The Art Of Loving Kindness
‘Loving-kindness and compassion are the basis for wise, powerful, sometimes gentle, and sometimes fierce actions that can really make a difference -- in our own lives and those of others.’ Sharon Salzberg
Back in 2015 when I decided to rename my business, as I moved more into the areas of coaching and meditation instruction and away from teaching drama and performance, I took some time to choose a name that resonated with me and I what I wanted to do. At the time my regular practice was most often that of Loving Kindness. I had attended a Loving Kindness retreat in 2014 and had experienced a profound sense of love for myself and as I gradually expanded my practice to include all beings, I found my ability to forgive others, see them as vulnerable beings (just as I am) and to be more present with their good intentions, I realised how important the practice of Loving Kindness is to me. And so, Metta-morphics emerged, Metta being the Pali word for Loving Kindness. Now over four years since that retreat Loving Kindness is still one of my favourite practices and the one to which I always return in difficult times.
My first experience of Metta was listening to a guided meditation by Tara Brach many years ago and from there I went on to read Sharon Salzberg’s book Loving Kindness. Being quite rule bound I decided to follow the recommended instruction of practicing just for myself for 6 months before moving on to others. This recommendation is especially important for those of us living in the Western world as it is believed we have a hard time with self-hatred and self-loathing and feelings of disconnection due to a lack of community and communal thinking. In the East there appears less of a focus on individuality and so practicing for oneself appears to be less of a challenge for those born there.
The more I practiced the kinder I found myself being towards myself, the quicker I was to forgive my mistakes and the easier it was to see the good intentions of others as I began to realise I didn’t intend to make mistakes or be inconsiderate towards others. Eventually I moved on to including others, strangers, those I had difficulty with and finally all beings. The more I practiced the more content I became and the less bothered I was by the actions of others. It as during this time I went on retreat.
The last day of the retreat involved a practice where we sent Loving Kindness to ourselves at each stage of our lives, starting with birth, moving through childhood, our teens, and different stages of adulthood. During this practice I was overwhelmed with a sense of love for myself. I saw how hard I tried to do my best, how often I had beaten myself up for my mistakes and how even at my most foolish my intentions had always been good. I loved myself more, in that moment, than I ever had, and I felt no sense of shame or embarrassment for doing so. It was in that moment of kindness towards myself that I realised I could see others in the same way and with regular practice help myself to deal with challenges that arose in my life and my feelings when faced with challenging behaviour in others.
I practice Loving Kindness meditation weekly and I often bring it with me throughout my day. It is a simple practice and one which I hope you will find useful.
Begin by bringing to mind a loved one, a person, a pet, someone easy to love, living or dead. Get a sense of them in your mind, a picture, a feeling, whatever works for you. Feel and connect to that love in your heart (you can place your hand on your heart if you wish). Repeat the following phrases to this individual:
May You Be Safe
May You Be Happy
May You Be Healthy
May You Live with Ease.
Repeat the phrases for a minimum of one minute up to five minutes before moving on. You can adapt the phrases to suit your own specific needs for example: May you Be Free from Suffering, May You Love Yourself as You Are, May You Be at Peace etc. After your chosen duration, move on to yourself, repeating May I Be Safe and so on, or you can continue to say ‘You’ if that feels better. Some people find it easier to say ‘You’ especially if you find the process emotional, which many people do. After sending the Loving Kindness to yourself then move on to a stranger, a person you have a difficulty with and finally all beings.
As you practice you will find your mind will wander, when it does, simply return to the phrases and begin again. Notice your emotions during your practice, you may find it easier to send it to others rather than yourself to begin with, and that is quite normal. When you begin the practice initially it is recommended you do it just for yourself for approximately 6 months. If you find that a challenge you can still begin with loved one before turning the Loving Kindness towards yourself.
As you progress through your day it is nice to wish Loving Kindness to those you meet by repeating one of the phrases in your mind for them. It can also be useful when you find yourself getting frustrated with others. Instead of complaining in your mind, send them Loving Kindness, you’ll be amazed how much you’ll gain from the experience.
I hope you find Loving Kindness as rewarding as I do, feel free to post questions or thoughts in the comments.
Thanks for reading if you have any questions about what I do please get in touch, email@example.com, 00353868373582.
I hope our paths cross again in future,
Mind Coach, Meditation Instructor, Trainer