Mindfulness Activity #142

Mindfulness Activity #142

Loving Kindness Series Day 12

There are so many reasons for practicing loving kindness. Research studies have examined many benefits related to this specific type of mindfulness practice. I hope after 11 days, you are starting to notice some of the benefits personally. For the next few days, I’ll try to highlight specific benefits associated with loving kindness/Metta practices.

The first benefit is one we have discussed a fair amount—the idea of equanimity. The ability to be fully present-not disengaged-but stable and unmoved in the midst of chaos and conflict. This year has provided tons of learning opportunities for all of us. Most of us have had to deal with crises, tensions and conflicts we probably could not have imagined a few years ago. Certainly, we couldn’t have imagined the way that they were piled one on top of the other.

The ability to feel pain and to process and manage it instead of avoiding or overreacting to pain with a whole host of unhealthy responses is the task of equanimity. It’s sticking with a problem or difficult person until a path forward is identified. Sometimes, it takes a long time. We are all waiting for a COVID-19 vaccine and what’s required is making a meaningful life with all its new constraints until we find a vaccine. It means we will be unsure. It means we may criticize others for their handling of things. There is no way to know the perfect responses, but equanimity means that we sit and take in all the information available at any given time with a loving, caring, stance…working our way through fear, anger, resentment, and fatigue to make our best decisions moment by moment. It means we make our meaningful life, even if we don’t like it’s new parameters.

Loving Kindness Practices create the warm feeling of equanimity. This feeling or approach is often described as calm, but it is not a cool detached calm…not an, “I don’t care” calm. It is like a parent caring for a sick child…caring and wishing the child well, while being present and aware enough not to make mistakes dosing Tylenol. Being present enough to manage the parent’s fear and to offer comfort and calmness to the child.

I had a friend once who was really sick at college. She went to the health center and found out she had pneumonia. I asked her what her mother said and she said, “Oh, I could never tell my mother, she would freak out and it would be all about her.” This stuck with me all these years. Her mother loved her so much and she couldn’t bear that her daughter was sick, and she was so unable to manage her own fear that she couldn’t provide comfort to her daughter. She loved her daughter, but she could never be the calm in the storm. Equanimity is being warm, caring, and compassionate- even in a conflict. Loving kindness practice creates the spaciousness or mind or perspective to be able to do this. It allows us to love someone even when they do something wrong, to teach someone when they are ignorant, to stick with someone when they are unmotivated or riddled with lack of self-confidence. Loving kindness expands our perspective so that we can respond thoughtfully and compassionately to the people and situations that threaten us the most.

So for today’s practice, I adapted a practice from Thich Nhat Hahn. To begin, sit up, breathe, settle in, and try to adopt a gentle half-smile. Begin by thinking about how hard it is to be you today. What challenges do you face? Breathe and think, “This is hard.” Wish yourself well. Repeat the following phrases:

May I learn to look at myself with the eyes of understanding and love.
May I be able to recognize and touch the seeds of joy and happiness in myself.
May I learn to identify and see the sources of anger, craving, and delusion in myself.
May my mind be open like a child’s.
May I be calm and peaceful in the midst of confusion.

Now, thinking about someone you love or admire (whether you know them or not). Feel your face in a gentle smile and feel warmth in our heart for them. Repeat…

May they learn to look at themself with the eyes of understanding and love.
May they be able to recognize and touch the seeds of joy and happiness in themselves.
May they learn to identify and see the sources of anger, craving, and delusion in themselves.
May their mind be open.
May they be calm and peaceful in the midst of confusion.

Now think about a stranger or a person who you barely know. A person you have seen once or twice whom you recognize, but have no feelings about. Picture their face in your mind, place a gentle smile on your face and allow the warm feeling in your heart to extend to this person. Repeat…

May they learn to look at themself with the eyes of understanding and love.
May they be able to recognize and touch the seeds of joy and happiness in themselves.
May they learn to identify and see the sources of anger, craving, and delusion in themselves.
May their mind be open.
May they be calm and peaceful in the midst of confusion.

Now, think about a person who angers you or a situation that is causing you anxiety, stress, or frustration. See if you can think about a person associated with that, or some image that represents the situation in your mind. Place a gentle smile on your face and allow the warm feeling in your heart to extend to this situation if you can. If you have difficulty, just notice our half smile and breathe, just noticing any judgments or angry thoughts that arise without pushing them away or responding to them other than with breath. Repeat…

May they learn to look at themself with the eyes of understanding and love.
May they be able to recognize and touch the seeds of joy and happiness in themselves.
May they learn to identify and see the sources of anger, craving, and delusion in themselves.
May their mind be open.
May they be calm and peaceful in the midst of confusion.

Finally, think about the entire universe. Think about all the inhabitants of the world. Continue to notice your half smile and if you have lost a warm feeling in your heart, breathe in the smile until you can locate it. Now repeat…

May all people learn to look at themselves with the eyes of understanding and love.
May all people be able to recognize and touch the seeds of joy and happiness in themselves.
May all people learn to identify and see the sources of anger, craving, and delusion in themselves.
May all minds be open and spacious.
May all people be calm and peaceful in the midst of confusion, fear, and conflict.

Try to carry this open, caring perspective with you wherever you are today.

Be Well!

Michele

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