Zen, Metta, and how can I overcome selfishness?

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.

Zen, Metta, and how can I overcome selfishness?

Postby eindoofus » Sat Feb 23, 2013 5:32 pm

Hi, I'm beginning to learn meditation and I've been going the Zen route. The reason why I've started is to help rebuild my attention span, however, I'm trying to put those expectations aside so that I continue with the right mindset. After studying the various types of meditation methods I came across Metta meditation, and it caught my interest.

There was a time early in life when my family was very neurotic and this made me extremely sensitive. I would feel extreme empathy towards other people's pain, but it was almost too much. For a time I thought it was a gift, but knowing that pain exists in others is useless unless you can do something with that knowledge, and I was not the type of person to draw out the happiness in other people or even myself. It's still hard for me to not judge and just be happy.

So in time I shut that part of myself out and I've become a very selfish person. I try to be good towards other and do good deeds, but my mind is typically focused on just myself. Because of this I find ordinary conversations very difficult since I care little about what the other person's subjective view and experiences are. Unless their teaching me something new I find it very difficult to care and I rarely remember details about them. The next time I have a conversation with them I have nothing to say and I'm sure we both leave the conversation feeling a sense of disconnection due to my carelessness.

I was thinking about pursuing Metta meditation to help me in connecting to other individuals in a more positive way, rather than just focusing on myself, but it sounds like it's a very proactive and difficult practice.

Sorry about all the writing. I guess what my question is, as a beginning meditator should I continue to do Zen or is Metta meditation something that can be done by beginners as well? If so, can it possibly still help me with my concentration problems as well? Is there a recommended path to learning Metta meditation, and is there any overlap with Zen?
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Re: Zen, Metta, and how can I overcome selfishness?

Postby LonesomeYogurt » Sat Feb 23, 2013 6:43 pm

Actually, the Buddha recommended metta meditation to beginners all the time.

Here are some great talks about metta and metta meditation from Bhante Vimalaramsi.

Metta meditation isn't difficult, and it shouldn't be strenuous. If you have the right mindset going in, it's a joyous and uplifting practice. Just be kind to yourself. I don't know much about metta meditation in the context of Zen, but they definitely don't contradict each other.
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
- Lokavipatti Sutta

Stuff I write about things.
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Re: Zen, Metta, and how can I overcome selfishness?

Postby eindoofus » Sat Feb 23, 2013 6:47 pm

Thanks @LonesomeYogurt, do you happen to know of any good resources for learning Metta and possibly any crutches for a beginner? For example, I know Zen teachers sometimes recommend that beginners count their breath in order to assist in focusing on it.
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Re: Zen, Metta, and how can I overcome selfishness?

Postby Coyote » Sat Feb 23, 2013 7:23 pm

eindoofus wrote:do you happen to know of any good resources for learning Metta and possibly any crutches for a beginner? For example, I know Zen teachers sometimes recommend that beginners count their breath in order to assist in focusing on it.


Hi eindoofus. Metta medition should be quite easy to focus on, as it is often quite discursive. I would say metta is good, but all four brahmaviharas is better.
Depending on your temperament and personal preference you might prefer to learn the brahmaviharas through these chants, which I like to do .

http://feeds.amaravati.org/chantingbook ... -37%29.mp3

http://feeds.amaravati.org/chantingbook ... 039%29.mp3

http://feeds.amaravati.org/chantingbook ... 043%29.mp3

There are also recordings on the abhayagiri website if you prefer.

There are probably many good talks and books out there as well. I can't recommend any in particular, but I know Ayya Khema has written and talked about metta extensively. Perhaps this will get you going: http://www.aimwell.org/Books/Pesala/Love/love.html
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... html#basic
There are many other books and articles on those websites, incase you are unaware of them - but they do have a Theravada focus.

Metta is basically there to counter ill-will - against yourself, and others, which will of course benefit your concentration practice.
A good practice is to mentally wish that those who you meet to be well, happy and free from suffering as and when you meet them. Sympathetic joy (mudita) would also help counter feelings of selfishness and an uncaring attitude.

Metta,
Coyote.
"If beings knew, as I know, the results of giving & sharing, they would not eat without having given, nor would the stain of miserliness overcome their minds. Even if it were their last bite, their last mouthful, they would not eat without having shared."
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Re: Zen, Metta, and how can I overcome selfishness?

Postby Dan74 » Sun Feb 24, 2013 10:20 am

eindoofus wrote:Hi, I'm beginning to learn meditation and I've been going the Zen route. The reason why I've started is to help rebuild my attention span, however, I'm trying to put those expectations aside so that I continue with the right mindset. After studying the various types of meditation methods I came across Metta meditation, and it caught my interest.

There was a time early in life when my family was very neurotic and this made me extremely sensitive. I would feel extreme empathy towards other people's pain, but it was almost too much. For a time I thought it was a gift, but knowing that pain exists in others is useless unless you can do something with that knowledge, and I was not the type of person to draw out the happiness in other people or even myself. It's still hard for me to not judge and just be happy.

So in time I shut that part of myself out and I've become a very selfish person. I try to be good towards other and do good deeds, but my mind is typically focused on just myself. Because of this I find ordinary conversations very difficult since I care little about what the other person's subjective view and experiences are. Unless their teaching me something new I find it very difficult to care and I rarely remember details about them. The next time I have a conversation with them I have nothing to say and I'm sure we both leave the conversation feeling a sense of disconnection due to my carelessness.

I was thinking about pursuing Metta meditation to help me in connecting to other individuals in a more positive way, rather than just focusing on myself, but it sounds like it's a very proactive and difficult practice.

Sorry about all the writing. I guess what my question is, as a beginning meditator should I continue to do Zen or is Metta meditation something that can be done by beginners as well? If so, can it possibly still help me with my concentration problems as well? Is there a recommended path to learning Metta meditation, and is there any overlap with Zen?


I think doing a regular meditation retreat is a very good remedy against acute selfishness. Might take more than one, though!

Metta meditation can be very good too, but in either case I recommend practicing under a teacher.
_/|\_
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Re: Zen, Metta, and how can I overcome selfishness?

Postby Aloka » Sun Feb 24, 2013 10:29 am

eindoofus wrote:I was thinking about pursuing Metta meditation to help me in connecting to other individuals in a more positive way, rather than just focusing on myself, but it sounds like it's a very proactive and difficult practice.



This short metta instruction video from Ajahn Jayasaro might help to clear up any misunderstandings about the practice.



.

"Universal Loving Kindness" by Ajahn Sumedho might also be helpful

http://www.dhammatalks.net/Books3/Ajahn_Sumedho_Universal_Loving_Kindness.htm

with kind wishes,

Aloka
Last edited by Aloka on Sun Feb 24, 2013 8:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Zen, Metta, and how can I overcome selfishness?

Postby bodom » Sun Feb 24, 2013 3:44 pm

See Sharon Salzbergs Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness. It is an excellent introduction and resource for the practice of metta meditation.

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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