Metta meditation, so-called loving-kindness meditation, is very powerful to make better friends with yourself and others. Basically you send well wishes towards yourself and others by repeating loving-kindness phrases such as may I (you) be well, happy and peaceful. I know it sounds cheesy but it really is a wonderful practice when all those bit$hy judgy voice is going on over and over in the head.
There are many ways to do this practice. I recommend the book Lovingkindness by Sharon Salzberg to learn more about it. There are classically 6 categories of beings that you send well wishes to: self, teacher, friend or family, stranger, difficult person, and all beings. In the Buddhist scripture, there are 2 categories: self and all beings. Practicing with the classic 6 categories is a great place to start.
Anyways, I live in New York City and commute by subway everyday. This is just a funny way to keep going with the practice outside of formal sitting practice:
- Count the number of stations I have to get to. (42nd St to 66th St on 1 train would be 3 stations)
- I send well wishes to different categories in between stations. (42nd-50th is self, 50th-59th is friend, 59th-66th is all beings)
- Don’t miss the stop!
If I have to go up to 6 stations, that’s great! If more? I sandwich with quick mindfulness of breath to start and end. So that’s 8 stations!!! Wow. That’s Queensboro Plaza to Canal St on N train… Sounds good to me.
When I started to mediate, I just stuck with mindfulness of breath for a while. I dance, and the awareness of body has been very very familiar part of my life for a long time. I still take ballet classes, PT (physical therapy) exercises, yoga, pilates… daily to stay in shape for the show. Concentration is one of many things people get out of these intense physical training as well as discipline. And when I’m dancing in class or on stage, the music and everyone around really come together. It’s a wonderful state of mind. And I see it in other dancers too… just being there in the present moment. It really moves me.
And one day in ballet class I realized how silly we all look. All of us, grown-ups, just dedicating to bending knees and stretching legs. Also I realized how sweet and wonderful that is. It’s the same thing in yoga classes or meditation classes. All of us made time and came to do whatever it is together. When I realized that, my daily meditation practice slowly sifted to metta (loving-kindness) practice. I no longer felt repeating the phrases like a chore or silly woowoo wishes. I genuinely felt the wishes to be well for myself and the others. I still do practice mindfulness but the thought I had, “hmmm, I’m just gonna stick with the breath for now,” really faded away.
May all beings everywhere be well, happy, and peaceful…
It is important to go to a bit more concentrated meditation environment once in a while. The first and last time I went on a week retreat was last summer. With the show schedule 8 shows a week, I’m not be able to do that for a while. I’m trying to come up with some creative idea to sit a little longer.
My fiancé and pup went away for a few days and I had a day off to myself. It’s been 7 weeks since Miss Saigon opened. I wasn’t going to do much and enjoy just chilling out for a day without a plan.
I happened to take 10 AM class at MNDFL , which led me to take another at 11 AM, then noon… the same teacher was teaching for those three classes and told me that she was teaching another three in Williamsburg. I don’t think she was telling me to come but I said ok I’ll see you there. I ate and did a little yoga, and headed to three more classes.
In the end, I sat around 4 hours that day. That’s pretty good to me. The midday sit is usually hardest… I just fall asleep lol There was moments of that too but over all the momentum that was building up that allowed me to just be with whatever arising was fun to see.
And there comes another day, I can’t even count the breath up to 10. Haha.
The one thing I learned through mindfulness is that I’m not going to stop thinking. The mind thinking is as natural as my body breathing. I guess trying to stop thinking is like trying to stop breathing…. not smart lol My teacher would say if you can stop thinking you are either dead or enlightened.
It becomes a bit problematic when I get hooked into the inner narrative/ story I tell myself. So I come back to the body sensation of breaths because it’s always there whether I like it or not, which really means that breathing is happening in the present moment. For the thinking mind, maybe I don’t have to push it away but just watch it as I can observe breathing…… sometimes.
I practiced at home alone for more than a year before I started to go to group sittings. Good two years until I found this wonderful home MNDFL where I got certified as a meditation teacher.
Putting that aside, it is a wonderful place to practice with other people who has similar interests without any dogmatic religious teachings. I still practice at home alone daily, but going to MNDFL is very important part of my practice. Having teachers in person who came from different traditions and can answer questions on the spot is amazing. Also with hearing other people’s experience through meditation makes me feel I’m not alone.
Don’t get me wrong. There are tons of amazing groups/places in the city for meditation. But MNDFL offers so many teachers from different lineages in one place through out the day and week. What a great gate way to start the journey. I’d say you may wanna find out yourself why you would take a meditation class!
I don’t want to make this blog all about Buddhism and religious stuff, but I must say it’s hard to separate:
1. I grew up watching monks visiting home and going to temples in Japan so I don’t mind the religious aspects of it.
2. Mindfulness came from Buddhist tradition although what’s taught here is usually secular version of it.
3. A little mystic, magical, rainbow, unicorn, woo-woo in life wouldn’t hurt anyone.
So the three schools of Buddhism are Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana. I talked about Zen(Mahayana) and Tibetan(Vajrayana) because that was a part of my earlier journey meditating in NYC. Theravada Buddhism is called the oldest one. Again and again, with my micro knowledge, they go back to original teaching of Buddha in the Pāli Cannon (scripture). In the US it is also known as Insight or Vipassanā. Those who brought the big part of mindfulness practice back to the west are in this tradition, Sharon Salzberg, Joseph Goldstein, Jack Kornfield… so yeah.
Actually I practice and research a lot on this tradition now, because those people have written great books on mindfulness and loving-kindness. It gives me a nice guideline to practice and teach mindfulness. Also I listen to the podcast created by Dharma Punx. It’s mixture of Buddhism and neuron science, making the teaching very relatable to daily life.
I will write about different wisdom traditions too but the bottom line is….. it’s all the same shit in a very positive and wonderful way. There are so many similarities with different emphasizes. One may suit someone better in some ways, but really it’s all very good is what I want to say.