Loving Kindness Meditation, Step 1

Meditation

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:

  1. Your self;
  2. A friend, love, or family member you feel great love for;
  3. A larger group of friends or family you feel love for;
  4. A person you have difficulty loving; and
  5. 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.

Loving Kindness Audio Meditation Step 1: Loving Yourself

Photo by h.koppdelaney @flickr

Love & Need: Are they the same?

HoldHands

As the yearly “day of romance” makes its way into our lives, and we each think about the card, the gift, or the act we are going to do which we would not usually do, I thought it apt to take a moment and reflect on Love & Need.

Love & Need 
These are different words with entirely different meanings, but are often mashed together to represent the same thing.  I Love you so much, I need you to be happy!” is the theme of many songs, poems and movies.  Let’s take a look, shall we?

Love is described as “unselfish loyal concern for the good of another”.  The key word here is unselfish.  This is synonymous with the words “if you love something, let it go”.  If you truly love, then no matter another’s actions of reciprocity towards you, you continue to act benevolently towards them.  You are looking out for their best interest out of a genuine caring.

Need is described as “a lack of something requisite, desirable, or useful” or “a condition requiring supply or relief”.  This is akin to a child needing its parents to survive, or a seed needing water to sprout.  Need is a taking, a necessity to survive or to progress.

So why is it that “I need you” is a common statement between loving couples, looking for serenity in each others’ arms?  Why is it that our love for others is almost always dependant on reciprocity, as opposed to genuine love?  With time, the “love” that we feel for another drops away with their looks, changed attitudes, or lack of spent time together.  Sometimes, if we do not obtain the affections we were used to receiving from the other, this love even turns to anger and frustration.  Was this ever “love”?  I would assert that it was not.  It was a need.  We were attached to a feeling, a state.  With time, that state changed, and with it, our “love” for another.

“I need you” implies that the person requires another for fulfillment and happiness.  But why do we say “I need you” in the first place?  It could be that we say it out of fear – fear of being alone, fear of being unfulfilled.  And when we enter into relationships out of fear, confusing “need” for “love”, it really is just a matter of time before fear creeps in again.  Fear of being left, fear of infidelity, fear of judgment.  Fear of being left alone again.

What must be done, in order to truly love others, is to realize that we are each fulfilled with our own selves.  We must make the mindful step to become aware that we are each whole, complete, and perfect.  No one else in the world can do that for us – we must accomplish this on our own.  But how can we do this?  One step is mindfulness.  Becoming mindful of our thoughts of need and self-worth allows us to nip them in the bud, before they become core beliefs.  As soon as an idea of low self-worth or doubt comes into our mind, we can thank them for the viewpoint, remember that we made that up, and continue on with what our best selves would do.

But what if the beliefs of need and low self-worth are already habitual, engrained in our core belief systems?  It is comforting to know that they probably are.  Comforting?  Yes, as it provides us with the insight that everyone is the same as us!  But that is a topic for another time.

So how do we begin to examine our core beliefs?  Well, one first step is indeed to be mindful – this will help us to notice our beliefs.  Another powerful step is to spend time examining where these core beliefs stem from.  After all, beliefs don’t just appear!  They are formed from prior experiences, and our reactions to those experiences.  A major benefit, though emotionally charged and perhaps initially difficult, can come from a simple exercise.  In the spirit of true romance and learning about your partner, you could even do this together, examining your beliefs and having an open-hearted discussion about them.

Core Belief Exercise
Take a piece of paper, a pen, and write down your beliefs about yourself, your self worth, and why you “need” someone to feel happy.  Then, trace back in time to the earliest possible memory you have of thinking that thought.  The thought most likely occurred in reaction to an event.

The event could be of great significance and trauma, or could be something that someone said in passing, not really thinking it could be interpreted in such a powerful way.  Luckily, that event happened a long time ago, and holds no true physical power over you anymore.

If you find yourself becoming upset, remember that it was simply an event.  Something that happened, and the event itself holds no power over you.  Write the event down, as detailed as possible.  Then,  what you thought, felt, and what belief you created about yourself.

It is these thoughts and beliefs you created that hold the real power over you.  Not the events, but the beliefs created by the reaction to the events.  You can then examine the beliefs you created, and begin to let them go.

This may be difficult for some of us, as events of all kinds can hold different emotional charges.  The method, and premise, however, of confronting the past and seeing it simply as an event, and a lifelong reaction to that event, holds the key to releasing the Suffering that is created by this core belief.  Once we see where the core belief comes from, we can start to be more mindful in our lives for when it tries to creep into our minds and make us feel less complete than what we really are.

Another step to aid us on our path of love without need, is to adopt a daily practice of loving kindness meditation.  A loving kindness meditation can help us to move forward in the path of self-love, and in the process, develop true love for others.  People we never thought we could care about: the person that stole, the former intimate partner, even the step-parent!  In time, this daily meditation of Loving-Kindness shall also help to develop your mindfulness, become more cognizant of the thoughts and feelings you create within yourself.  Following is a link to a wonderful Loving Kindness meditation from Buddhanet.  Please take some time to sit back and enjoy it!

So in summary:
  1. Be more mindful
  2. Complete the core belief exercise.  Bonus if you complete it with your partner!
  3. Follow a daily Loving Kindness meditation
These steps will surely help you enter your relationships with Love, as opposed to filling a Need.

Happy Valentines Day!  Enjoy life and each other!