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May I be filled with lovingkindness

“I am larger, better than I thought; I did not know I held so much goodness.”
– Walt Whitman

There are plenty of reasons for developing a kind and generous spirit for ourselves and others.  Anecdotal evidence has long maintained that by practicing lovingkindness we can reduce our own pain and boost our well-being.  Perhaps now, more than ever, we can reduce our anxiety, with a willingness to practice Metta or lovingkindness.

I am not in a position to solve the world’s problems.  Sometimes I can barely solve my own.  Over the past few months I’ve experienced hate, anxiety, fear, hopelessness and anger.  This is not my usual state of mind.  It has taken its toll on me both physically and mentally.  I know that if I am in the grip of the power of anger and hatred, that it is an enemy that will wreak havoc with my psyche.  I will be less likely to make sound decisions regarding that which is causing me angst.   I’d been practicing Metta and then threw it out the window when I needed it most.  For my own sanity, I’m returning to this practice of lovingkindness for myself and others.  If you’re interested in trying it, here’s an example.

Begin with a short meditation, maybe five minutes each morning, with a recitation of phrases, like the ones below, expressed with the intention of planting seeds of loving wishes over and over in your heart.  Breathe gently as you repeat the phrases directed toward your own well-being.  Let your heart be soft.  Let go of any plans or preoccupations.

May I be filled with loving kindness.
May I be well.
May I be peaceful and at ease.

May I be safe.
May I be happy.

Practice Metta until the sense of lovingkindness for yourself grows.  It is especially important to be patient and kind toward yourself, allowing whatever arises to be received in a spirit of friendliness and kind affection. When you feel you have established some stronger sense of lovingkindness for yourself, you can then expand your meditation to include others.   As you gradually  include other people in your meditation, picture each beloved person, reciting inwardly the same phrases, evoking a sense of lovingkindness for each of them.   You can choose to eventually extend your meditation to picture and include community members, neighbors, people everywhere, animals, all beings and the earth.

Lovingkindness can be practiced anywhere. You can use this meditation in traffic jams, in meetings, on airplanes, in the supermarket – any place where you feel anxious.

As you journey through your day, there are simple actions you can take to strengthen your lovingkindness and generosity muscle, so it becomes more natural.

Engage with the people you interact with: the grocery store clerk, a receptionist or people on the street.  Listen when they talk.  Gently smile and silently wish them goodwill.  You might be surprised at the pleasant feeling you will reap.

Offer acts of kindness.   The other day I noticed a young boy rush over to open a door for someone carrying a large box.  He was beaming when he walked back to his dad.  Gestures such as this activate a pay-it-forward climate of generosity in your little corner of the world.

You can practice lovingkindness at various times, throughout your day.  When you shower, notice the feeling of the water cascading down your body and take a moment to relish it.  Set an alarm on your phone to go off periodically throughout the day and when you hear it, take a breath or two and send yourself thoughts of kindness.  “May I be happy and safe.”   “May I live with ease.”  “May I be happy.”

Extending lovingkindness to myself and to others is a simple but powerful expression of mindfulness that makes a significant difference in my life.  I can open my heart and increase feelings of self-kindness and inner calm.

Then I can tackle the problems of the world from a place of peace and calm.

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Hidden Fees

In 2012, a Los Angeles restaurant owner discovered a neon light on his property that had been walled over but never disconnected.  After 77 years of uninterrupted use, it had amassed $17,000 in electric bills.

When I read this, it made me think:

  • What is walled up inside of me that continues to amass spiritual bills?
  • How do I disconnect the power?

No matter how much I meditate or spend quiet time replenishing my spirit, I have not been completely successful in turning off the power of a hidden element with its “red” emission.  Programmed into my psyche, behind a solid wall, is the continually running low-voltage current that quickly changes to high-voltage when I encounter certain triggers.

Unless you happen to be the one who sets me off, you’d likely never know this light exists.  The other day I mentioned that we all have a dark side.  My grandson said, “Not you Lala, you are always thinking about other people and trying to be fair.”  While I admit that this is true, and am grateful that he has that perception of me, I sometimes respond in unkind ways when I feel as though I’m being provoked.

Neon has no stable compounds, much like anger, often used as a protective mechanism to cover up fear, hurt or sadness.  I know that my sometimes automatic reactions are learned.  My father often had intense, emotional responses triggered by a variety of things.  If you happened to be the target, it left its mark.

I’ve done enough research to know that anger can be a useful emotion.  It’s a signal that something’s amiss.  So I will continue to take apart my wall, brick by brick, until I completely reveal the hidden circuits and hopefully rewire them.

A jackhammer does not work because it may demolish important circuitry.  A chisel allows for gradual revelation and the opportunity to really see what is beneath the surface.

Some chisel-like tools I’ve used to crack open my wall are:

Journaling – by writing about the basis of my anger, I can scrape away the insulation and examine the exposed wire.

Breathing – slow in and out breaths give me time to think about what is really happening.  I can experience my anger and own it.  I can think about how I want to respond.  Or if I just want to let this one go.

Listening – What is going on with the other person?  Is he/she really wanting to attack me?  Or is this fear or hurt disguised as an assault?

Neon is an inert element.  That’s what I want for my anger.  I want it to live in stillness.  I want it to be informative, not destructive.  I want it to be a catalyst for change and self-discovery.  I want to honor and respect it.  It is, after all, an important element of perfectly, imperfect me.

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