1. Research the assignment thoroughly and carefully – meaning, look up the terms “maître” and “karuna” on the internet, and supply your understanding of the terms in your journal entry. You will be expected to write one introductory paragraph describing the results of your academic research. Then choose either specific days/times to practice, or perhaps keep the exercise in mind to apply to situations or circumstances as they arise. You should average a cumulative 8-10 hours (one working day) for your assignment. Before moving to the step of action, make certain you have a good, basic understanding of what it is you are expected to do or not do based upon your perception of what maître and karuna practice is supposed to look like – this will make a positive difference in your experience of the exercise.
2. Act – intentionally, mindfully practice the exercise: note your own mental, physical, and emotional responses to the exercise – how does it feel to you to think, speak, and behave in this way? Note also the impact of your thoughts, words, and deeds on those around you, though do your best not to focus on receiving a particular response from people – YOU are the one who is practicing; not them. If you spend too much time on what others are or are not doing, you will lose sight of the self-discovery aspect of the exercise. This is all about you and your experience of the practice, and how you respond to their responses.
3. Reflect: After completing the required hours of practice, reflect on the experience as you write your journal entry. Make certain you write in “first person,” that is, “I, me, my, etc” – this journal is about you and your thoughts and experience, not about generalized others. Describe your understanding of the assignment and your initial reaction: how did you feel about doing this exercise before trying it? Did you cringe at the idea, or perhaps feel excited at the prospect of trying a new way of seeing and being? What is your state of mind as you enter into the practice? Describe what you did (or did not do) and your interpretation of the impact of your action (or non-action). How did the response (or lack of response) of others impact you? Give specific examples. How did doing this exercise affect your way of perceiving and experiencing your world? Is this a way of being and relating that you would consider making a regular part of your life? Why or why not? Be certain to write a clear conclusion that summarizes what you learned about yourself and your world in your mindfulness practice.
During your maître/karuna practice you will be asked to incorporate a deep awareness and mindfulness of ALL life that you encounter with an eye toward protecting that life from harm. Try refraining from eating any sentient beings (meat, fish, poultry, etc.) for at least one or two meals a day, and take care where you walk, sit, or set down your belongings so that you do not harm insects or worms. In this exercise you must practice mindfulness, meaning, pay special attention not only to your environment, but to your thoughts, words, and deeds and their impact on other beings. Be mindful of all life, and put your attention toward refraining from killing, causing harm, or participating in the killing or harming of anything or anyone, including you. Remember that if you are in some way harming yourself, then you cannot help but harm others; suffering creates more suffering. Ahimsa (non-harming) forms the foundation of your maître/karuna exercise; mindfulness is the key to successful practice and maximum personal benefit.
“Unconditional Friendliness/Compassion” (Maitri, Karuna) – due Friday, 10/4/13
The Vajrayana Buddhist concept of “unconditional friendliness” focuses on the cultivation of an unwavering attitude of openness, compassion, and kindness toward ALL beings and conditions of life. In this exercise you will spend your time seeing and treating everyone and everything you meet as a “friend.” The lady who just cut you off on the freeway is your grandmother; the guy who knocked your drink out of your hand is your baby brother (one that you like, of course). You are related to everyone you see, and you care deeply for them all. Treat them as kindly as you would like to be treated, and notice, but do not attach yourself to the response or lack of response you receive from others – remember, this is YOUR practice; not theirs. Instead of focusing on the responses of another, turn your attention your internal response to others’ actions. Expand your friendliness to include the circumstances and emotions of your life: the pain of your break-up is a teacher that is trying to help you understand something about yourself and your choices in life; your fear is telling you something about your greatest strengths; etc. Consider the idea that what is happening must happen so that other things can happen…