These are times of stress, strain and division in our country and the world. It is easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of angry words, acts of hatred and violence and feel a sense of powerlessness about it all. It is vital to remember that despite the fear and anger that is demonstrated, we all have the capacity to express love and compassion. Although I am not a practicing Buddhist, their ideas about compassion and loving kindness seem relevant and helpful.
This principle of compassion can be applied in your daily life both for yourself as well as others. Compassion does not mean that we passively sits by and do nothing to create positive change in the world, but we must begin with ourselves.
All of us can easily think of something or sometime when we have reacted in a way that is less than adequate or right. We judge ourselves harshly and move into blaming, shaming and guilt. Although we do need to identify those aspects of our behavior that need improvement, how we try to change and grow towards a better self does not result from guilt and shaming ourselves or others.
Sharon Salzberg,(www.sharonsalzberg.com) a very well know Buddhist teacher has some specific ways you might begin to practice loving- kindness.
First, spend some time reflecting on what you have done or a quality you possess that is good and helpful to yourself and /or others.
Remember when you made a mistake and define what qualities or mind-set would help you to change. What qualities stand in your way of changing?
When you judge your feelings of anger or fear as bad or weak, try using the words pain or suffering to describe your reaction.
Next, practice some form of self -care each day for fifteen or twenty minutes to try being kind to yourself.
Consider the “middle” way in thinking about some situation or relationship – move into the grey instead of black or white judgment.
Consider trying to practice a loving kindness meditation as follows:
Find a quiet space where you will not be interrupted. Bring your attention to your breath and just watch the rising and falling of your chest and belly. Create a clearing of softening and opening and bring to your mind the feeling of warmth and love that you either feel for another or have felt from someone else. Even when other thoughts and feelings arise, allow them to just come and go observing them as you might the waves of the ocean- always moving, rising and falling. When you are able to calm yourself to receive the loving energy of kindness repeat out loud or to yourself:
May I live in safety
May I have mental happiness ( peace, joy)
May I have physical happiness ( health, freedom from pain)
May I live with ease.
You may want to direct these loving words to others as well as yourself. Allow the words to flow from your heart and gently bring your focus back with gentleness when you lose your focus. There is no perfect way to practice this meditation- clearly judgment is what we are trying to move away from with each and every attempt in our lives to heal. As Gandhi said, ” We must become the change we want to see in the world”.