Mindfulness Tips Blog...
The Healing Power of Loving Kindness
“To reteach a thing its loveliness is the nature of metta. Through lovingkindness, everyone & everything can flower again from within.” Sharon Salzberg
To listen to the original podcast on this topic please click here.
This past Sunday our Dharma talk and meditation practice focused on the healing power of Loving Kindness Meditation and how it helps to awaken our hearts and minds. In this practice we deliberately call on the power of the compassionate heart and the wisdom of an open mind to help us awaken to the preciousness of life. As we practice meditation we begin to wake up; we shift from auto pilot and come into direct contact with life as it's happening moment to moment. This practice calls on us to step out of our habitual reactive tendencies, meet life with an open heart/mind and while it is challenging it is a necessity in order to live a wise and compassionate life. So where do we start?
The Armored Heart: When we protect our vulnerability we imprison the healing and connecting power of the heart.
We live in a world where divisiveness exists, we can see it all around us; class discrimination, racism, domestic violence and child abuse to name a few. We have been conditioned to see life through the lens of how we want or don't want it to be and this creates suffering. We're usually relating to the world through the eyes of ego which is constantly seeking comfort, safety and connection. This is an impossible task as life is constantly in flux, so seeking permanence in an impermanent world is like trying to hold on to sand. It doesn't work! As we begin to recognize this we can begin to let go of trying to manipulate our external world to fit our idea about how life should be and instead we can learn to be present to the way life is. We turn our attention to what is happening in the moment and learn to respond to suffering with compassion and wisdom. We let go of trying to change ourselves, others or our external world and this is the beginning of awakening the heart. This is the beginning of meditation practice.
Our world is imperfect and an essential part of mindfulness practice is an acknowledgment of this. We are not practicing meditation to make life perfect, we are practicing to learn how to stay open and present to life just as it is. Whether we meditate on the cushion or move through life mindfully, we practice to:
This practice is one of purifying the heart mind so that we free ourselves of our habitual reactive ways of moving through the world. When we practice loving kindness, we are opening our hearts to suffering, both our own, others and the world. It's a practice of inclusion, so our circle is not limited to those we deem deserving of love. With an open heart/mind judgments and boundaries dissolve and with it, falls away ill will, delusion and greed. Metta practice begins to open us to compassion, kindness, generosity and wisdom.
It takes courage to do this practice as we are breaking down the barriers, defenses and with it our reactive ways of dealing with pain. We are actually stepping into the potential we spoke about 3 weeks ago. Were stepping into spaciousness, loving presence and wisdom. It's challenging and doesn't happen overnight. The good news is that it's our potential. The Buddha is a testament to this. He tried many different paths and gleaned wisdom from each but wasn't freed from suffering until the night of his enlightenment under the Bodhi tree. It was the connection with wisdom and compassion that led to his awakening.
Loving Kindness as a Meditation
"It is a meditation of care, concern, tenderness, loving kindness, friendship–a feeling of warmth for oneself and others. The practice is the softening of the mind and heart, an opening to deeper and deeper levels of the feeling of kindness, of pure love." Steven Smith
As we practice Loving Kindness, we begin to soften the armored heart. This practice is one of slowly softening, opening and letting go of the defenses that keep the heart armored and protected. Using the phrases below we begin the practice by first sending Loving Kindness to ourselves and slowly expand to include loved ones, acquaintances, strangers, difficult ones and then all beings. If you are practicing for the first time, it can feel robotic and awkward. For this reason it is important to find a sense of ease in the body and breath and then connect with a sense of good will, friendliness and kindness towards yourself. Notice any areas of stress in the body, mental chatter, judgment or self-hatred that arises. Then see if you can drop beneath that to connect with a sense of care and a genuine desire for your own well-being.
Continue to breathe in and out and chose from the following phrases repeating them silently to yourself
May I be free from inner and outer danger and harm.
May I be free from mental suffering or distress.
May I be able to live in this world with a sense of ease and peace.
May I be happy.
From yourself, expand the practice to the following categories
You can choose to use the same phrases you practiced with towards yourself. If it becomes too overwhelming when practicing with a difficult person, come back to loving kindness phrases towards yourself. End the practice by sending loving kindness to all beings.
Take your time developing a loving kindness practice it is truly an act of self love. As you begin to treat yourself with care and kindness you may find that your capacity to meet the suffering of others with patience, wisdom and compassion grows.
I have included a link to last weeks podcasts which includes a guided Loving Kindness Meditation here (please scroll till you see the title - Loving Kindness-Awakening the heart of compassion)
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May all living beings everywhere, on all planes of existence, known and unknown, be happy, be peaceful, be free from suffering.
Cindy Ricardo is a compassionate and experienced Psychotherapist, Gentle Yoga Teacher and Mindfulness Meditation Guide. She facilitates a Dharma/Meditation Circle in Weston and Coral Springs alternatively, 3 times a month at 11am on Sundays. Her focus is on helping others learn about peaceful practices that help cultivate insight, connect with wisdom and awaken the compassionate heart. For more information about her please visit acaringcounselor.com, contact her at 954 793 6442 or email her at wbmindfulness.