Mindfulness Activity #30

Mindfulness Activity #30

Loving Kindness for Loss

It has been over a month since many of us began sheltering in place here in New York City. For those living in hospitals or other facilities, days may seem long with even less freedom than normal. You may notice a favorite staff member absent and have little information about what is going one with them. The New York Times reported that in NYC alone, over 10,000 people have died from the Corona Virus. Most everyone in the Northeast knows someone who has died, or through degrees of separation knows someone close to them who has experienced a significant loss. This is true, or will be true, across the nation and the globe.

The normal rituals that we use to aid in processing death and dying are gone. The typical ways in which we comfort others in their losses are gone. We aren’t attending wakes or funerals. There is no sitting shiva, no community Salat al-Janazah. Instead, our days are filled with elaborate sanitizing routines, home schooling, and struggling to adapt our work and family lives, and just getting through each day. There is little time to grieve for some. Others are grieving without the physical support and closeness of friends, family, or other people who might offer comfort.

The unfairness stings. A friend told me she was alternating between a sadness in her chest that felt staggering and a sensation that it couldn’t be real. This is the experience of trauma. Usually, when someone older dies you will hear people say, “he lived a good life,” or “at least she didn’t suffer.” Here, there are no simple or comforting statements that explain the sudden, unexpected, and profound recent losses. Moreover, the sheer magnitude of the number of people processing loss right now is overwhelming. It touches everyone. What can we do in situations like this? We can, of course, do our best to reach out to people virtually on Facetime, the telephone, or email. But, what else can we do to help ourselves and others?

I think two things can be helpful. First, for ourselves, we can stay present with the sadness and loss… science tells us that not avoiding is the best way to prevent problems later. We can feel, and also engage in daily things we need to do. We can take breaks from sadness with pleasant activities or by seeking out a friend. We need to do our best not to avoid and also not to amplify feelings by watching the news excessively or ruminating (holding on and refusing to actually feel the sensation of an emotion). The goal is balance. This is where mindfulness helps. We can notice thoughts and feelings as they arise, breathing in and registering them, and then they usually make way for the next moment.

The second thing we can do when we aren’t virtually or physically connecting with others is to offer love and kindness for ourselves and others. This mindfulness practice reminds us that pain does not go on forever, and despite what we feel, things are and will be ok. Loving Kindness Practices generate feelings of compassion and well-being.

So, today’s practice will be a child’s loving kindness, play the music clip below and read the following statements. If reading for a group, read each line and let the group repeat…

Breathe in slowly and exhale three times, then begin saying in your mind the following words:

May I be happy, health and peaceful

My I let go of sadness and bad feelings

May I be free from anger

May I be free form pain

May I be free from suffering

May I be happy, healthy and peaceful

May I be filled with loving kindness

May I be at peace

Now, think of someone you feel good feelings for. Notice the feeling it generates in your heart to think of them. Continue to breathe slowly in and out for three breaths. and then say…

I spread this loving kindness out

I send love to those I know

I spread this loving kindness out

I send love to anyone who is sad or suffering

May they be happy, health and peaceful

My they let go of sadness and bad feelings

May they be free from anger

May they be free form pain

May they be free from suffering

May they be happy, healthy and peaceful

May they be filled with loving kindness

May they be at peace

Continue to breathe in and out slowly for three breaths, and say…

I spread this loving kindness out

I send love to anyone who is sad or suffering

May they be happy, health and peaceful

My they let go of sadness and bad feelings

May they be free from anger

May they be free form pain

May they be free from suffering

May they be happy, healthy and peaceful

May they be filled with loving kindness

May they be at peace

Take one last breath. End the music.

May you experience peace throughout the day, no matter what the day brings.

Michele

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