For many of us, when we begin to learn various meditative techniques at the onset of our practice, we may encounter some degree of confusion. For instance, we learn about concentration by aiming our attention on a single object such as the breathing body. We may be introduced to various mindfulness exercises where we begin to open to a wider range of experience such as our feelings, thoughts, emotions, and sensory experience such as sound, sight, taste etc. Before too long we may learn about practices to cultivate our hearts: kindness, compassion, appreciation, and equanimity.
These various practices may appear as stand-alone exercises to achieve some sort of outcome. An outcome that may not be obvious to us. Without proper instruction and guidance many students find that the integration of the various practices, theories, and applications to be difficult and daunting.
Within the classical texts we learn to develop mindfulness within four foundations of experience. We learn to work with our bodies, feelings, mental states and mental activities and various frames of reference. Within the teachings on metta, as found within the teachings on the bramha-viharas we learn four qualities that are considered wise and appropriate responses to conditions ranging from pleasure to pain. Integration of both sets of practice, mindfulness and metta, lead and direct us to the experience of a balanced heart and mind which is described as equanimity.
Integrating the four foundations of mindfulness with these four qualities of heart allows us to develop a practice that is efficient and progressive. With the power of recognition developed within mindfulness supported by the wise relation of the heart allows us to practice with the range of conditions that arise and pass away. In this way we learn that mindfulness is a moment-to-moment skill that requires a range or qualities that can adapt to the ever-changing flow of events. Metta Vipassana is the full integration of heart and mind that can be develop in a singular practice.
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