DAY 15: LOVING KINDNESS MEDITATION
My friend, Elizabeth, will be guiding us through a beautiful, simple and powerful meditation that we should all try. I love it. It resonates deeply. I give you Elizabeth:
Loving Kindness Meditation
May you be free from danger.
May you be happy.
May you be healthy.
May you live your life with ease.
Hidey ho, neighbors. Elizabeth here. (Two of my oldest and dearest friends are Bryce’s cousins. Since I love them like sisters, I consider Bryce a cousin-by-proxy.) Since no 30-day experiment would be complete without an introduction to the benefits of meditation, I have volunteered to cover this topic. I am a beginning meditation student myself and would like to share a few things I have learned so far.
Together the phrases above are known as a Loving Kindness meditation, or metta meditation. Print them out, jot them down somewhere, or copy them into the notes app on your phone. The practice of Loving Kindness meditation is recommended in Buddhist texts that are 2500 years old! Perhaps you too can benefit from this ancient practice.
Before we talk about the Loving Kindness meditation (LKM) specifically, let’s talk about meditation more generally. What is meditation and why should we do it? Meditation is the practice of becoming mindful, of cultivating the ability to live in the present moment instead of the past or the future. Take this test for me. Close your eyes for 30 seconds and focus only on your breath (remember day 1?). Focus on the breath coming in and leaving your nose. Go ahead. Do it. Then, open your eyes and continue.
Did you do it? Or, did you just jump down to this paragraph and continue reading? If you jumped, close your eyes and breathe. We’ll wait.
If you are like me, you made it through one cycle of breath and then started to think about the rest of your life. Thoughts of the future came whizzing in, “What will I do if I lose power again in this storm?” Thoughts of the past visited too, “Did I get enough bread and milk at the grocery store to make it through the storm?” I find it next to impossible to stay focused on my breath for longer than one or two cycles. I am working on becoming more mindful of the present moment, and so, I meditate.
There are many different ways to meditate. You can sit still and focus on your breath, the light of a candle, or a divine statue. You can repeat prayers over and over and stay focused on the prayer (think: Catholic rosary). You can repeat a mantra. You can say the LKM.
When saying the LKM there are 2 routes. The first is to say the above phrases 6 times: once to yourself (substitute “I” for “you”), and then for the remaining 5 phrases, dedicate the practice to 5 different people.
Another recommendation is to begin the LKM and dedicate the entire practice to yourself for 5-10 minutes per day. Advance to dedicating the practice to another only after you feel complete and total compassion for yourself, which may take a year or more. If that feels like too big of a chunk for you, then start by dedicating your practice to a spiritual teacher, benefactor, grandparent, or any source of unconditional love.
Find a quiet spot. Sit up tall. Recite the LKM. By initiating a meditation practice with the Loving Kindness meditation, you will begin to become more mindful and more compassionate. I invite you to join me on this path together.
THE QUICK AND DIRTY TASK: Practice Loving Kindness
The What: Take 5 minutes during the day to repeat the Loving Kindness meditation.
May I be free from danger.
May I be happy.
May I be healthy.
May I live my life with ease.
The How: You can use the one above, find another one on the Internet, or make up your own. Repeat the phrases several times. Each time, change your focus and dedicate the practice to:
- A Teacher
- A Loved One
- A Stranger
- A Person that Challenges You
- All Beings Everywhere.
You can try saying it when you first awake, on the way to work, when you need a break, before you go to bed. Here is a link to a recorded version from author, professor, and researcher, Barbara Frederickson, PhD.
The Why:Recent studies have shown the benefits of the Loving Kindness meditation. It can increase social connectedness, reduce pain and anger, and increase compassion. See the all-knowing Wikipedia for references.
Hi, it’s Bryce again. I would like to put in my two cents but she pretty much covered it all. Just like everything else that we are doing here, this is one more tool in the toolbox. There is no right way or one tool that works for everything. Some may find it daunting but I find it beautiful. Once we get enough tools, we are limitless and will be able to tackle any challenge that is set before us. Really take time and try this. Again, it is so divinely simple but powerful. That’s how it should be, right? Right!