Mindfulness Activity #146

Mindfulness Activity #146

Loving Kindness Series Day 16

Good Morning!. As we continue to explore the reasons why loving-kindness practices are beneficial, today we will focus on the physical. Researchers have found that regular loving-kindness practice reduces the stress response. Have you ever read an email and felt yourself tense up? Or gotten bad news and felt yourself completely awash in a negative emotion? These experiences take a physical toll on our bodies. Remember that mindfulness practices such as loving kindness do not disconnect us from experience or from our reactions, but when practiced regularly, loving kindness appears to temper our reactions. So we can both be fully connected with our feelings and not experiencing the wrenching feeling in our gut that comes with pure panic. Panic comes from a feeling that something terrible might happen. Cognitive behavior therapy teaches us to check the thought and realize, even if something not ideal happens, it is probably not catastrophic. Loving kindness practices teach us the same thing, but in a completely different way, by training our body to realize that all is ok. The more one sits with positive and pleasant emotions, the more your body realizes that bad news is temporary.

So, loving kindness affords us access to wisdom and protects us from being physically harmed by our own panic. One last very important piece of evidence about panic and the body relates to the findings of a study that examined cellular inflammation and neuroendocrine functioning in loving kindness practitioners. Our bodies release hormones under extreme stress. These hormones give us quick energy to react so we can run or fight if necessary. Most of us don’t need to run or fight if we get a bad email, or even if we lose a job. We need to use our minds to figure out how to respond to the email or how to get another job or how to make due with less income. The stress reaction in those instances can actually be unhelpful. Worry and fear can become so much of a way of life that we activate all those hormones many times a day for things that are not truly life or death. The consequences for our bodies are huge and have been implicated in a whole host or risks for poor health outcomes. So, today as you practice, you will focus on telling your body physically and with words to be calm and peaceful, not to activate your stress response, and instead to use wisdom to respond to problems instead of reacting with panic.

So make yourself comfortable. Breathe in and out, noticing that in this moment all is well. You are breathing and your breathing brings oxygen to all parts of your body, allowing your cells to communicate and to work together. When you are ready to begin our practice, imagine being outside on a cool but sunny day and see if you can conjure up the feeling of pure sunshine hitting your body and warming you. The feeling should be comfortable. Feeling the warmth and energy of the sun, continue to breathe and think about someone who makes you feel warm, happy or secure…someone for whom you feel a smile arise when you think of them. Now, repeat the following phrases…

· May you be happy and joyful.
· May you be safe and peaceful.
· May you meet life’s challenges with strength and wisdom.

Now, think of a person who is sort of neutral for you. Imagine their face and wish them the warmth of sunshine and extend your warm feelings towards them saying,

· May you be happy and joyful.
· May you be safe and peaceful.
· May you meet life’s challenges with strength and wisdom.

Think about a person who has caused you some stress of anxiety and see if it is possible for you to imagine the sunshine and warm thoughts transforming that person. Say to yourself,

· May you be happy and joyful.
· May you be safe and peaceful.
· May you meet life’s challenges with strength and wisdom.

Now, recall the person who makes you smile. Try to feel a slight smile on your face. If you can, focus on your eyes and what they feel like while you are smiling. Try to feel the warmth of sunshine, breathe in and out, experiencing contentment and joy. Say to yourself,

· May I be happy and joyful.
· May I be safe and peaceful.
· May I meet life’s challenges with strength and wisdom.

Now as you return to face your day, think about the difference in your body when you are breathing in and connecting with positive feelings. Today, when you are faced with any challenge or problem or if you notice panic or fear creeping in or knocking you over, take a breath and try to meet the moment with strength and wisdom. If you practice loving kindness daily, it will be easier to locate this strength and wisdom, often with a single deep breath.

Wishing you peace and ease today!

Michele

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