A Metta Prayer composed by Maylie Scott

Metta prayers can consist of any number of different desires and sentiments. I encourage you to read those written by others, as you strive to develop your own personal metta prayer. Last week we reviewed one based upon the work of Thích Nhất Hạnh. This week we’ll look at a metta prayer composed by Maylie Scott. Maylie Scott was a Zen Buddhist priest and social worker who was passionate about social justice. Prior to her death, she devoted much of her time assisting those in prisons and homeless shelters throughout California.  She wrote this metta prayer in 1994:

This is what should be accomplished by the one who is wise,

May I be well, loving, and peaceful. May all beings be well, loving, and peaceful.

May I be at ease in my body, feeling the ground beneath my seat and feet, letting my back be long and straight, enjoying breath as it rises and falls and rises.

May I know and be intimate with body mind, whatever its feeling or mood, calm or agitated, tired or energetic, irritated or friendly.

Breathing in and out, in and out, aware, moment by moment, of the risings and passings.

May I be attentive and gentle towards my own discomfort and suffering.

May I be attentive and grateful for my own joy and well-being.

May I move towards others freely and with openness.

May I receive others with sympathy and understanding.

May I move towards the suffering of others with peaceful and attentive confidence.

May I recall the Bodhisattva of compassion; her 1,000 hands, her instant readiness for action. Each hand with an eye in it, the instinctive knowing what to do.

May I continually cultivate the ground of peace for myself and others and persist, mindful and dedicated to this work, independent of results.

May I know that my peace and the world’s peace are not separate; that our peace in the world is a result of our work for justice.

May all beings be well, happy, and peaceful.

Disclaimer: This blog is not designed to diagnose, treat, or prevent illnesses or trauma, and Dr. Emick is not responsible for your use of this educational material or its consequences. Furthermore, reading this blog does not create a doctor-patient relationship. The information contained within this blog is not intended to dictate what constitutes reasonable, appropriate, or best care for any given physical or behavioral health issue, nor does it take into account the unique circumstances that define the health issues of the reader. If you have questions about the diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of a condition or illness, you should consult your personal health care professional. As always, consult with your personal health care professional before beginning or changing any fitness or nutrition program to make sure that it is appropriate for your needs. Dr. Emick reserves the right to modify her positions on a subject based upon new research or data as it presents.

 

 

My Favorite Metta Meditation

Last week we focused on creating a Metta to help you to begin to love and accept yourself. This week we’re going to cast our nets a whole lot wider and try to truly embrace the benefits of Metta meditation. In addition to blessing yourself, you will then bless others you know, followed by all sentient beings. That’s a lot to take on. Where to start?

My favorite Metta meditation is adapted from No Mud, No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering, by Thich Nhat Hanh. It’s a lot longer than the one we practiced last week, and a lot harder to truly mean it as you say it. So, how do you go from a basic Metta meditation to honestly and fully embracing this meditation? It takes work, dealing with your own emotions and shortcomings. True confession: some days it is easier for me to say it and mean it than others. Again, that’s OK. On those days when it’s not that easy, it’s time to do some self-reflection, some soul searching. Why is it hard today? Am I angry with myself? With others?  With the entire world?  Why?

Let’s give it a try.

May I be peaceful, happy, and light in body and spirit.
May s/he be peaceful, happy, and light in body and spirit.
May s/he be peaceful, happy, and light in body and spirit.
May s/he be peaceful, happy, and light in body and spirit.
May s/he be peaceful, happy, and light in body and spirit.
May they be peaceful, happy, and light in body and spirit.

May I be safe and free from injury.
May s/he be safe and free from injury.
May s/he be safe and free from injury.
May s/he be safe and free from injury.
May s/he be safe and free from injury.
May they be safe and free from injury.

May I be free from anger, afflictions, fear, and anxiety.
May s/he be free from anger, afflictions, fear, and anxiety.
May s/he be free from anger, afflictions, fear, and anxiety.
May s/he be free from anger, afflictions, fear, and anxiety.
May s/he be free from anger, afflictions, fear, and anxiety.
May they be free from anger, afflictions, fear, and anxiety.

May I learn to look at myself with the eyes of understanding and love.
May I learn to look at him/her with the eyes of understanding and love.
May I learn to look at him/her with the eyes of understanding and love.
May I learn to look at him/her with the eyes of understanding and love.
May I learn to look at him/her with the eyes of understanding and love.
May I learn to look at them with the eyes of understanding and love.

May I be able to recognize and touch the seeds of joy and happiness in myself.
May I be able to recognize and touch the seeds of joy and happiness in him/ her.
May I be able to recognize and touch the seeds of joy and happiness in him/ her.
May I be able to recognize and touch the seeds of joy and happiness in him/ her.
May I be able to recognize and touch the seeds of joy and happiness in him/ her.
May I be able to recognize and touch the seeds of joy and happiness in them.

May I learn to identify and see the sources of anger, craving, and delusion in myself.
May I learn to identify and see the sources of anger, craving, and delusion in him/her.
May I learn to identify and see the sources of anger, craving, and delusion in him/her.
May I learn to identify and see the sources of anger, craving, and delusion in him/her.
May I learn to identify and see the sources of anger, craving, and delusion in him/her.
May I learn to identify and see the sources of anger, craving, and delusion in them.

May I know how to nourish the seeds of joy in myself every day.
May I know how to nourish the seeds of joy in him/her every day.
May I know how to nourish the seeds of joy in him/her every day.
May I know how to nourish the seeds of joy in him/her every day.
May I know how to nourish the seeds of joy in him/her every day.
May I know how to nourish the seeds of joy in them every day.

May I be able to live fresh, solid, and free.
May s/he be able to live fresh, solid, and free.
May s/he be able to live fresh, solid, and free.
May s/he be able to live fresh, solid, and free.
May s/he be able to live fresh, solid, and free.
May they be able to live fresh, solid, and free.

May I be free from attachment and aversion, but not be indifferent.
May s/he be free from attachment and aversion, but not be indifferent.
May s/he be free from attachment and aversion, but not be indifferent.
May s/he be free from attachment and aversion, but not be indifferent.
May s/he be free from attachment and aversion, but not be indifferent.
May they be free from attachment and aversion, but not be indifferent.

I do wish this for each and every one of you. ‘Til next week.

Disclaimer: This blog is not designed to diagnose, treat, or prevent illnesses or trauma, and Dr. Emick is not responsible for your use of this educational material or its consequences. Furthermore, reading this blog does not create a doctor-patient relationship. The information contained within this blog is not intended to dictate what constitutes reasonable, appropriate, or best care for any given physical or behavioral health issue, nor does it take into account the unique circumstances that define the health issues of the reader. If you have questions about the diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of a condition or illness, you should consult your personal health care professional. As always, consult with your personal health care professional before beginning or changing any fitness or nutrition program to make sure that it is appropriate for your needs. Dr. Emick reserves the right to modify her positions on a subject based upon new research or data as it presents.

 

 

 

Metta Meditation

In the past several weeks we’ve reviewed both focus centered (Samatha) and open monitoring (Vipassana) mindfulness practices. This week, let’s spend some time with acceptance and loving kindness meditation techniques (Metta).

Always, but especially during these tumultuous times, it is critical that you come to accept and love yourself and those around you. In your practice of Metta meditation (also known as loving kindness meditation), you will be actively directing your meditation to evoke love and kindness, first towards yourself, and then toward others. When you first begin this practice, you may discover that you don’t particlarly like yourself, or the others on whom you are focusing. That’s OK. Like all meditation practices, Metta takes time to learn and benefit from.

Thích Nhất Hạnh tells a story in which he learned that a twelve year old girl, one of many “boat people” from Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines, was raped by a Thai sea pirate, jumped into the ocean and drowned. He admitted that, when he first learned of the event, he was angry at the pirate, as most of us would be. However, as he reflected on the news, he was able to see that both were the girl and the sea pirate were victims. You see, many of the sea pirates are themselves born into poverty, unwanted and unloved. Without ever having felt loved or valued, they do not know how to love or value others. They are born into a survival of the fittest mindset, and that is the lifestyle they maintain. Did his meditation encourage Thích Nhất Hạnh to accept the pirate’s behavior? Of course not. However, it did allow him to look beyond the behavior and see the person that was the pirate. That’s your goal for Metta mediation. See yourself, see the other person, and love and accept, without necessarily condoning the behavior. We are all wounded. We are all broken. We are all human. Try to see the human, not just the behavior.

The first few times you practice Metta, focus only on yourself. Keep it simple. As always, get into a comfortable position, relax, and prepare for your meditation. As for what to say, keep it simple for now. Try something like:

May I be well

May I be happy

May I be safe

May I be at peace

Say this four or five times, and then just relax and give yourself some time to take it all in. As you become more proficient, we’ll add others to your meditation as well.

 

This blog is not designed to diagnose, treat, or prevent illnesses or trauma, and Dr. Emick is not responsible for your use of this educational material or its consequences. Furthermore, reading this blog does not create a doctor-patient relationship. The information contained within this blog is not intended to dictate what constitutes reasonable, appropriate, or best care for any given physical or behavioral health issue, nor does it take into account the unique circumstances that define the health issues of the reader. If you have questions about the diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of a condition or illness, you should consult your personal health care professional. As always, consult with your personal health care professional before beginning or changing any fitness or nutrition program to make sure that it is appropriate for your needs. Dr. Emick reserves the right to modify her positions on a subject based upon new research or data as it presents.

 

The Neuropsychological Benefits of Meditation

If you’ve been following along the past several weeks, you may find yourself frustrated. Perhaps even thinking, if this is so hard, why am I doing it? Let’s take a break from the actual practice of meditation and review some of the research regarding some of the benefits it may have for you.

The majority of studies involving the neurologic effects of meditation have been conducted using mindfulness-based programs (Samatha). That’s because it’s a lot easier and quicker to teach. As you will recall, Vipassana is a life-long journey while Samatha can have immediate effects. That’s not to say that Vipassana does not have an impact on brain structure. It’s just harder to find a large enough subject group of seasoned Vipassana meditators to study, or to wait long enough for subjects to become proficient in Vipassana meditation. I’m going to highlight two researchers in the area as a push for you to do your own research. I promise, it’s fascinating.

Sara Lazar, Ph.D. at Harvard University (https://scholar.harvard.edu/sara_lazar/) initially conducted a study looking at the differences between the brains of individuals who had been meditating for a long time and individuals who had not meditated at all. Results revealed that the seasoned meditators had more gray matter in the insula and sensory regions of the brain, as well as in the auditory and sensory cortices. They also had more gray matter in the frontal cortex and, the 50-years-old meditators had the same amount of gray matter in the prefrontal cortex as did 25-years-olds. This was striking in that the prefrontal cortex is known to shrink with age. While the results were significant, there was no evidence that the seasoned meditators did not have increased volumes in those brain areas prior to practicing meditation.

Dr. Lazar then conducted a second study, in which none of the subjects had ever meditated before. Brain volumes were measured at the beginning of the study and again at the end. Subjects were divided into one of two groups. One group was enrolled in an eight week mindfulness-based stress reduction program and the other was not. Those in the stress reduction program also practiced meditation at home for an average of 27 minutes a day during the eight week study. After those eight weeks, differences in brain volume were revealed in five different regions of the brain in the group that was enrolled in the mindfulness-based stress reduction program.

Brain Area

Type of Change

Function

Posterior cingulate

Increase

Focus, self-reference

Left hippocampus

Increase

Cognition, memory, emotional regulation

Temporo-parietal junction

Increase

Perspective taking, empathy compassion

Pons

Increase

Neuroregulation

Amygdala

Decrease

Fight/flight, anxiety, fear, stress

Fadel Zeidan, Ph.D. and his group at the University of San Diego (https://www.zeidanlab.com/) have found similar neurological changes as a result of mindfulness-based meditation. They also took it a step further and discovered a 22% reduction in anxiety after only 20 minutes of mindfulness-based meditation by first time meditators!

Dr. Jud Brewer (https://drjud.com/about/) has studied both Samatha and Vipassana meditators. Again, his results support those of Drs. Lazar and Zeidan.

Dr. Ronald D. Siegel, in conjunction with The Great Courses, has created a lecture series entitled The Science of Mindfulness: A Research-Based Path to Well-being. It’s a great place to start your scientific review of mindfulness.

Whether you look at it from a spiritual, psychological, or neurological angle, meditation works, and I encourage you to try it.

 

This blog is not designed to diagnose, treat, or prevent illnesses or trauma, and Dr. Emick is not responsible for your use of this educational material or its consequences. Furthermore, reading this blog does not create a doctor-patient relationship. The information contained within this blog is not intended to dictate what constitutes reasonable, appropriate, or best care for any given physical or behavioral health issue, nor does it take into account the unique circumstances that define the health issues of the reader. If you have questions about the diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of a condition or illness, you should consult your personal health care professional. As always, consult with your personal health care professional before beginning or changing any fitness or nutrition program to make sure that it is appropriate for your needs. Dr. Emick reserves the right to modify her positions on a subject based upon new research or data as it presents.

 

Vipassana Meditation

Last week we looked at Samatha meditation. This week we’ll review Vipassana meditation and how it differs from Samatha meditation. As you will recall, Samatha meditation focuses on calming the mind, whereas Vipassana meditation focuses on clearing the mind and developing insight. The goal of Vipassana is not meant to bring about immediate change or alteration, but simply to gain better understanding and awareness. That’s not to say that no changes or alterations occur through Vipassana meditation. In fact, quite the opposite. With continued Vipassana meditation your entire world view changes. You are better able to accurately view and interpret situations while remaining emotionally separate from them. You are better able to see how your views and emotions affect and skew your interpretations of situations. You are better able to accept realityfor what it is, rather than frantically trying to change or rage against it. You are better able to just be. Unlike in Samatha meditation, in which your frontal lobes may remain engaged to an extent as you focus on or even count your breaths, in Vipassana meditation you learn to turn those frontal lobes off, if you will, so that you can go inward, to the very depths of your inner being. As you might imagine, Vippasana meditation is harder to do.

Wait…. meditation has something to do with neurology and vice versa? You betcha. Now, normally I spare you from my obsession with the brain and how it influences human behavior, but every once in awhile you have to pay the toll. Actually, I just realized that next week is the first of the month. Let’s change that to your rent is due!

This blog is not designed to diagnose, treat, or prevent illnesses or trauma, and Dr. Emick is not responsible for your use of this educational material or its consequences. Furthermore, reading this blog does not create a doctor-patient relationship. The information contained within this blog is not intended to dictate what constitutes reasonable, appropriate, or best care for any given physical or behavioral health issue, nor does it take into account the unique circumstances that define the health issues of the reader. If you have questions about the diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of a condition or illness, you should consult your personal health care professional. As always, consult with your personal health care professional before beginning or changing any fitness or nutrition program to make sure that it is appropriate for your needs. Dr. Emick reserves the right to modify her positions on a subject based upon new research or data as it presents.

 

Samatha Meditation

By now I’m sure you’ve completed Dr. Muesse’s lecture series and have the foundations of meditation down pat. But did you know that there is more than one form of meditation? The oldest documented form of meditation, as discussed in Buddhist essays, is called dhyāna in Sanskrit and jhāna in Pāḷi. It is described as the process of detaching the mind from learned, automatic responses to stimuli, thereby creating a simultaneous state of perfect composure and consciousness. From this tradition, it is believed that Vipassana and Samatha meditation evolved, and even more forms of meditation have developed as offshoots of them. For now, were going to focus on these two core traditions. In brief, Samatha meditation focuses on calming the mind, whereas Vipassana meditation focuses on clearing the mind and developing insight. Both are valuable skills to learn. However, your personal goals will determine which you choose to utilize at any given time.

Let’s look at Samatha meditation first, as it’s the form with which most Americans are familiar. In Samatha meditation, one attempts to quiet the mind by focusing on one specific concept. Most of us are introduced to Samatha meditation by being told to focus on our breath. In doing so, even for a short period of time, we can calm the mind, the body, ourselves. Samatha meditation can assist us to better focus as well. It is one of the many tools recommended to immediately calm anxiety, quiet the mind and focus. If this is your goal, then Samatha meditation is right for you. Keep in mind, while Samatha meditation can assist you to calm your mind by focusing on something else; it may not assist you to develop an inherent, ever present inner peace. That’s where Vipassana mediation comes in. We’ll discuss it next week.

 

This blog is not designed to diagnose, treat, or prevent illnesses or trauma, and Dr. Emick is not responsible for your use of this educational material or its consequences. Furthermore, reading this blog does not create a doctor-patient relationship. The information contained within this blog is not intended to dictate what constitutes reasonable, appropriate, or best care for any given physical or behavioral health issue, nor does it take into account the unique circumstances that define the health issues of the reader. If you have questions about the diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of a condition or illness, you should consult your personal health care professional. As always, consult with your personal health care professional before beginning or changing any fitness or nutrition program to make sure that it is appropriate for your needs. Dr. Emick reserves the right to modify her positions on a subject based upon new research or data as it presents.