A Few Words From Andrew

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The following blog is by Andrew who was featured in Chapter 5 in The Healing Circle. Andrew was treated for an agressive brain tumour over 3 years ago and is doing extremely well.
This is a "Meta-Meditation" he uses everyday as part of his healing practice.

May I be safe from internal and external harm

May I be happy - just as I am

May I be healthy - may my body serve me well

May I be peaceful - and at ease

Like many of life’s events, any healing journey exposes you. It can shatter or build you up depending on your attitude, intention and commitment; e.g., a cancer trek is not for the faint of heart. Character is fostered at all times but in tougher times, whether patient, caregiver or MD, it reveals itself as you are tested of life’s diverse levels simultaneously, that is, physical, intellectual emotional and spiritual.

The journey is made quite complex since it is a marathon not a sprint. For me, meditation became a vital part of a journey (dharma/Path) to health. It reduced stress and offers time to sort things in my mind. I believe it might be helpful for others for, its calming effect reduces blood pressure and helps receive a focus with fortitude that can be coupled with a healthier life-style e.g. balanced diet, exercise and sleep.

One helpful form of meditation I found was Mettā which is one of 10 pāramitās of the Theravāda school of Buddhism*. Buddhists believe that if you are at peace, you become happier in yourself – perhaps a bit like being on an idyllic warm beach in the Caribbean when you know it is winter cold at home in Canada.

While Mettā takes about 20 minutes to do, its effects last longer. Over time, it centers peace into you. It is an antidote to fear since it helps you focus to a return to ‘self’ as it trains your heart. It plants seeds of intention and like flowers, some flower soon but other seeds take a while to bloom.

After preparatory relaxed breathing, meditate on a shortened form (bold) or, a longer form (italics). Longer forms exist but their purpose is the same. They fill your heart’s reservoir with essences of loving kindness, friendliness, benevolence, amity, friendship, goodwill, love, kindness, sympathy and interest in others. The object is love without attachment which starts by expressing it toward inward. You must love ‘you’ before you can love others.

With practice, your reservoir of loving kindness fills. When full, you can direct it to others, friends and foes, known and unknown - like waves ripple out when a stone is tossed into calm waters. You can only give it away easily if you harbour no ill-will and have no personal motive; but if not full, e.g. as a caregiver, your energetic battery drains and leads to ‘burn out’.

Wonderful words craft Mettā, but can you reveal meditative concepts with limits like words? Not really. It is better to feel them; but that said, here is an attempt:

1. Safe - Everyone needs to be safe. Harmful things in a world outside can range from a corrupt political system to street hooligans to fierce weather. It can be worse if you hear harmful voices in your mind ranging from bad habits to unresolved conflicts. Whatever it is, Mettā offers a way to train your mind to get to an inner safe place free from perceptions of danger. It gets front-row-seats to see an amazing person – you!

1. Happy - Everyone dreams to be happy. Imagine the exquisite nature of wanting to be happy “… just as I am …”. This is not the happiness of a new car or a hug which are great; rather, it is a deeper, profoundly simple being-ness of “who you are”. While some say happiness is a choice; others say it’s elusive often realized only by a receptive heart giving this great gift away. This is accepting things observer non judgmentally, as an observer i.e., as they are. It is not complacency. You want to make the world better - as Gandhi once said: “… be the change you want the world to be…”.

2. Healthy – Everyone wants to be healthy! Why would you not want your body(s) to be in fine shape so there is no pain? The good news is that we are human but that often comes with foibles of doing many thing(s) that are destructive to the body e.g. smoking, food excesses, etc. It is paradoxical to want good health but not work toward it. Health is aided when you are aligned with your authentic self – it’s less stress; for, it is you. At a different level, consider what is your body? Is it only physical or are there emotional, intellectual or spiritual fields?

3. Peaceful – We all wish for peacefulness, Mettā’s 4th request. Being at one with whom you really ‘are’, i.e. your Authentic Self, is the nucleus of ease. It is the opposite of dis-ease. It starts with you and builds to home, country and world from your mind and heart. Only here can a powerful alignment transform you into being at one with yourself and the cosmos. This oneness with others or numinosity is one element in enlightenment (the 2 others are openness and curiosity). It’s in you to discover - you are the only one who can find your peace and how you are connected to others.

Over time, practicing Mettā improves my capabilities, ability to understand my mental and emotional states and deal more effectively with stressors. (Scientifically this meant changing activity in some areas of my brain i.e. temporal parietal juncture and insula - but let’s get back to Mettā.) Meditation soon became a sanctuary, as it reinforces that I must acknowledge the truth of who I am so I feel good about it. Clearly, sometimes facing my ‘self’ is not easy; but by doing it, I feel healthier at all levels. Consider: if I do not heal at all levels, then some form of dis-ease could be still in me. Hence, if I want aspects of Mettā, part of my quest must be to create peace-fullness in all levels of the physical, emotional and spiritual dimensions.

I can easily remind myself of travelling to a beautiful spot and that I can be there virtually any time in my mind’s eye. How comforting! It is similar (but different) to how I felt just before cancer surgery when I felt a surreal sense that all would be fine. A most remarkable comfort showered me. It was a “peace that passed all understanding” the likes of which I have not felt before or since; a feeling so powerful and unique it will be remembered forever.

I had heard that phrase before many times but that was when I experienced it. While that amazing moment cannot be explained scientifically, it launched me on a road to recovery with a feeling this was the place to be - my ‘dharma’ or Path, so to speak.

As my experiences evolve, I re-discover that my journey is more about finding various forms of peace and truth within me. I find the practice of Mettā meditation is one way to grow, cultivate and train my ‘self’ to find ‘me’.

The awareness triggered is that meditation channels a trust, a type of freedom as I contact my ‘self’. This encourages wholeness, (read: health) as I enjoy profound senses of my ‘self’ and my world while being connected with others. Metta is a channel to connectedness that leads to wholeness and happiness. It is the essence of gentlelovingkindness.

Looking back, why had I not done this meditation before? I guess I hadn’t had to. There was no urgency then; but now there is. So I do it regularly now to feel safe, happy, healthy and peaceful during walks in the forest, just sitting in my chair and being with others. Maybe others will enjoy it too.


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