About the Project

The Nothing But Metta4 website is an invitation to create your own secular mindfulness practice. I hope that my weekly prompts will encourage you to create your own creative and personal alternative (or supplement) to traditional seated meditation.

The handbound chapbooks include nature photos, short poems, and prose meditations -as well as blank pages for your own thoughts. Each chapbook is printed in a limited series: 84 pages, 14 x 10 cm, bound with French Link stitching. They are beautiful gifts for writers, aspiring writers, and yoga practitioners.

Why “Nothing But Metta4″?

In the Pali language, Metta means loving-kindness or compassion. Bhavana means the practice of cultivating something. Buddhism’s Metta Bhavana is a form of meditation focused on the development of unconditional love for all beings. The practice has been adopted by the West as what is commonly called Loving-Kindness Meditation.

The historical Buddha’s understanding of the world was that everything we think we know is an illusion. And, in my mind, this means that everything we think we know is a metaphor for everything that is.



The Backstory:

Sometimes we have to circle around for things to fall into place. I have been circling around this project for ten years.

I ran through most of my 20s, but stopped running when I moved to Norway and had children. At the age of 44, I began running again – for so many reasons.

Although I’d also practiced Yoga in various forms on and off for decades, I’d never experienced benefits from seated meditation. Instead, it made me restless and angry. Running turned out to be my path toward healthy meditation.

I began slowly – barefoot running: 10 minutes out, 10 minutes in. The motivation was difficult to summon, so I made a plan to take a photo every day in the same spot along my 5am route around the lake. It seemed everyone on the internet was doing some sort of time-lapse video or photography project and this would be my nudge to get out there every morning. I hoped it would give me the strength to accept the changes that were happening in my life. And in my body.

It’d slipped my mind that 6 months of the year my route was in darkness at 5am.

So much for daily photography practice.

Instead, I learned to pay close attention to the shadows, to listen, and to watch for the flash of white from the deer tails darting into the groves as I passed by. I counted every deer as a sign from the universe that I was doing what was natural for a human body to do. I took photos when I could to remind myself how important perspective is – and how we never really know the world we move through every day. And I kept a notebook of running metaphors:

Inhale twice, one four-count ex-hal-a-tion.
And like the waves,  which rise to meet the scalloped shore –
every seventh swell swells fully.

The notebook was a kind of gratitude project, tucked away in a drawer. But the daily practice helped to keep me running, and nature became my reward for getting out there.

And the more I focused on my breath and on listening, the closer I came to running mediation. I still do very little seated meditation, but my running meditation has flowed naturally into my morning asana practice.

A moving meditation practice has changed my writing. And all of this continues to change my perspective on the world – which, in turn, continually changes who I am.

Being a writer is an odd thing: you have to have embraced the belief that your point of view will matter to anyone else. Writing runs along the darkest edge of the ego.

And yet here I am: hoping that these words might resonate with someone else – maybe even inspire.

I hope you will enjoy these haibun-like meditations and the prompts that I hope will set you off on your own personal meditations.

Warmly,
Ren