develop this mindfulness on love – this, indeed, is called a divine way of living.”
– from The Metta Sutta, Sutta Nipata
THE EXCELLENCE OF METTA
"Bhikkhus, whatever kinds of worldly merit there are, all are not worth one sixteenth part of the liberation of the heart by lovingkindness; in shining and beaming and radiance the liberation of the heart by lovingkindness far excels them.
"Just as whatever light there is of stars, all is not worth one sixteenth part of the moon's; in shining and beaming and radiance the moon's light far excels it; and just as in the last month of the Rains, in the Autumn when the heavens are clear, the sun as it climbs the heavens drives all darkness from the sky with its shining and beaming and radiance; and just as, when the night is turning to dawn, the morning star is shining and beaming and radiating; so, too, whatever kinds of worldly merit there are, all are not worth one sixteenth part of the liberation of the heart by lovingkindness; in shining and beaming and radiance the liberation of the heart by lovingkindness far excels them." - Itivuttaka, Sutta 27
EVEN FOR JUST THE DURATION OF A FINGERSNAP
"Bhikkhus, if a bhikkhu cultivates loving-kindness for as long as a fingersnap, he is called a bhikkhu. He is not destitute of jhana meditation, he carries out the Master's teaching, he responds to advice, and he does not eat the country's alms food in vain. So what should be said of those who develop it frequently?"
- Anguttara Nikaya 1:53
“Hatred never ceases through hatred.
Only through love does it cease.
This is an eternal law.”
- Dhammapada 5
INSPIRING STATEMENTS OF OUR TIMES:
WHAT’S YOUR HEART LIKE?
What’s your heart like? That’s what they wanted to know. They brought in someone who had just died. They proceeded to open up her heart. You wouldn’t believe what was there. You wouldn’t believe it – white people, black people, atheists, rich people, poor people, drunkards, prostitutes, priests, politicians, children, judges, baseball players, cranks, and me – even me – how did I get there? Is that what I will be like when I die? When they open my heart, what will they find?
- Father Theophane, Trappist monk
“So many gods, so many creeds,
So many paths that wind and wind,
While just the art of being kind,
Is all this sad world needs.”
- Ella Wheeler Wilcox
“Love is like bread. It has to be made fresh everyday.”
- Author unknown
"I am no longer as inspired by expertise as I once was. Perhaps the worth of any lifetime is measured more in kindness than in competency." - Rachel Naomi Remen
“Devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.”
– Morrie Schwartz
BRIEF INSTRUCTIONS ON THE PRACTICE OF THE OTHER THREE SUBLIME ABIDINGS
Karuna (Compassion) meditation
Narrowing the focus to someone who is suffering, physically and/or mentally, and wish for this person: “May so and so be free from this suffering.” “May he/she be free from this suffering,”
You may also use phrases such as:
“May he be healed.”
(Remember “healing” can refer to both 1. physical healing or cure from a sickness/disease and 2. mental healing in the sense of being free from mental suffering such as depression, bitterness, hatred, anger, worry, anxiety, anguish, fear, etc. A person may be mentally wounded because of some painful or disappointing experiences in life. Thus, the phrase, “May she be healed,” can refer to mental healing.)
“May he recover from this illness.”
“May he recover from this depression.” (Make your own phrases which are relevant for the person concerned.)
“May he be able to bear up/endure/tolerate.”
“May he be calm, peaceful, even cheerful.”
(Whether a person is healed or not, he still has to bear up with the condition.)
You can also think of people who are suffering in various parts of the world, such as in Iraq where people are terrified by suicide bombings), Burma (where people are very poor and oppressed by the military), Africa (where people are starving, being ruled by oppressive and corrupt regimes), China (where some people may be very poor and exploited by being paid low wages and working long hours) and wish that those people may be free from suffering. You can make phrases which are relevant and pertinent to the situation.
You can think of the sick, homeless, handicapped, poor, needy, oppressed, fearful, depressed, unhappy, etc, all over the world and wish they may be helped, may be free from suffering, etc.
You can also make a general statement for all beings, thinking: “May all beings be free from suffering.”
Actually, when you think about it, nobody is free of suffering. Everybody has to bear some suffering in life, some more and some less.
For yourself, you can also wish: “May I be free from suffering.” You can think of whatever suffering you may be having, physically or mentally, and wish that you can be free from that form of suffering. You can also understand this statement in a more general sense – that you want to be liberated from samsara and attain the highest happiness of Nibbana.
Mudita (Appreciative joy) meditation
For yourself: Keep repeating the phrase – “I rejoice. I am happy. I am grateful. I am content,” and think of all the blessings in your life. There are a thousand and one things you can think of and feel happy about. When you start to direct your mind towards counting your blessings you’ll be surprised at how you can find so many things to be grateful and thankful for.
You can be grateful for and rejoice at all the many things that are going right in your life and which you may have been taking for granted. Often times we tend to focus on what is going wrong. But when we change our focus to what is going right, we feel better; we feel that things are not so bad, that actually we have a lot to be grateful and thankful for.
Think of your loved ones – how fortunate you are to have them and to be well-loved, well-supported and well-treated by them.
Think of your friends – the many acts of kindness you have received from them, the friendship and happiness they have given you.
(Sometimes you might have had some negative or unhappy experiences with your loved ones or friends. But here you focus on the positive. You accentuate the positive because you want to bring out the feeling of joy in you through the act of rejoicing over the positive and happy experiences in your life. You do not deny the negative but thinking of the positive helps you to balance your feeling such that you can still find something to rejoice over.)
Think how fortunate and blessed you are to have come across the Buddha’s teachings which are such an indispensable guide for us through the maze of samsara. Without the Buddha’s teachings we’ll be lost and damned. We wouldn’t know how to maintain the mind in a wholesome state and to find our way out of samsara to Nibbana.
Think of all the beautiful and wholesome values, such as lovingkindness, compassion, generosity, wisdom, patience, perseverance, determination, etc, that you now have in you and which you are continuing to cultivate, increase and strengthen. No one can take these values away from you. No matter what, under all circumstances, you can always continue to practise these values.
There are lots to be grateful for: having reasonably good health; having enough for your basic needs – food, lodging, clothing, etc; having a suitable job, career; having certain skills and talents; having intelligence, knowledge; having this precious opportunity now to meditate; having been to places and seen beautiful scenery; etc.
Remember the saying, “If you have no shoes, think of those who have no feet.”
Even when we recollect some suffering in our life, we can look at the positive aspect and rejoice that we have learned something from it, learned how to let go, and how to become a better person. We also realize the need to purify the mind and uproot greed, hatred, and delusion which are the root causes of suffering.
As you recollect all the blessings in your life, keep repeating the phrase, “I rejoice. I am happy.” The repetition of a phrase (like a mantra) is a way of calming and tranquilizing the mind, besides arousing the factor of joy in us.
In addition you can occasionally add the phrases – “May what I have not be lost. May I continue to prosper and flourish.” (Prospering not only in the material sense but also spiritually by increasing the strength of our spiritual values.)
To cultivate Appreciative Joy for others:
Think of somebody and how he is fortunate in this or that way. And keep repeating the phrase: “I am happy. I rejoice for you.” And occasionally add: “May what you have not be lost. May you continue to prosper and flourish.”
People all have their blessings. They are doing well in life in various ways. You can focus on their fortunate aspects.
Say, a person has wealth which is rightly earned or obtained. Instead of being envious or jealous you can be happy for them. The practice of Mudita is to counteract envy and jealous and enable us to rejoice for others. By rejoicing we produce happiness in ourselves and purify our minds from unwholesome envy and jealousy.
Just like you a person has loved ones who love and care for them; they are having good relationships with their loved ones; they have good health; they have sufficient basic requisites (food, lodging, clothing, etc.); they have their talents, skills and abilities; they are doing well in their studies; they have a good job or a successful career; they have a high status in life; they have, most importantly, the Buddha Dhamma or good spiritual teachings as their guide in life; they are progressing well in their spiritual life; they have right attitudes and values that are conducive to happiness; they are loving, kind, generous; etc.
In fact, when you bring a person to mind with a view to finding something to rejoice for them, something fortunate or blessed about them will come to the forefront. Even if a person is having some suffering in his life, there will be some fortunate aspects over which you can rejoice. For example, if a person is sick, he may have loved ones who are caring very well for him, he may be bearing up very well, still maintaining his mental composure, peace and cheerfulness. You can rejoice for him on that account.
Upekkha (Equanimity) Meditation
The following phrases may be used:
“May I be equanimous.”
“May I be peaceful.”
“May I be calm.”
“I am open, accepting, balanced and peaceful.”
“Upekkha, Upekkha, Equanimity, Equanimity.”
“I am cool, calm, peaceful, easy, relaxed.”
“May I be equanimous at the appropriate times.”
“May I see the rise and fall of things with equanimity.”
“May I be equanimous towards the eight worldly conditions.”
“May I walk evenly over the uneven.”
“May I be at peace with myself and the world.”
“All beings are owners of their kamma.”
“We are owners of our kamma.”
“I am owner of my kamma.”
“I am owner of my kamma, heir of my kamma, born of my kamma, related to my kamma, and have kamma as my true refuge.”
Say you pick the phrase, “I am open, accepting, balanced and peaceful,” you keep repeating this phrase over and over again to tranquilize the mind and to imprint the idea and disposition towards openness, balance, and peace in your mind.
What do we mean by openness? This word is open to many interpretations. For me I understand it as being open to all the changes, uncertainties, and ups and downs in life. Whatever happens I want to be open, flexible and adaptable. I want to be mindful and continue to maintain my mental equipoise and composure while responding wisely and skillfully to the situation.
What do we mean by being accepting? Like being open, I understand this word as being accepting of the changes and ups and downs in life. Being open to them and wanting to grow and learn from all of life’s experiences, and work eventually towards the removal of greed, hatred and delusion which are the root causes of suffering. It can also mean to be accepting of one’s limitations, shortcomings and imperfections, not to hate oneself or be too harsh or condemning of oneself, but to be gentle, kind, compassionate and patient with oneself. We are all trying to improve ourselves and become better persons. We have to acknowledge our good qualities. We are already good and are trying to be better. As the saying goes, “I may not be perfect but parts of me are excellent,” or “I may not be perfect but I am pretty good.” And on the lighter side, “I may not be perfect but I am so close, it scary.”
The eight worldly conditions are gain and loss, pleasure and pain, praise and blame, and fame and disrepute. All these come and go according to conditions. We want to practise equanimity in the face of these changing conditions. We don’t want to be attached to the pleasant or averse to the unpleasant. What we want to cultivate is the wisdom to see that these are all impermanent and subject to change. What is important is how we respond to these conditions, how we maintain our mental equipoise and balance and continue to practise our values under all weather conditions.
When things are going right we must remind ourselves that this, too, is impermanent and subject to change. This is not to dampen our happiness but to ready us for unwelcome changes and developments. And when things are going wrong, we can accept the reality (such is life) and we are more concerned with how we respond than being upset with what has gone wrong.
We can also reflect on aging, sickness and death as follows: “All beings are subject to aging, sickness and death. I accept and face all these with equanimity. I will be at peace with them.” As we repeat this phrase, we can also give rise to the thought of wanting to live a meaningful and beautiful life.
Kamma is action. We take responsibility for our actions. Others, too, have to take responsibility for their actions and the consequences, pleasant or unpleasant, they have to bear. Whatever we do we will accept the consequences. We know that good will beget good and bad beget bad. Therefore, on our part, we strive to cultivate the good. And whatever unskillful actions we have done in the past, we can ‘dilute’ or weaken their kammic results by the good that we increasingly do now.
The four brahma-viharas (divine abidings) are important qualities that uplift and ennoble our minds. They are conducive to peace and happiness.
As we keep repeating the relevant phrases we shut out extraneous and negative thoughts. This will bring about a certain tranquility of mind. In addition we are imprinting in our minds the right ideas and attitudes. We are conditioning our mind to become more wise and happy.
In addition to formal meditation, please remember that these practices should be applied in our everyday life. Every now and then as you about your daily life you can think a thought, “May so and so.....may these people around me…..may all beings….or may I be happy.” And for compassion you can wish may you, somebody, or all beings be free from suffering. As for Appreciative Joy you just keep saying now and then “I rejoice. I am happy,” and just think of something, anything, to rejoice over. Like now when I’m typing I can rejoice that I am typing, that I can type and write about this practice which can be of help to both myself and others. I rejoice that I’m making the effort to write all this out. And I’m smiling and feeling happy now as I’m typing this. See, it doesn’t take much to rejoice and feel happy over something. As for equanimity, now and then, you say to yourself “May I be equanimous. May I be peaceful. May I be calm,” to remind yourself to maintain a certain balance of equanimity in your life.
Furthermore, you can also reflect now and then on the teaching of the Buddha, on the four noble truths, the three marks of existence, the five aggregates, the six sense consciousnesses, etc, in such a way as to help you to live well and happily with an understanding and appreciation for our final goal of attaining Nibbana which is the end of all suffering and the realization of the highest peace and happiness.
"Monks, whatever kinds of worldly merit there are, all are not worth one sixteenth part of the liberation of the heart by lovingkindness; in shining and beaming and radiance the liberation of the heart by lovingkindness far excels them."
Itivuttaka, Sutta 27
"Whether standing, walking, sitting or lying down, or as long as one is awake, one should develop this mindfulness on love - this, indeed, is called a divine way of living."