In our previous article Surfing Meditation, we broached the topics of surfing and meditation and the soothing effects they can have on a person. In another post on Square Breathing, we demonstrated a simple meditation that can be used to calm oneself through using the breath. Today, we begin a 5 part series on Loving Kindness Meditation.
The Loving Kindness Meditation is based on the Buddhist notion that all beings desire to be happy. This commonality can unite people through their differing points of view, experiences, and belief systems. The Loving Kindness Meditation can be thought of as practicing love, and then sharing that love with all around you. Family, friends, strangers, and even those we “dislike” can all benefit from our love. As a meditation, it is, in our opinion, one of the most calming and peaceful. As a daily practice in life however, it is one of the most challenging (yet rewarding) as it involves an active control over our reactions and judgments of other people, and oftentimes unrequited compassion and love.
But why would one wish to practice love? Isn’t that a little “artificial”?
It is much like anything else in life: if we leave something up to chance and randomness, we’ll never be really great at it. Once in a while we’ll “fall in love” with someone, and they may or may not love us back. We’ll love our families, our friends. Some of us may even learn to love ourselves! In this unpracticed fashion, love is purely environmental and a reaction to particular, perfect conditions. With practiced love resulting from the Loving Kindness Meditation, it is a creation resulting from an unshakable internal state. It is like the difference between the following two surfing situations:
- Bobbing around in a random place on the water, hoping that not only a stellar wave will happen to come by, but with little to no prior experience, one will be able to catch it and ride it like a pro.
- Setting up regularly at a known surf spot, with good, consistent sets, and practicing not only catching and riding waves as often as possible, but also sharing them with others thanks to the feeling of abundance.
In summary, if we leave the ability to love to chance, then we only end up loving a very few around us; the easy ones to love. By consciously practicing love through a Loving Kindness Meditation, we more easily have love for all around us, from the “unlovable” to the ones we already care about very deeply.
Spontaneous love is unpredictable and rare. Created love is consistent and abundant.
The steps of a Loving Kindness Meditation involve creating love inwards, then progressively moving outwards to different levels of relationships. These steps are loving:
- Your self;
- A friend, love, or family member you feel great love for;
- A larger group of friends or family you feel love for;
- A person you have difficulty loving; and
- All persons you encounter.
Traditionally, Loving Kindness Meditations step through all 5 (sometimes 4) tiers in one sitting. We decided to break this meditation in smaller, composite parts, which will allow the “meditatee” to build focus and a strong foundation of love. Our first meditation involves Step 1: Loving our Selves.
Appreciating and having compassion for self is the most important step. As Lucille Ball said, “I have an everyday religion that works for me. Love yourself first, and everything else falls into line.” In order to share abundant love with others, we must first build a strong foundation of patience and empathy towards our selves.
With this vision of a strong foundation of love in mind, listen to the guided meditation below. While listening, keep your breath slow and calm, and repeat the words after they are spoken. Most important is to truly feel the words and their meanings. Embody love! Feel patience and compassion! Do not repeat them emptily! (Though if you do, worry not: Simply have the patience and compassion with yourself to just try again). Repeat this meditation for as many days as is needed until you feel you have a solid foundation of love and compassion for yourself.
Put your heart and soul into the meditation, and with that, stoke the love within you.
Photo by h.koppdelaney @flickr