Lovingkindness Class Follow-Up
Thanks for showing up for class!
In this weekly follow-up, I’m again offering many ways for you to work with the content that was presented in class. And I want to reiterate: Please don’t feel pressured to do it all. Do what feels right to you. Trying to meditate daily might be enough! Some days, having the intention is even enough. But if you want more, I’m offering options to take it deeper.
- It’s not only important that you pay attention to the present moment, but also how you pay attention. Lovingkindness makes it possible to come back again and again with kindness to the life that is right here, both on and off the meditation cushion.
- It’s ultimately about not throwing anyone or anything out of your heart. And that doesn’t mean you don’t have healthy boundaries because lovingkindness for yourself is an essential part of the practice. With practice, you can learn to relate even to difficult people with a wise, awakened heart instead of with aversion or hostility. (But this is advanced practice and takes time!)
- In lovingkindness practice, we send wishes of lovingkindness to others and to ourselves. You can use whatever phrases resonate with you, and feel free to adapt them or create your own. We begin where it’s easiest: with someone for whom it’s easy to feel lovingkindness.
- Mature compassion is mindful, caring, and wise. Not a doormat. Immature compassion is enabling, without boundaries, etc.
“If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each person’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.”
– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Steps for Lovingkindness Practice:
- Set an intention of good will
- Direct wishes of lovingkindness
- Actively engage in offering and receiving care
- Progression (over time)
- Benefactor: someone who makes you smile and brings up feelings of loving (i.e. grandparent, pet, teacher, child, friend)
- Neutral person
- Difficult person
- All beings
Examples of Lovingkindness Phrases
- May you be well.
- May you be safe.
- May you be strong and healthy.
- May you live with ease.
- May you be happy and free.
- May you be at peace.
- May you be kind to yourself.
When Strong Feelings Arise
As with any other meditation practice, there are likely to be times when strong feelings arise and perhaps catch us by surprise. This is completely normal. We’re paying closer attention to what’s happening in our minds and therefore will notice more than usual. In lovingkindness meditation, for example, we might find ourselves missing those who can’t be present physically for whatever reason. Grief or loneliness may arise – even in a meditation designed to strengthen feelings of kindness and connection. The busy, thinking mind might fuel these feelings with some kind of narrative that deepens and prolongs them.
When that happens, simply bring awareness to whatever is there, becoming mindful of feelings and thoughts. You might note: Grief is present. Or hello, Grief. Name softly what is present, as if to bow to it with respect, and know that it is trying to protect you. It’s not the enemy. Bring loving awareness to whatever feelings or thoughts are present. Notice if they change in intensity. You might even thank them: Thank you for trying to protect me. I’m okay now.
Here is a recording from one of my recent Tuesday evening Zoom meditations that guides you through this, to help steady yourself:
If feelings become too intense, you also could use the breath to help steady you. Or you could ground yourself by opening your eyes and feeling your body supported by your chair, the floor, etc.
At any point, you can decide to continue with the meditation, shift into a different kind of meditation, or stop altogether. Every moment of mindfulness is an opportunity to bring lovingkindness to whatever is present and to offer care to yourself by giving yourself what you most need. RAIN is a valuable practice you can do at any time to bring caring to whatever arises.
I care deeply about how you are doing. If any challenges arise when you’re meditating, please feel free to reach out. I’m here for you.
Homework for This Week and Beyond
- Try to build up to 20 minutes/day (and remember that any practice is better than none).
- Experiment with one or more of the new guided meditations (below).
- Continue working with any of the previous guided meditations that work for you.
- Alternate between awareness and heart practices as you see fit.
- Notice opportunities for bringing yourself back to awareness of the here-and-now and practicing lovingkindness in daily life.
- Remember your intention!
- Write a Letter from Unconditional Love
- What are the words you most long to hear someone say to you?
- Imagine what the most compassionate, loving, gentle person would say to you.
- Say it to yourself on paper.
- Shower yourself with tenderness and mercy.
Please remember that any meditation is better than none! If you don’t have time to meditate on a given day, you might try:
- Going to sleep listening to a guided meditation
- Taking a few minutes to imagine yourself in the most beautiful, soothing place
- Pausing to take three conscious breaths throughout the day
- Breathing with your sleeping child
- Stepping outside and feeling the sun on your skin, watching or listening to birds, observing a bee pollinating flowers, watching the clouds drift through the sky, gazing at the stars, being mindful of sounds, etc.
- Taking time for gratitude by writing down five things you’re grateful for each day and pausing to savor pleasurable experiences. (Here is a blog post I wrote that might be helpful.)
- Breathing with the Breathe Bubble on Calm.
Questions to Reflect on
- How might current events (news, social media, etc.) create a sense of the “Bad Other” – people who are hard to include in your circle of lovingkindness? Who is your Bad Other?
- Can you get a sense of what is below the anger, blame, etc. you feel toward the Bad Other? Perhaps some kind of caring (for fairness, social justice, living in a compassionate world, etc.)? Can you touch the caring that is beneath it all?
- Review your relationships with people in your closest circle of family and friends. Where are you carrying resentment or blame?
- With each person who came to mind, ask yourself, “If I had to let go of this story of ‘wrongness,’ what difficult emotion would I have to feel?”
- What are the words you most long to hear someone say to you? (These words can be incorporated into your lovingkindness practice.)
Choose whatever meditations resonate most. I recorded and uploaded to my website several guided practices for this course, some of which are listed below.
Lovingkindness Meditation (12 minutes)
Guided Mindfulness & Lovingkindness Meditation (25 minutes, meditation begins at 3:25)
Metta (Lovingkindness) (12 minutes)
Lovingkindness Meditation (15 minutes)
Facing Fear with a Compassionate Heart (talk that includes writing a letter from unconditional love)
Live Guided Meditations
I will continue to offer a live, weekly, guided meditation session via Zoom through Schuylerville Public Library. Please join me if you’d like on Tuesdays at 7 PM. You can save the link. It remains the same from week to week.
Tuesday evening Zoom link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87301609088?pwd=dU0zMko2Z0xnMHZtN2NZS1ZJNTlOQT09
Loving Wisdom Cards
I didn’t mention this in class but thought I’d mention here that one of my goals that came to fruition last year was to create a card deck of my inspirational quote images. I call them Loving Wisdom Cards.
I wish you a fruitful practice! This is important work you are doing. I’m so glad that you participated in this course! If you’d like to register for the next five-week series (which is not an intro series), click HERE.
If you’d like to stay in touch and hear about upcoming classes and guided meditations, be sure to sign up for my mailing list below! And feel free to reach out at any time. I’d love to hear from you.
Please take good care of yourself!
This poem and these images emerged from where my two great refuges, nature photography and mindfulness meditation, intersect. Beginner's Mind I do not know your name, Have not come face-to-face with you before Or perhaps have not seen you quite like...
It was just a regular paddle up the river to my usual turnaround spot and back. Occasionally, I'd pause to be still on the calm water and take in the symphony of the birds without the steady rhythm of paddling in the foreground. Before paddling back across the river...