Thursday, December 26, will be the final class in our Beginning Series. Last week we looked at the Hindrances and the Brahma Viharas. The hindrances are the 5 mental states that block or distract our attention of the present moment. They are Desire (greed), Aversion (ill will), restlessness (fear, worry, anxiety), sloth/torpor (sleepiness, laziness, procrastination) and doubt (confusion, indecisiveness). Learning to recognize the presence of a hindrance is the path to liberation. All mindfulness practice is simply this awareness. We can learn to recognize a hindrance by investigating any experience that has the pull of wanting, the pushing away of unwanting, intense emotions, habitual patterns and sense of distrust. Investigating means observing what is actually happening without the identifications, labels and judgement. It means becoming curious about what you think is happening rather than simply believing your thoughts about an experience. Gradually you will be less habitual in your behavior and less impulsive around your actions.
The Brahma Viharas are the counterbalance to the hindrances. They are commonly called the 4 heavenly abodes. They are Lovingkindness, Compassion, Sympathetic or Empathetic Joy and Eqanimity. These are four expressions of the heart. They arise in the present moment in response to experience. It is said that the language of the heart is lovingkindness. When this lovingkindness (or friendliness, kindness, tenderness) meets suffering it shows up as compassion. When this lovingkindness meets the joys and happiness of others it shows up at sympathetic or empathetic joy. When this lovingkindness is present to whatever life brings it shows up as equanimity. We do not need to do anything for the arising of these expressions as they are the natural expression of the heart to life. It is good, however, to cultivate their arising by being willing to allow your friendlier nature to respond to lifes challenges rather than simply hide away. By looking at suffering, sharing in the joy of others and showing up for our lives – we cultivate and strengthen the heart.
With deep bows…
Brahmavihara Practice Phrases
Loving Kindness (Metta)
May I be safe and protected from harm.
May I be happy.
May I be peaceful.
May I be healthy and strong.
May I live with ease.
May I be free from suffering.
May I care about [my] suffering and confusion.
May I respond with mercy and empathy to pain.
May I be filled with compassion
Appreciative Joy (Mudita)
May I appreciate the joy and happiness I experience.
May my happiness and joy increase.
May I be filled with gratitude.
Things are just as they are.
May I be at peace with the conditions of my life.
May I meet the joys and sorrows of life with equanimity.
All beings are responsible for their own actions.
The freedom and happiness of others is dependent on their actions,
not on my wishes for them.
I will care for you, but cannot keep you from suffering.