Subject of the Month ~ Nov 2017 Maitri and Tonglen Practice

Practices in Yoga and Buddhism have been used for thousands of years to stabilize reactive thought patterns so that we are better equipped to deal with life when times are difficult. Why are these so useful now? The human mind processes information in a way that amplifies the effect of anything we perceive as a threat to our well-being, and also prioritizes input that supports the viewpoint we have already established. With the continual reactionary feed of news and social media in the electronic age, it is easy for our nervous system to get looped in a high stress state of alarm, with its resulting overwhelm, irritability and energy depletion. This month we will explore one way toward balancing our emotional and mental states so we can stay informed, involved, and appreciative, without feeling constantly stressed out.

The essential practices of Maitri (Loving Kindness) and Tonglen (Giving and Taking)  establish steady ground in us by instilling clear-seeing, gratitude, and compassion. In recognizing that our suffering in all its guises is only alleviated when we reach beyond our own concerns, these practices align our intention with the greatest good and allow us to see all the places we do have enough. In these meditations, we touch our own humanity at its depth of love and of fear to understand and connect to what others are experiencing. The connection is not made (as we usually do) by assuming that we know another’s experience by relating it to our own, but rather by connecting at the level of equanimity, that all humans have the same basic needs and wants and by starting from there.

In removing the separation caused by our pre-conceived notions, we become less likely to diminish and judge another person due to the problems brought on by their unique set of circumstances that we couldn’t begin to understand from a distance. As we begin to listen, we have a chance to move through our assumptions and prejudices, and to bring ourselves side-by-side others in true compassion. We do this first in these meditation practices, yet once the connection is established, it spontaneously overflows into our daily thoughts and activities. We shift from being consumed with how it all threatens “me”, allowing tension to release from our nervous system. We free up energy to serve, and can do what we need to do with more calmness and grace. We embody gratitude, and abundance in any aspect of life becomes a great gift, the opportunity to extend to others what can be shared, taught or given.

Our aim in each class this month is to include a Maitri or Tonglen practice. They are simple in approach, and no prior experience is necessary. You can also set aside a few minutes each day to practice on your own at home as we build a community of compassion. If you come up against resistances, be gentle with yourself. Begin with the first link to strengthening a loving relationship with yourself through Maitri practices if you are newer to these.  If you have some experience, either Maitri or Tonglen will be wonderful as a daily practice as you can.

Give it a try…as they say ( and with Thanksgiving coming up)…the proof is in the pudding!

Sraightforward steps to follow from Pema Chodron through links below (there are also many Youtube videos of Pema on these topics):

Maitri: https://theheartofawakening.wordpress.com/tag/pema-chodron/

Tonglen: http://www.meditationplex.com/how-to-meditate/tonglen-meditation-compassionate-practice-pema-chodron/

Extended Maitri: http://www.mindfulnet.org/Loving%20Kindness%20Practice.pdf

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