I really appreciate Buddhism. I find the practices to be simple, inclusive, and beautiful. It has been called the “Little Black Dress” of philosophies. I am not here to discuss whether it is a religion or a philosophy, just to pass on some of what I know and why I find it empowering. I find the Buddhist practices I have adopted balance the “Viking Madness” attitude that the Heathen community sometimes exhibits and the practices of animal sacrifice that trouble me in the Orisha community. Both Obatala and Freyr are called “King of Peace” after all. I am not alone in this. Shannon at http://shannonkotono.wordpress.com also practices Buddhism and two members of my own kindred do as well.
I appreciate that Tara is beautiful so the eye will linger on her image. This is meditation, this is a way to enlightenment, engaging with an image of the lovely Tara through the gaze.
I adore how Quan Yin was once a prostitute that slept with men and removed their harmful sexual addictions as they bedded her.
I have done most of my Buddhist training through books, video, and trainings. Before I moved, East Bay Meditation Center was my sangha, though I visited others. Imagine my surprise one evening when I discovered I was practicing Tonglen with Ms. Alice Walker!
Metta is a simple, graceful, empowering practice that can be tailored to your needs, path and beliefs. The word is largely translated as “loving-kindness” and this practice is also known as “kindness meditation”. At it’s most basic, you sit in a relaxed and meditative state and pretty much say nice things to/about yourself and to others in absentia.
It is advised to begin the practice with yourself. The sayings are generally versions of:
“May I be happy, May I be safe, May I be healthy, May I be free from suffering.” Because it is an easily customized practice, you could add whatever is currently up for you, or whatever you like, for instance:
“May I receive the blessings of the Vanir”
“May I receive the blessings of the Orisha”
“May I find work that is rewarding and meets my needs”
and on and on.
In my meditation group, we did it just for ourselves for 6 weeks. After this period, we added close friends, acquaintances, people we felt inspired by, but didn’t know, people we felt neutral towards, people we felt angry towards, and then “all sentient beings”.
Different schools of Buddhism handle this in varying ways. Some do it in directions, “May all sentient beings to the west be happy, may all sentient beings to the South be happy…” Others approach it by species, “May all humans be at peace, May all four legged creatures be at peace, may all crawling things be at peace…”
I find that this practice embraces everyone and everything I could pray for. I often walk away from my altar feeling like I haven’t covered something or later I remember the Monarch Butterflies or my Uncle Abel with the Alzheimer’s. With Metta Practice, I feel magnanimous and comforted that if an issue is happening to a sentient being, I’ve already offered them my energy for their healing.
It’s also empowering in cases when you don’t know the person in need. I can send Metta to anyone I admire, who touches me. I’ve sent it to the family of Trayvon Martin, to rape victims, to women who’ve been burned by their husbands over dowries in the Middle East. In essence, it makes me feel powerful, as if I can do something in situations where all I feel is hurt, bitter and helpless.
That said, the traditional benefits of Metta are listed by the Buddha as:
“One sleeps easily, wakes easily, dreams no evil dreams. One is dear to human beings, dear to non-human beings. The devas protect one. Neither fire, poison, nor weapons can touch one. One’s mind gains concentration quickly. One’s complexion is bright. One dies unconfused…” ~Pali Sutra, quoted from here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mett%C4%81 (I very nearly pasted the video link for Parliament’s “Flashlight!)
I do hope you consider trying to add Metta, Lovingkindness to your personal spiritual practice.
My Old Sangha http://www.eastbaymeditation.org
Spring Washam http://www.springwasham.com
Noah Levine http://www.againstthestream.org
Alice Walker http://alicewalkersgarden.com
Pema Chodron http://pemachodronfoundation.org
Shambhala Sun http://www.shambhalasun.com