Loving Kindness

Classic Loving Kindness

A MEDITATION ON GROWING COMPASSION AND FRIENDLINESS

When I was first introduced to the concept of ‘loving kindness’ or ‘metta’ meditation early in my practice, I thought to myself Ummm, no thanks, I didn’t come to this practice to learn some sappy way of treating others; I’m doing this so I can stop being so stressed and anxious and unhappy all the time.

Turns out loving kindness practice can be just the antidote to feeling stressed and anxious and unhappy – and here’s why.

Firstly, when we cultivate kindness (using a series of meaningful phrases), usually the first person we direct those intentions towards is ourselves! When was the last time you were offered well wishes for your happiness, safety, peace or health? With loving kindness practice, you can direct these affirmations to yourself all day every day if you want to (and no one would ever know) – and it’s surprising just how powerful the practice can be.

But what I’ve found to be even more uplifting is when I take those same intentions and direct them outwardly. Get out of my head and my own preoccupations with me, myself and I, and deliberately focus on others. Those I love and those I don’t; those I know a little and those I’ll never ever meet.

For me, THIS is the soul warming sunshine that makes those hard, sticky emotions malleable and therefore manageable.

And so it turns out a bit of selfish compassion makes the perfect companion.

Why don’t you give it a try.

Welcome everybody.  Today we’ll be practicing classic loving kindness but before we do, let’s first check in with where we’re at both mentally and physically.

Adjusting our bodies, wriggling the toes, shrugging the shoulders and stretching the neck.

Closing our eyes and taking some big deep breaths, filling up the lungs and pushing out the air two or three times. And just letting the breath return to its innate rhythm.

And if there’s tension in the body, noticing where it’s at; making a mental note but allowing it to be there. It won’t always be there, it’s just visiting for now.

And as we begin the practice of metta or loving kindness, it might be useful to first place your hand on your heart, or your chest, which may help you to feel more genuine in offering warmhearted friendliness.

So let’s begin with ourselves. Directing kind, compassionate thoughts inward.

May I be well and happy.

May I find peace.

May I feel grateful.

May I experience joy.

Repeating the phrases to ourselves, feeling the breath, and noticing what feelings arise through the process.

May I be well and happy.

May I find peace.

May I feel grateful.

May I experience joy.

Let’s now bring to mind someone we hold dear, like a best friend or a sibling; or someone we look up to. Place your hand on your heart and this time repeat the phrases outwardly.

May you be well and happy.

May you find peace.

May you feel grateful.

May you experience joy.

Noticing the difference we feel in sending these well wishes to a loved one, breathing in and out as we sit with the phrases.

May you be well and happy.

May you find peace.

May you feel grateful.

May you experience joy.

We can now recall a person who we don’t know very well, who we know by face but perhaps not by name. Someone for whom we have no real feelings at all. But try picturing the finer details of their face.

May you be well and happy.

May you find peace.

May you feel grateful.

May you experience joy.

Sending kind thoughts unconditionally, knowing we won’t likely receive anything in return. And that’s OK.

May you be well and happy.

May you find peace.

May you feel grateful.

May you experience joy.

If you’ve dropped your hand, it might be wise to place it back on your chest. For we’ll now bring to mind someone who we find challenging. If you’re new to this practice, start with someone who is mildly irritating or unpleasant. And if you’ve been practicing a while, you might feel ready to choose someone who you have a really hard time with.

And with as little or as much sincerity as you can bring, send them your well wishes.

May you be well and happy.

May you find peace.

May you feel grateful.

May you experience joy.

Sitting with the feelings that come up for you; either pleasant or unpleasant. Just observing and accepting whatever is there.

May you be well and happy.

May you find peace.

May you feel grateful.

May you experience joy.

And to all other beings on Earth; human and non-human, and even on planets we’ve not yet discovered.

May we all be well and happy.

May we all find peace.

May we all feel grateful.

May we all experience joy.

Well done everyone. The rest of the session is now yours to savour in silence however you wish. Take the energy of kindheartedness that we’ve created and enjoy that and the breath for as long as you need.

Loving Kindness, Open Awareness

Yes

A MEDITATION ON QUIETENING THE INNER CRITIC

My mum suffers from what I consider is chronic anxiety and depression. She’s been on anti-depressants for more than a decade, she’s retired and lives alone and some days can’t bear to get out of bed. She’s stopped driving further than a 10km radius, she doesn’t have any hobbies or interests and with emphysema and a recent brain aneurism, her health is failing.

Until now I’ve not been able to truly face what’s happening to be able to help her. It’s only with five years of meditation under my belt that I can approach the situation – a situation that I’ve personalised and fought against for most of my life – with acceptance and empathy and understanding.

And it’s from this newfound position she’s finally agreed to get some help.

This one’s for you, Mum. xx

The inner critic. We all have one. That annoying voice in our head judging our every move. Taking glee in the dark side of every situation.

Cautious Katie. Negative Nancy. Worrying William.

Whatever you want to call him or her, they’re probably having a chat to you right now about this very meditation. You can’t meditate. You have too many thoughts. You can’t sit here still. You’re far too restless. Why are you wasting time? You could be getting things done.

They love saying no. They love saying don’t. They love to say can’t, never, nay.

Which is why we must nurture positive thoughts. The voice of self-compassion. We must clear the way for the voice of our intuition to be heard. The voice that says:

Go on. You CAN do this.

Go on. Have A GO.

Go on DO THIS, even if it’s just for you.

Go on. HAVE FAITH.

For the more that we ask that true voice to speak up, the quieter our inner critic becomes.

The more times we clear a path for our true voice to come forward, the further back Negative Nancy recedes.

And how do we encourage our true voice to sing?

By shining a spotlight on it.

MEDITATION

In this meditation, let’s encourage a space for our true voice to grow by setting a simple yet powerful intention:

Yes.

Saying yes to all of experience as it plays out moment by moment.

Yes to our monkey mind.

Yes to aches, pains and annoying itches.

Yes to every single thought we’re having.

And yes to the silence in between.


Saying yes even if we feel like saying no.

Yes to change.

Yes to the constant planning and problem solving.

Yes to this anger that’s flared up inside of us or some other emotion we’re trying to resist.

And yes to that thing we’ve been avoiding through fear.


Saying yes to this quiet reflection.

Yes to each and every breath.

Yes to each and every sound.

Yes to the practice of letting things be.

And yes to the joy of all that this brings.


For the remainder of this quiet time continue saying ‘yes’ to whatever comes up during the meditation.

Bringing yourself back with a ‘yes’ when your mind’s wandered off.

Keeping anchored with a ‘yes’ to the body and to the breath.

Repeating the affirmation ‘yes’ as a practice of empowered self-compassion.

Instilling that we CAN be present.

That we CAN show kindness.

That we definitely CAN change.

That we CAN choose happy.

Letting our true voice know it’s ready to be heard.

Loving Kindness

I See You

A LOVING KINDNESS MEDITATION

This idea for this meditation was sparked by a preview I saw for SBS documentary Look Me in the Eye.

I haven’t yet watched the series, but it reminded me of an experience I had one afternoon at the supermarket waiting in line for my groceries. Instead of burying my head in my phone to fill in the time, I decided to look up and around and actually pay attention to what all the other shoppers were doing – actually look at their faces.

I spent the next few minutes doing a short loving kindness practice: May you be well, may you be happy. Looking at the faces of those around me, sending warmth and friendliness.

And as I projected these well wishes to the woman rummaging through her handbag at next checkout over, she looked up at me and gave me a lovely big grin.

Whaaat!? Did she just hear my thoughts?

Whether or not it was pure coincidence, the experience had a profound effect in knowing this practice does actually make a difference. Even if it was just on me.

It’s one we can all have a go at some time. xx

This meditation is a take on the traditional ‘loving kindness’ or ‘metta’ practice.

In loving kindness meditation, we direct well wishes towards others with a phrase such as: May you be well, may you be happy.

We start off with those we love; those towards which we find it easy to project warmth and friendliness.

Then we move on to a neutral person – someone who we know of but don’t really have a relationship with.

Next we send well wishes to a difficult person – someone we may not like very much or someone we’re having trouble with.

Sometimes we also include those we don’t know at all. Fellow humans near and afar and even animals and other life forms on this planet we all share together.

And lastly but not least, remembering to include ourselves.

The practice seeks to tap into our empathy for others – to cultivate compassion -and what we often receive in return is a lovely and unexpected dose of wellbeing.

But sometimes it can be difficult to connect with those with whom we’re sending kind thoughts.

It can feel awkward sending “love” to the neutral person or those we don’t know.

Completely false to send well wishes to the person we’re angry with.

And certainly uncomfortable to send it to ourselves.

But what if we could really see that person, really look into their eyes? Would it help break down that barrier?

MEDITATION

In this meditation we are going to combine the traditional loving kindness practice with a visualisation and the phrase “I see you.”

Imagining we are looking into the eyes of the other person. Really seeing them, not looking through them.

Let’s begin with a friend or loved one, or even a pet. Bring to mind their face, look into their eyes. Give them a warm smile.

“I see you. May you be well. May you be happy.”

Thinking about all the wonderful qualities that you love about this person. Things you have in common, times you’ve shared.

“I see you. May you be well. May you be happy.”

Now think about a neutral person. It could be the cashier at the local shop, a passenger on the train. Imagine looking into their eyes. Really studying their facial features. Taking them all in.

“I see you. May you be well. May you be happy.”

Looking up from our phones and into the face of a fellow human being.

“I see you. May you be well. May you be happy.”

Let’s now gently bring to mind a challenging person. A difficult work colleague. A troublesome family member. A friend you’re losing touch with. Or even, a politician whose actions have angered you.

“I see you. May you be well. May you be happy.”

Remembering that this person an imperfect human just like you. Try to imagine standing face to face with this person. Looking into their eyes and making a human connection. As insincere as the phrase may feel but sending it anyway.

“I see you. May you be well. May you be happy.”

Now try and think about all other life on this planet, as weird as that may feel at first. People you don’t know, from other cities; other countries. Beings of other species – animals and even insects.

“I see you. May you be well. May you be happy.”

All sentient life forms on Earth who seek to be happy; who just like us, wish to be free from suffering. Imagine what it would be like if you could look into their faces.

“I see you. May you be well. May you be happy.”

And finally, ourselves. For some, the hardest person to give love to. You could imagine looking in the mirror, or facing your inner child.

“I see you. May you be well. May you be happy.”

Looking back at yourself. Seeing that you deserve kindness and compassion.

“May I be well, may I be happy.”

May we all recognise each other as fellow beings with needs and desires, fellow beings with struggles and challenges. Each trying to learn from our mistakes, each experiencing life in all its wonder.

May we see each other.

May we all be well.

May we all be happy.