April 2012

Loving Lovingkindness

Loving Lovingkindness

by cheryl on April 3, 2012

in Meditation

Lovingkindness meditation (maitri in Sanskrit and metta in Pali) is a very powerful type of meditation in which we focus our attention on ourselves and on others with a sense of interest, caring and compassion.  The traditional practice of lovingkindness meditation is done by repeating to yourself:  May I Be safe, May I Be happy, May I Be Healthy, May I Live with Ease.  You can direct these phrases to yourself, to someone you love, to someone you have difficulty with, to a neutral person or to everyone.

In a world in which there is often a feeling of “us” versus “them” or “me” versus “the world,” this practice can be transformative.  It offers us the ability to open our hearts to ourselves and to feel a greater connection to others.  In our daily lives, we are often more accustomed to being critical of ourselves and judgmental of others.  We take stock of our days by listing all that we did wrong, what we could have done better, what we didn’t get done at all,  and how we let ourselves down.  We tend to look at others through that same lens.  Instead, lovingkindness teaches us to look at all that we did right each day, and to focus on the goodness in others.

One challenging lovingkindness practice is to offer kind thoughts to those in our lives that we find most difficult.  The practice helps us to recognize that everyone deserves to be loved and everyone wants to be happy.    By opening our hearts even to those that cause us pain, we can create a new perspective from which we view those difficult people.  It helps us focus on the good that each person possesses, and focus less on the negative aspects of their behavior.  As Sharon Salzberg explains in her book Real Happiness, “Sending lovingkindness to a difficult person is a process of relaxing the heart and freeing yourself from fear and corrosive resentment – a profound, challenging, and liberating process . . .”

This type of meditation also offers us the opportunity to recognize that we are all part of something much larger than ourselves and that we are all inextricably connected to one another.  By focusing on the good in others and sending love and caring to the world, we begin to see ourselves in others and to see others in ourselves, no longer the “us” versus “them” mindset.  Ultimately, this practice will help us live a more peaceful, loving and compassionate life.

When I first learned lovingkindness meditation, I must admit that I thought the whole idea was a little hokey.  Could I really feel such love for myself, for others and for the world?  I decided to give it a try.   For the past couple of weeks, I have been ending my meditation practice with some lovingkindness meditation.  Also, during the day, when I am waiting (which I do a lot of), I decided to do some lovingkindness meditation.  In the grocery store line, in the carpool line, in the school pick up line, I have decided that I would much prefer to share some lovingindness than some of the other thoughts that often pervade my brain – – annoyance, impatience, judgment, planning, etc.

At first, the practice may seem a bit awkward, but I must admit that I have found it to be transformative.  First, I am much less critical of myself.  Next,  I have found it to be an incredibly positive and powerful parenting perspective to take note of what each child does well each day, rather than focusing on his or her shortcomings.   I have noticed that the way I act and react to others, both familiar faces and total strangers, is with much more kindness and patience.  I have had many meaningful moments, usually with people I would have never taken the time to acknowledge in the past because I was in too much of a hurry, that have meant a lot to me.  A shared smile with the Starbucks barista, a kind wave to the person who helped me back up in the CVS parking lot, and a short conversation with the parking attendant in a New York city parking garage, all seemed to brighten my day a bit.  My hope is that is also brightened theirs.

So try practicing a little lovingkindness.  Instead of looking at all that we did wrong each day, let’s choose to look at all that we did right.  What a rare and beautiful new way to look at ourselves and the world!   So, in the spirit of lovingkindness,

May you be safe, May you be happy, May you be healthy and May you live with ease.

More reading on Lovingkindness

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Give Yourself a Time Out!

Give Yourself a Time Out!

by cheryl on April 2, 2012

in Healthy Living

The Time Out is a disciplinary tool used by parents to correct bad behavior.  The idea is to send a child to a particular place so that he can think about his bad behavior, or simply feel the consequences of misbehaving by having to sit still, quietly and alone for a few minutes (or what seems like an eternity for a young child).  Yet, a new way to look at the Time Out, is to give our children the opportunity to have some quiet time, in a peaceful place, to regroup and calm down, rather than separating or isolating the child as a form of punishment.  Linda Lantieri, author of Building Emotional Intelligence, Techniques To Cultivate Inner Strength In Children, encourages parents to create a space where a child can have a “time in,” a peaceful place where the child can take a break from whatever may be upsetting him, where he can foster his own ability to calm down, reduce stress, quiet anger or eliminate frustration.  This ability to find that inner peace and quiet when faced with adversity or challenges is an incredibly important skill for our children to develop, and for us to nurture in ourselves as well.

As adults, I think we all need to give ourselves a Time Out (or a Time In) at least once a day, not as a form of punishment, but rather as a reward.   In a world full of noises and distractions, it is very difficult to find any quiet time during the day.  Most of us start our days in a great rush, hurrying the kids off to school and rushing to work.  And that is just the beginning.  The frantic pace, noises and distractions just keep coming — we have iPods playing, radios buzzing, kids screaming, co-workers gabbing, phones ringing, text messages beeping, e-mails blinking, and televisions blaring.  It is no wonder that with all of this external stimulation our minds are racing and unfocused.  We are so busy trying to digest and decipher all of this noise that we often end up irritable, distracted and stressed out.

I remember when my children were little, my house was a cacophony of little voices needing something, Elmo’s World playing on the television, and at least one child crying.  During those days, the peace and quiet of my tiny clothes closet seemed appealing to me as a secret getaway from the noise.  I would think, “Would anyone even notice if I went inside for a few minutes and shut the door?”  The idea of five minutes of peace and quiet sounded quite nice to me, even if it was in my closet.  Back then, even the stillness of my bathroom was a pleasant break, until the pitter patter of little feet entering the bathroom and at least one child demanding my attention, with complete disregard for my need for a minimal amount of privacy, would inevitably turn what is usually considered a very personal space into a public forum for all to enter.  (Oh the joys of motherhood!)

The challenge then, as it is now, is to find that peaceful and quiet space for even a short time each day to gather our thoughts, center ourselves and feel a sense of calm and OK-ness that we all need.  Taking a personal Time Out could mean a quiet walk outdoors, with no cell phone calls or music playing, and simply noticing how still and quiet the trees are.  Connecting to nature offers us an amazing sense of stillness and calm.  It could also mean turning the radio OFF in the car for a few minutes and simply enjoying the calm of a quiet car ride, rather than driving with the music playing or the distraction of disturbing news stories stealing our attention.  Your Time Out could also be closing your office door for five minutes, and simply shutting your eyes and breathing.  Try it and you will see that this simple act of giving yourself a Time Out can break the chain of noise and distraction that seems to build up throughout the day.  It is also very helpful to take a Time Out in the heat of the moment before hitting send on an angry e-mail or before responding unkindly to someone in a manner you might later regret.  In those instances, a little Time Out can be incredibly useful to pause before acting, to collect your thoughts and to settle your emotions.   It is in the quiet and stillness of our Time Out that we can have the opportunity to regroup and reset ourselves, and quiet our minds so that we can continue on with clarity and a sense of calm.  So, tomorrow, Time Outs for everyone!

 

 

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Weekly Wisdom #13

by cheryl on April 2, 2012

in Weekly Wisdom

“Be kind to unkind people – they need it the most.”   – Ashleigh Brilliant

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