Welcome to Your Mind (Part II)

(This is part two of a series based upon a workshop I recently presented with a friend of mine. The first entry which is an introduction to meditation and how to perform anapana)

Now we’ll be focusing on a form of meditation called Maitri. Maitri is Sanskrit, though the Pali form of the name, Metta, is also very common, the name roughly means loving-kindness, which isn’t quite right, but it is in the ballpark. Not surprisingly it exists with many subtle variations between schools, sects, and vehicles, but the basic concept is the same. Maitri first appears on the scene in some texts that are dated to around the BCE/CE crossover, and that text claims to the meditation is older, but as a historian I can’t trust that without anything to support that claim.

Taken from Sinfest with loving-kindness http://www.sinfest.net/archive_page.php?comicID=3409

Maitri is basically the meditation of sending out loving-kindness to various people, and the world. There are two schools of thought regarding this; there is the mystical school, and the psychological school. The mystical school believes that this meditation is actually helping people, there is some benefit through the actions of sending out loving-kindness, you are actually doing something external. The psychological school believes it’s all a mental/emotional exercise, but that it trains you to be a better person. I can’t find the quotation, but the Dalai Lama once said something to the effect of “I perform maitri every morning. I don’t know if it helps others, but it helps me become a better person.”

By offering without attachment you loosen your attachments, establish mental stability, and develop compassion. With anapana we mentioned that learning to observe and be non-attached allows you to act on situations, rather than react. By overcoming habitual patterns (such as who we do and more importantly don’t offer good will to) we free ourselves to be able to choose how we respond in a situation, rather than acting the way we’ve been programmed by society, our upbringing, family, and experiences.

This meditation can be performed as a seated meditation or a walking meditation, but it can also be easily stream-lined to perform in public. So when someone shoves against you on the bus, rather than react in annoyance, anger, and shanking, you can take a moment to offer this person maitri, loving-kindness. As you offer more and more maitri you become more compassionate, but also more emotionally and mentally stable, even empathic. It surprises a lot of people who know me that I do maitri as part of my daily practice, considering I hate pretty much everyone, but trust me things are a lot better now that I do (my shanking is at an all time low).

Traditionally in maitri you start by offering loving-kindness to yourself. Unfortunately if you have low self-esteem or self-worth this can make the first offering feel hollow, and really you have to start off this meditation as sincere as possible, the effectiveness and sincere generosity of the beginning of the meditation is crucial for the later stages. So if you don’t think you’re worth this meditation and what it offers, just put your name lower on the list.

The meditation itself is simple, essentially you “summon” various people to you and offer them what are called “the four immeasurables” and you repeat this several times with different people. The four immeasurable are loving-kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity. There are four common phrases associated with this meditation, one for each immeasurable.

May _____ find happiness, and the source of happiness. (Loving-kindness)
May _____ find release from suffering, and release from the source of suffering. (Compassion)
May _____ never be separate from happiness free of suffering. (Joy)
May _____ abide in equanimity free from attachment, passion, and aggression. (Equanimity)

Now when you offer this to people you can offer it as something concrete. If you know what would make them happy you can visualize them receiving that, if you know what would release their suffering you can visualize them receiving that. If you don’t know you can offer them something like the Wish Fulfilling Jewel, a magick object that will become whatever they need. Or maybe you give them a box, knowing that whatever is inside will be what it needs to be.

My personal visualizations when I don’t have something concrete to offer is for loving-kindness I give them a wish fulfilling jewel. For compassion I see cords of slow-draining-stagnant junk being cut from their bodies leaving them free. For joy I see them holding the wish fulfilling jewel and its light is keeping those stagnant cords of suffering at bay. Lastly for equanimity I see them standing waist deep in a pool of water that has no waves.

So the last piece of the puzzle is who’re you gonna call? (Sorry, had to)

To start off with maitri you call upon yourself. See yourself, and offer the four immeasurables as mentioned above, using those phrases.

After you’ve offered to yourself (or skipped yourself because you don’t feel worth it) call upon someone you truly love. Usually the texts say your mother, or your children, but family, lovers, and the best of friends work here. Offer this person the four immeasurables.

Now offer it to someone you like, friends, family you’re not as close to, co-workers, or good neighbours. Give them the four immeasurable.

Next you offer it to someone neutral. That cashier that helped you this morning, the bus driver, that jogger you passed on the way to work. Someone that has no emotional impact to you. Offer them, as sincerely as you can the blessing of the four immeasurables.

This is perhaps the hardest part. Pick someone you dislike, the more you hate them the better. If you think of someone and suddenly think “Oh no, not them!” Yes! Offer it to them, get over your aversion and give them the gifts of this meditation. Getting over the habit of aversion is part of the goal of this meditation. If you honestly can’t think of someone in your life, pick a “bigger” person, a politician or criminal that you know of that’s doing things you really can’t agree with. Offer them, again, as sincerely as you can, the blessing of the four immeasurables.

The final step of maitri is to offer it to everyone you can. Some people visualize the world here, some the galaxy, or a super-cluster, whatever the biggest image of reality you can conjure in your mind is fine, if you can only manage your country, or continent, that’s fine, if you’re hitting solar systems and galaxies and other realms of the Cosmos, all the better. Now offer everyone, everything, everywhere the four immeasurables.

When you’re done take a moment to just rest in that feeling of generousity and kindness. And you’re done.

May _____ find happiness, and the source of happiness. (Loving-kindness)
May _____ find release from suffering, and release from the source of suffering. (Compassion)
May _____ never be separate from happiness free of suffering. (Joy)
May _____ abide in equanimity free from attachment, passion, and aggression. (Equanimity)

Someone you truly love
Someone you like
A neutral person
Someone you dislike

Taken from Sinfest with loving-kindness http://www.sinfest.net/archive_page.php?comicID=3409

Stay tuned, next time we’re jumping forward a thousand years and seeing what Padmasambhava can teach us about meditation.

12 Responses to Welcome to Your Mind (Part II)

  1. Ananael Qaa says:

    This is a good series. Meditation sometimes gets neglected by magical practitioners, and a straightforward guide like this is to my way of thinking quite welcome.

    The one comment that I would make here is that I think it’s a mistake to move on to offering compassion to others if you feel unworthy of it yourself. “Others before self” is as much a violation of the principle of equanimity as “self before others.” What I would advise a student who feels unworthy of compassion themselves to do is work on those feelings first before moving on. In a real sense, I think that if you do not have compassion for yourself it’s difficult if not impossible to genuinely cultivate it for others.

    • Kalagni says:

      Thanks. Like I said in Part I, I just go so irked with constant advice of meditate, but no one says what they mean by it, or what it is.

      I agree that moving yourself down on the list isn’t optimal. In fact it’s a western variation because (apparently) more people in the West suffer from low self-esteem. I’m not sure that I agree that it makes it difficult or impossible to cultivate maitri for others though. I’m thinking of people like mothers who are run down by the world and have many self-issues, but can still devote all their heart to their child/ren.

      While I think self-work and analysis is the better option, I also think that if you can genuinely offer to those who matter to you, then offering to yourself afterwards begins to create a notion of worth.

      • Ananael Qaa says:

        That’s an interesting perspective because according to my Vajrayana teachers, the good thing about Westerners is that they’re logical and they pick up the techniques and methods quickly, but the bad thing is that they think they know everything after practicing for what Easterners would consider a very short time. To me that sounds more like too much self-esteem rather than too little – but it sounds like your teacher has had different experiences with students.

        • Kalagni says:

          Actually same but different. He said this regarding time in America, but I don’t think the rest of the West is that different. “I’ve never understood how people could be so demanding and arrogant, yet at the same time so scared and lacking self-worth.” I think it’s a self-worth issue coupled with the “fast-food” culture (McSangha we joke) of getting exactly what you want when you want.

  2. John says:

    😀 I didn’t know I was practicing maitri. It came naturally from long sessions of anapana/shamatha.😀

    • Kalagni says:

      That’s not horribly surprising. Even a lot of anapana/vipassana groups end with maitri, which initially I was uncomfortable with, but it grew on me.

      • John says:

        There’s something I’d like to ask on email though, something about maitri. Can I ask for your email Kalagni? I think you can see mine. Hehe

        • Kalagni says:

          Sure, it’s blueflamemagick -at- gmail.com (actually that just forwards to my personal email, so the response will come from another address.)

  3. […] Welcome to Your Mind (Part II) (blueflamemagick.wordpress.com) […]

  4. SpiderGoddes says:

    I really love this. I have never done this particular meditation, but I certainly plan to add it to the practice. Thank you.

  5. […] (This is part three of three based upon a workshop I did. The first entry was on anapana. The second entry was on maitri meditation.) […]

  6. […] has continued the Welcome To Your Mind series with entries on metta and jung wa thim rim. The last is a very potent version of the dissolution of the elements that I […]

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