Who hasn’t come face-to-face with the overwhelming vicissitudes of life? Job pressures, relationship snarls, schedule overloads, high expectations–any number of life’s interwoven threads can raise stress levels. With elevated stress comes mental fog and a distracted state. Sometimes just thinking about a difficult situation is enough to raise anxiety levels. This gets us cogitating on all the negative possible outcomes. That inability to stop rehashing the problem–cycling through all the “what ifs” and “if onlys” over and over–becomes a problem unto itself. In coaching we call this getting stuck in the story.
While life can be messy and challenging at times, it can also be awesome and wonderful. That’s what keeps things interesting! There is no way to stop the highs and lows from happening, and it would be foolish to try to stop our minds from thinking. But when a cycling mind starts to interfere with the everyday necessities of sleeping, thinking straight, and relating to those around us with equanimity, it’s time to pause and reframe the mental picture. And I have the perfect tool for that.
When I need to shift out of story mode and into a calmer state of mind, my go-to technique is the Buddhist practice called Metta Bhavana. It’s a Pali term that translates to Lovingkindness – a sweet, gentle, transformative meditation practice.
To practice lovingkindness is to cultivate compassion. It’s an embodiment of pure love that extends into an expanding circle from the people in our lives out to all living beings. We extend unconditional love without expectation of anything coming back in return. By sending compassion into the universe, we endeavor to become one with it. It’s both sweet and unsentimental, a way to break down some of the barriers that make us feel separate from each other.
A Meditation Practice for People Who Think Meditation is Not for Them
Lovingkindness meditation is especially suited to people who think that meditation is not for them. It requires no tools, special training or an extended commitment of time. A few minutes of practice is enough to soften some of the rough edges. A wonderful practice when things go well, it’s a true spiritual balm when the going gets tough.
On a compassionate note, I’ve recorded a short practice for you to try. There are hundreds of scripts for extending your good wishes through a lovingkindness meditation. (Google it and you’ll find many.) This particular version is the first one I learned many years ago. It’s a fine jumping off point. Of course, if you find that the practice resonates for you, you might want to write your own script.
I can’t think of a better start to a new year, than to add lovingkindness to your personal tool kit. I’d love to hear how the practice lands for you. Do let me know how you’re using it and what you notice.
Happy New Year!