This weekend I have been thinking a lot about a particular kind of meditation – lovingkindness. With all of the turmoil that has been in the headlines, whether the angry reactions to George Floyd’s death in police custody, the pandemonium revolving around COVID-19 mitigation and the angry tweets by “He Who Must Not Be Named”, I feel like I just want a safe space right now.
Lovingkindness is just such a place. I first read about it back in 2003 when my husband was quite ill and depressed – it was a sad time. A dear friend lent me a book by Sharon Salzberg – Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness to read and it really woke something up in me that I never forgot. It made me engage my loving heart, and not be afraid, when I was in a very angry, closed up place. My husband read it as well and we both put the mediation to practice at that time when it was much needed in our lives.
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.
The meditation practice 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.
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.
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.
I will be sharing this meditation this week on Facebook live on Wellness Wednesday at 7pm, if you would like to join me in spreading some lovingkindness in this world. And if you like this post, please share.