This is a guest post by Prudence Sinclair.
Good morning, lovely YOU!
As I was running errands yesterday afternoon, I found myself starting to get a bit hot under the collar because it seemed there was more traffic than usual and more driver crankiness than usual. I mean I know it was Monday and most people don’t love Mondays, but there was just extra crankiness in the air.
At one point, it was as if I had absorbed this crankiness that was all around me, and I found myself behind a car, ready to lay on the horn because they took their sweet time moving after the traffic light turned green. I suddenly saw the bumper sticker on the back of their car that said, “Choose Kindness.” Boy, was that a needed wake-up call!!
It’s not easy being kind some days. Not to others and not to ourselves. And even though I have my moments where I can lose myself to the toxic-ness in the world, I am so much better than I used to be in my younger days! I could really get mad at times back then!
What has changed and how do I keep myself feeling kindness when the world around me seems so unkind? I practice Loving Kindness Meditation (LKM). I have found that by practicing LKM, I feel less stress and I am able to be more loving and forgiving of myself and others. LKM leads to self-acceptance and self-compassion, and this helps me to accept and feel compassion for others.
But there are even more benefits, which have now been scientifically proven! For instance, a study published in the 2018 July/August issue of the Harvard Review of Psychology reported that LKM may be beneficial in the treatment of chronic pain and borderline personality disorder. Other studies suggest LKM may help manage social anxiety, marital conflict, anger, and coping with the strains of long-term caregiving.
And yet still other studies believe that LKM activates areas of the brain that are involved in emotional processing and empathy, giving us an increased sense of positivity while reducing negativity.
Getting Started with Loving Kindness Meditation
There are different ways to practice Loving Kindness Meditation, but I am going to share the technique I learned years ago and that I still use to this day. This is a meditation you will want to practice daily. Once you feel how good you will feel, you will WANT to do it every day.
1. Make Time
Carve out some time in your schedule. To start, you only need 5-10 minutes and can add more moving forward if you want/can. But 5-10 minutes works well.
Find a quiet space and sit comfortably with your eyes closed. Relax your muscles and take a few deep breaths.
2. Use Your Imagination
With your eyes closed, imagine yourself feeling completely relaxed physically and begin to sense inner peace and emotional wellness. Begin to feel total love for yourself. Recognize that you are perfect just the way you are. Continue to feel this inner peace and love as you continue to breathe deeply, exhaling any lingering tension or negatively you notice in your mind, heart or body, and inhaling positivity and love.
Next, repeat three or four positive affirmations. These messages should be short and reaffirm linguistically the positive feelings you are feeling and wish to carry with you all day. You can create your own affirmations, but here’s a few ideas:
- I am safe
- I am loved
- I am filled with peace
I love and approve of myself
- I happily share this love and peace with others
You can repeat these affirmations a few times. Then, just sit for a few more moments, basking in the amazing feelings of warmth and self-love. If you find your mind starts to drift, that’s okay, just gently bring your attention back to the feelings of kindness and compassion. Imagine these feelings as swirling golden light all around you. Luxuriate in the feelings of absolute peace, love and joy.
You can either stay with this focus, or shift your focus to sending this love and compassion to loved ones in your life. Start with someone you feel very close to, such as your spouse or children. Feel the love and gratitude you have for them and hold these feelings. If you need to, you can repeat your affirmations. Sometimes speaking these positive words out loud replenishes the emotions we feel.
When you’ve held that person in your attention for a moment, bathing them with love and compassion, you can begin to send this feeling to other friends and family members, one by one. Feel free to include neighbors and acquaintances you feel may need kindness and love in their life. Don’t forget your four-legged loved ones!
Once you become more confident in the practice, you may want to end your meditation sessions by sending this love and compassion to people with whom you are in conflict or who “rub you the wrong way.” I have found this helps me let go of anger and resentment and feel peace. That’s a win for you and by sending love and compassion to those you have been in conflict, it’s a win for them as well!
When you have sent love and kindness to everyone you wish to, open your eyes and just be still for a moment. Hold on to the feelings you have just generated. Commit to holding onto them throughout the day.
Loving Kindness Meditation is one of the simplest and I think most powerful forms of meditation. Not only does it make you feel amazing, but you are truly changing your life and the lives of others when you send out this love and kindness to yourself and the world. It is truly remarkable and profound. I hope you will try this technique and let me know how it positively changes your life.
Sending you peace, love and kindness…