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Love & Kindness

Just got back from Washington, DC, where we went to see my late great Aunt Tess be interred next to Uncle Barney, at Arlington National Cemetery. She passed away on May 1, and this was the first opportunity to have her buried alongside her husband. It was a family affair, with my sister and I accompanying our mother, her last surviving sister, to witness the ceremony. We joined her daughter and grandchildren, another close cousin, and her husband. It was a beautiful and poignant experience and made me pause and think about our connections with others.

Oftentimes, we forget or dismiss people in our lives, because we don’t see them as much anymore, or because we disagree ideologically or perhaps there was a rift, a tear over what we really don’t remember, but it is almost too late to do anything about it.

And then there are other things that cause distance such as social media posts that seem antagonistic, or stories in the news that perhaps don’t jibe with our beliefs, or just plain lack of interest in another perspective.

And that is why I often think of mindfulness as the third leg of the stool when it comes to our health; physical, mental and spiritual well-being. We can eat all whole foods, workout intensely, and if we don’t have the right mindset, we can be lost, adrift. Not all things that nourish us are food.

One of the things that has helped me out with my outlook is daily meditation, which I have practiced since 2018. Now you may think, “but I don’t have time to meditate”. Or “ I can’t sit still that long”. Or” I can’t empty my mind, too many things flitting around”. I thought that too until I learned from a meditation facilitator to just try it for five minutes. And then do it again, the next day. And you know what – it worked.

One of the simplest practices is “lovingkindness” or “metta bhavana”, which literally translates into “tenderness and consideration toward others”. A loving-kindness meditation is one in which we cultivate an empathetic relationship with ourselves and others. That sounds nice, now doesn’t it?

Essentially, lovingkindness or Metta meditation is a Buddhist-based practice designed to open our hearts to ourselves and others, following the principles of the four heavenly abodes: love, compassion, joy and equanimity. Other words similar to lovingkindness are tenderness, mercy and compassion; for ourselves, for others, and for the world. And that is so needed right now, towards ourselves and every other being on this planet.

Sharon Salzberg is probably the most recognizable authority on “loving-kindness” in Western culture and her book Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness is something I would recommend if you want to learn more about this practice. Or you can watch Sharon Salzberg explain it right here in this video.

The meditation practice itself is simple -deceptively so. The key is to fully feel while stating the phrases, whether silently or out loud.

Here is a basic outline for you to try if you would like.

Sit or lie down – get comfortable. Take in 3 full deep breaths, exhaling slowly to relax and center yourself.

First, focus tenderly on yourself with these phrases:

  • May I be happy.

  • May I be healthy in body & mind.

  • May I feel safe & protected from inner and outer harm.

  • May I be at peace.

Next, move on to someone you love, and focus these loving thoughts on that individual, envisioning how much you love and care for her/him or even your pet.

  • May you be happy.

  • May you be healthy in body & mind.

  • May you feel safe & protected from inner and outer harm.

  • May you be at peace.

Now, pick a neutral person to focus the same loving thoughts on (ex: a store clerk or someone you have no prior judgment of). Still fairly easy.

  • May you be happy.

  • May you be healthy in body & mind.

  • May you feel safe & protected from inner and outer harm.

  • May you be at peace.

Here comes the hard part.

Select someone you have a negative or difficult relationship with and send these same loving phrases out to that person. Not so easily done but do your best.

  • May you be happy.

  • May you be healthy in body & mind.

  • May you feel safe & protected from inner and outer harm.

  • May you be at peace.

And, finally send out these warm, loving and compassionate thoughts to all living things in this world. Try to envision the entire planet and focus on these phrases one more time.

  • May all living creatures be happy.

  • May all living creatures be healthy in body & mind.

  • May all living creatures feel safe & protected from inner and outer harm.

  • May all living creatures be at peace.

The key is to focus on the phrases, to conjure up love and compassion for ourselves and others. The practice is designed for creating feelings of goodwill, acceptance and empathy towards others and ourselves, over time. And that is a good thing.

If you give this a try, please reach out to me and let me know how you did. You may be surprised at what you learn about yourself.



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