Metta meditation is the cultivation and radiation of intentional friendliness and goodwill. A retreat with Anthony teaches loving-kindness through guided meditations and inspiring instructions. It focuses on healing ourselves and relationships, and developing blissful concentration. The path of loving-kindness brings spiritual renewal by delivering the real, tangible and immediate benefit of genuine happiness – LOVE NOW.
Brahma vihara – Divine abodes
The brahmavihara refer to four virtuous modes of living and the meditation practices used to develop them. They are:
- Metta – loving-kindness,
- Karuna – compassion,
- Mudita – empathetic joy,
- Upekkha – equanimity,
Often translated as the ‘sublime attitudes’, they are also known as the four immeasurables (appamaññā) because they are limitless or boundless. During the retreat we focus on mindful development of loving-kindness (metta bhavana) to develop a deep state of concentration (samatha-jhana-samadhi). The remaining sublime attitudes will be practiced with guided meditations. All divine abodes will be studied to develop a balanced spiritual heart.
Purpose & Benefits of loving-kindness
The purpose of a metta retreat is to promote a fundamental change in our attitudes towards ourselves and the world. The training enhances our outlook on life and improves interactions with other people. Metta is a guiding path and mode of living that brings peace and happiness now. Loving-kindness is a medicine for the heart. It is the bringer of love and light into our lives and the world. It is an authentic living that cures harmful beliefs that limit our expression and enjoyment of life. Conscious practice protects our moral virtue. It blocks wrong actions such as killing, harming and hurtful speech.
Metta is a tool to remove harmful mental states of low self-esteem that hinder a positive outlook. These states cause much suffering to ourselves and those around us. Loving-kindness weakens their strength, lifts the cloud, and frees the mind from living under such states as:
- Self-doubt , self-pity, and self-criticism.
- Anger, hatred, revenge, and grudges.
- Jealousy, envy, resentment, and covetousness.
- Contempt, disrespect, and indifference.
The pali texts include these reasons for practicing metta:
- You will sleep easily and wake easily
- You will have pleasant dreams.
- People, devas and animals will love you.
- Devas will protect you.
- External dangers will not harm you.
- Your face will be radiant and mind serene.
- You will die unconfused.
- You will be reborn in happy realms.
vehicle of Concentration and Insight
The single-minded intention of love is a beautiful object to use as a base for concentration and serenity. As our intention of goodwill becomes stable, the normal internal chatter of thought subsides. The body fills with light and warmth. Awareness with loving-kindness begins to expand. Consciousness becomes great and exalted. The knowing presence grows abundant beyond sense-perception. This samadhi of love and bliss is a divine abode – a home of peace and sublime beauty. The heart experiences a beautiful liberation from the world.
When fully developed, loving-kindness is a vehicle for insight wisdom – vipassana. The mind filled with metta is still a conditioned state. We can contemplate this relatively stable mind-object to see its conditions as impermanent. This experience, as beautiful and blissful as it may be, is still within the conditioned realm. It is still a subtle stress, relative to the unconditioned state, Nibbana. Loving-kindness is a pathway to the impersonal truth of non-self – just as insight is a pathway to universal love. The liberated heart of love expresses the universal truth of voidness and emptiness. Metta is a divine abode and a beautiful vipassana object – to note, to know, and to let go.
Structure and elements of the retreat
The nine-day loving-kindness retreat is comprised of different elements designed to keep the practice of metta as continuous as possible. The sessions of each element performs its own function. Guided sessions and teachings are focused on healing the heart and generating positive attitudes. The meditation sessions are for following the instructions for metta-jhana. The whole retreat is silent except for the chanting and Q & A sessions each day. The five precepts are observed during the retreat to give structure and maintain harmony. The various elements should be studied and practiced as a whole for the best results.
- Daily Schedule
- Moral Virtue
- Sense Restraint
- Right Attitude
- Noble Silence
- Brahmavihara Teachings
- Guided Loving-kindness
- Metta Yoga
- Metta Instructions
- Sitting Metta
- Walking Metta
- Daily Activities
- Chanting Metta
- Q & A Sessions
It is important to strictly follow the retreat schedule, embracing all the different elements. Learn to respect the schedule with a heart continuously generating goodwill and happiness. Notice that experienced meditators know how to use the retreat structure to train the mind. There are 10 hours of loving-kindness trainings daily. This is an intense re-orientation of our attitudes and approach to life. Gain the benefits by participating to the best of your abilities.
|5:00 – 5:30 a.m.||Wake up activities|
|5:30 – 6:15 a.m.||Guided loving-kindness|
|6:15 – 7:00 a.m.||Metta yoga|
|07:00 – 08:30 a.m.||Breakfast / Chores / Bathing|
|8:30 – 9:30 a.m.||Meditation instructions|
|9:30 – 10:15 a.m.||Walking Metta|
|10:15 – 11:00 a.m.||Sitting Metta|
|11:00 – 1:00 p.m.||Lunch / Rest / Open Awareness|
|1:00 – 1:45 p.m.||Sitting Metta|
|1:45 – 02:30 p.m.||Walking Metta|
|2:30 – 4:00 p.m.||Brahmavihara Teaching|
|4:00 – 4:45 p.m.||Mettayoga|
|4:45 – 5:30 p.m.||Sitting Metta|
|5:30 – 7:00 p.m.||Drinks / Interviews / Bathing|
|7:00 – 7:45 p.m.||Chanting / Q&A|
|7:45 – 8:30 p.m.||Sitting Metta|
|8:30 – 9:00 p.m.||Prepare to Sleep|
The development of moral virtue (sila) was taught directly by the Buddha as the foundation for the higher trainings in concentration and wisdom. Loving-kindness helps purify our motivations and cultivate mental attitudes of harmlessness, kindness, sympathy and empathy. These mental states help maintain wholesome bodily and verbal activities – Sila.
During the retreat the five-precepts are chanted each evening. This practice of re-confirming our commitment to goodness increases our self-confidence. It also creates a pleasant and harmonious environment. Recognising the power of moral virtue (sila) as a condition for our happiness is directly experienced by ourselves. Practicing virtue develops moral-shame and fear-of-wrong-doing. These two ‘protectors of the world’ set up a new foundation for our interactions with the world that allow for a peaceful life and a positive outlook.
- I undertake the training rule to refrain from killing any beings.
- I undertake the training rule to refrain from stealing.
- I undertake the training rule to refrain from sexual misconduct.
- I undertake the training rule to refrain from false speech.
- I undertake the training rule to refrain from intoxicants that reduce mindfulness.
On the loving-kindness retreat, sense-restraint means guarding the mind by making sure the welfare of others is foremost in our mind. We practice by directing our intentions towards the benefit of others. We make sure that our involvement and interactions with sense objects – sights, sounds, odours, flavours, and touches – respects other people. We restrain our normally ego-driven desire for sensuality and replace it for concern and care for other beings.
The five-precepts assist in the practice of sense-restraint. It is not recommended to flirt with others. This training is for developing universal love not personal lust. Viewing each other with ‘kindly-eyes’ and smiling good intentions from the heart is the practice.
Having the right attitude towards the training is very important on retreat. While you are patiently following the meditation instructions, check your attitude. Practice must not be for results. Right practice is putting conditions in place – not wishing, wanting, or hoping for results. Sometimes we meditate with too much wanting: wanting to be successful, wanting to ‘get it’, and not wanting to fail. This is wrong attitude. Be open, spacious and relaxed. Check by asking yourself:
- Why are you meditating? What background ideas do you have? Check motivation for practice.
- Do you expect something to automatically change in life? Do not expect any success or failure.
- Do not try to make something special happen. Things will not be the way you think they will.
- When practice is ‘going-well’ – Do not anticipate that something special is going to happen.
- Do not compare your practice with others’, hoping to experience things in the way they have.
- Develop the intention of welfare – not the intention to get the experience of deep samadhi.
- Focus your intentions on the bringing the brahmavihara into your life in a meaningful way.
- Patiently moment-after-moment be nice to yourself and others – don’t worry about results.
Please do not identify with the brahmavihara or the metta samadhi. These are not personal accomplishments of the ego. They are states free from self. They manifest naturally as we let go. Drop the idea that ‘I am meditating’. Do not be the meditator. There is no meditator meditating. The sublime attitudes are developing through conditions. This is the right attitude.
Noble silence is extremely helpful for a successful nine-day retreat. It helps determine the outcome of your meditation progress. Do not talk to anyone! Silence is needed to break the mind’s verbalising habits and patterns. Verbal speech is rooted in thought. Real silence is the silence of thought. Giving-up the habit of commenting over a long period is very effective for calming the mind. It is important that the meditation is not disrupted by chatter. Try not to get caught in conversations in your mind. The madness of thought is normally hidden (but sometimes exposed!) by our talking. Reading and writing are also discouraged during the retreat. Silence allows us to be more mindful, detached, and still. Use the intentional structure of the mind to generate loving-kindness not words! Conversations distract us from single-mindedness. This practice of noble silence is for everyone’s benefit.
Brahma vihara teachings
Each afternoon through lectures and discussions we examine the sublime attitudes and their practical application. The teachings focus on healing ourselves and relationships to produce real-life, concrete outcomes. Negative habits and patterns of identification with mind states is outlined. Once we understand how the mind is conditioned and constructed, the work begins. Consciously developing positive mind states is a training and practice.
Mental states associated with each brahmavihara are examined and deliberately cultivated. For example: contentment, patience, gratitude, forgiveness, and empathy are discussed. Their importance, causes and benefits are outlined as a tangible pathway to transformation and evolution. This knowledge leads to happiness in the here-and-now. These teachings on the sublime attitudes give the background understanding of the suffering of an uncultivated heart. They open the possibility of freedom through active replacement with positive attitudes.
The retreat day begins with a guided loving-kindness meditation. Anthony leads the sessions in this methodical practice. The session starts by radiating metta to ourselves. Time is taken to establish the heart in self-love and acceptance. It sets the tone for the day and is a beautiful practice both on-and-off the retreat. This is a wonderful routine to establish for practice in daily-life. Self-love is important, as much suffering arises through distorted images of ourselves.
The practice then proceeds by spreading intentions of loving-kindness to selected groups of people:
- Ourselves – self-love and acceptance.
- Parents & Teachers – gratitude and respect.
- Loved Ones & Friends – empathy and joy.
- Disliked People – forgiveness and letting go.
- Other Retreatants – friendliness and compassion.
This guided practice is for healing and developing healthy attitudes. The training is to overcome limiting beliefs and traumatic experiences. Broken relationships with loved ones can be restored through metta. Troubling relations with difficult people may be eased or even alleviated. Loving-kindness is an attitude we use to change our perception, not to ‘fix’ others. By focusing our love on the person, not on their behaviour ,we learn to forgive and let go of grudges. Letting go of harmful looping patterns in the mind, especially hatred, gives renewal and resolution.
Metta yoga is a mindful heart-based yoga that uses traditional asana postures. The aim is to generate and fill the body with loving-kindness. By activating awareness of the whole body in the different postures, we remain deeply internalised. We continuously suffuse and spread intentions of love throughout the body. The asana routine includes a standing-series, sitting-series, and a lying-down-series.
The mettayoga practice prepares the mind for deeper states of meditation by tranquillising and centring the mind. It relaxes and energises the body while maintaining awareness in the-thought-of- love. This unique practice of mettayoga is practiced twice daily, giving a heart-changing experience of an ancient spiritual tradition.
The technique of developing metta-samadhi is explained during the daily meditation instruction sessions. Detailed instructions on developing metta bhavana (samatha-jhana) are given. The directions are systematic and methodical. This is a training in centring the mind and bringing it to one-pointedness. The instructions include the initial use of mantra recitation to remove distractions. Procedures for radiating loving-kindness to various groups and in different directions are given. The method for generating and maintaining the metta-nimitta or mental-concept-of-love is explained. The metta-nimita is the key for developing states of powerful concentration that fill the expanded mind with light and love.
The cultivation of the four-iddhipada (bases-of-success) is an important requirement for concentration practice. These are described in detail. Fluency of entering and exiting the jhana is also explained. Metta-jhana-samadhi takes the heart to a place of openness, bliss and expansive liberation. During the practice, intense ecstasy and rapture gives way to a tranquillity and pleasure that overwhelms the mind for many hours with gratitude for the whole world.
Sitting And Walking metta
The silent sitting and walking meditation sessions are 45-minutes long. During these periods we practice developing one-pointedness of mind on the thought-of-love (metta) to the exclusion of all other objects. Whilst seated in the cross-legged position, or on a chair, we generate and radiate love to all living beings. The continuous centring of metta in the heart is directed towards all beings. As the practice develops, the singleness of the metta mind becomes still and stabilises. Concentration deepens and the heart expands – revelling beauty, bliss, love, and light.
Mindfulness of loving-kindness is practiced in the four major postures of standing, walking, sitting, and lying-down. However our focus is not on the whole body posture or the feet during the walking or standing meditation sessions. Rather, we maintain our practice by carefully nurturing the metta-nimitta. The walking and sitting sessions function together allowing the mind to grow quiet on a single object. This is samatha or calm-abiding meditation.
During the breaks for breakfast, lunch and drinks our focus is on friendliness in our immediate environment. These periods allow us to practice spreading thoughts towards people directly around us. This practice adjusts our default settings of judging and internally commenting on our people’s behaviour or actions. Non-reaction and spreading positive vibrations is very useful as a daily-life practice. By learning to become equanimous and not reacting in our normal way, we let go of suffering. It is powerful in transforming our lives. But it does take time to re-orientate a lifetime of unaware behaviours. This is a practice of actively replacing and changing the patterns of the mind. Radiating love to each other creates a very beautiful experience for everyone on the retreat.
The Karaniya Metta is one of the protective chants performed by monks and nuns throughout the Buddhist world. During the evening chanting sessions we learn to chant this text in Pali and English translation. We examine the meaning of the text and how to practice it. Exploring the metta discourse of the Buddha is a heart-inspiring experience. There are many types of loving-kindness meditation. This is how the Buddha directly taught us to practice. You will leave the retreat with this beautiful practice in your heart – connecting you with the ancient roots on the teaching of loving-kindness.
Q & A Sessions
In the evening after chanting there is a short question & answer session. Short written questions on topics relating to the practice are answered by Anthony for the benefit of all retreatants. These sessions are to clear doubt about the training and remove any blockages that may have arisen. Preference is given to practical and technical questions.