Meditation and loving kindness? Bah! You say, “I’m not doing it!” ” I can’t do it.” You’ve tried, even if reluctantly, because you’ve heard of all the benefits, but it just doesn’t seem to work for you. You’re brain jumps to 10 million-thousand thoughts! Good grief, things you haven’t thought about for years and years come out of the woodwork! So you give up and simply declare meditation is just not for you. That experience is what meditation experts call the ‘monkey mind” and what you might not know is it happens to everyone. Everyone. Even those who have been meditating for years.
But you remain intrigued. You keep hearing others talk about the benefits they’ve experienced from even just 5 minutes of meditation everyday. You’ve even heard how meditation can improve memory and concentration abilities, so despite your resistance, you remain intrigued.
I offer you three great starting places to experiment with that were game changers for me. Authors and spiritual guides Sharon Salzberg, Janice Lynne Lundy and Byron Katie introduced me to all three.
In “Real Happiness,” Sharon Salzberg offers up several approaches to meditation and includes a CD with audio guidance. The ‘Breath’ meditation is the one that changed my experience with meditation because Salzberg very lovingly guides her readers/listeners with pointed instruction on how to deal with the seemingly endless thoughts that rise up, which do leave many of us feeling very defeated and inept. The magic happened for me when she suggested that rather than make myself wrong when confronted with a stream of thoughts, that I actually greet each thought as I would a friend who came to visit me, with great kindness and curiosity. To notice why these thoughts keep rising, what lessons they might have to offer and then just let them gently go, with no wrong-making. If you are interested in giving meditation another try, I assure you, Salzberg’s guidance is a game changer.
Janice Lynne Lundy, author of “Your Truest Self,” among many other transformative works, introduced me to metta, the practice of loving-kindness. A Buddhist tradition, metta is considered by many a very supportive consciousness practice akin to traditional meditation, with the intention to cultivate compassion and unconditional love for all beings. With a few short seemingly benign verses, metta offers a transformative and very powerful heart-opening, heart-softening effect.
One breath. One verse. Practiced slowly and consciously. And the magic begins to unfold. Practiced for thousands of years by many, the meditator begins by cultivating loving-kindness for self, and then moves on to teachers, loved ones, friends, strangers, and then even their enemies and then to all living beings. As Lundy personally guided me, the direction for the verses is to stay with self until we feel the softening in our heart. Then we move outward to others. Even if it takes a year or more for you to feel compassion for yourself and your journey, stay with the verses as directed.
To begin, recite for 5 minutes:
- May I be safe.
- May I be happy.
- May I be healthy.
- May I live with ease.
During my Sacred time of personal spiritual direction with Lundy and the many lessons she imparted, she offered up this gorgeous quote from Buddha to impress the power of metta, “You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.”
Byron Katie, author of “Loving What Is” made a profound impact on my meditation experience with one sentence, though everything she has written is a very worthy read. Katie, said “let yourself experience being breathed.” These 5 words stopped me and caused me to pause and really reflect on what she meant. It initially sounded funny, “let myself be breathed.” And under thoughtful reflection, I thought, WOW, right… I am breathing with no effort of my own. I just breathe. That the life-force that sources my breath actually causes my breath to happen. The thought that something beyond me was sourcing my breath in a very real and literal sense caused a profound connection that I had not experienced before with my breath and meditation practice. Katie’s suggestion is a worthy consideration, as you experiment with ways in finding what works best for you. You never know, one of the suggestions I offer may very well move you forward in creating a meditation practice that reaps all the benefits research suggests as possible, such as less anxiety and stress, greater inner calm and creativity, improved memory and focus and a more compassionate heart. Any one of these benefits makes meditation worth trying!