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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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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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One of my favorite writers was Erma Bombeck.  She always had an amazing sense of humor about life.  Upon learning that she had cancer, she wrote a list of things that she regretted doing or not doing in her life.   I like to keep this list in my kitchen as a reminder to live each day to the fullest and to not sweat the small stuff!  If you haven’t read this, enjoy!  If you have, it is always worth reading again.

If I Had My Life To Live Over

by Erma Bombeck

If I had my life to live over, I would have talked less and listened more.

I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained and the sofa faded.

I would have eaten the popcorn in the ‘good’ living room and worried much less about the dirt when someone wanted to light a fire in the fireplace.

I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth.

I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed.

I would have burned the pink candle sculpted like a rose before it melted in storage.

I would have sat on the lawn with my children and not worried about grass stains.

I would have cried and laughed less while watching television – and more while watching life.

I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my husband.

I would have gone to bed when I was sick instead of pretending the earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren’t there for the day.

I would never have bought anything just because it was practical, wouldn’t show soil or was guaranteed to last a lifetime.

Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy, I’d have cherished every moment and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was the only chance in life to assist God in a miracle.

When my kids kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, “Later. Now go get washed up for dinner.”

There would have been more “I love you’s”.. More “I’m sorrys” …

But mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute… look at it and really see it … live it…and never give it back.

© Erma Bombeck


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Weekly Wisdom #10

by cheryl on February 20, 2012

in Uncategorized, Weekly Wisdom

Life is too short to wake up each morning with regrets.  So, love the people who treat you right, forgive the ones who don’t and believe that everything happens for a reason.  If you get a chance, take it.  If it changes your life, let it.  Nobody said it would be easy, they just promised it would be worth it.

-Unknown

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