There seems to be a lot of anxiety in the world today. Besides our day to day problems, we have the pandemic and an election. People are divided on many issues, and you may find it hard to stay calm during disagreements. One way to stay calm is to practice mindfulness.
Mindfulness will help give you a “pause” before you react. The key is to practice mindfulness daily, not just when you are in a disagreement or distressed.
A straightforward way to practice mindfulness is to not multi-task. Pick one activity in your day and give all your attention to it. Instead of eating lunch and reading, just eat your lunch. If you are talking on the phone and answering email, stop and give all your focus and attention to the person you are speaking with.
Also, practice the Loving Kindness Meditation
This mindfulness meditation explores a traditional heart-opening meditation practice called loving-kindness meditation. You might also hear this type of meditation referred to as “metta” in the Pali language, or “maitri” in the Sanskrit language.
Loving-kindness meditation is a Buddhist compassion practice, but you do not have to be a Buddhist to try it. Anyone can benefit from meditating on compassion.
Why practice compassion and opening your heart? When we’re ruminating on our pain and suffering, we are thinking about ourselves. Thinking about ourselves only causes us more pain. All our suffering comes from putting ourselves first or thinking about ourselves too much.
Thinking that we need to “get ours” before others get theirs keeps us trapped in the belief that we are separate from others, and it traps us in the belief that there’s not enough of the good stuff to go around.
In truth, we are all connected, and anything in this life that provides lasting happiness is available in great abundance. Most significantly, love.
We benefit when we open our hearts and act more compassionately towards others. By shifting the focus on self to focusing on others, we realize that we are connected to all others. By practicing giving, rather than receiving, we recognize that we already have an abundance within us.
Let’s begin with the following simple version of a loving-kindness meditation:
Loving Kindness Meditation
- Sit comfortably in a quiet place, free from distractions
- Spend 1 minute or more focused on your breath, let go of all other thoughts
- When the mind has settled down, imagine a soft, glowing light at the center of your heart
- This is your abundant source of love
- Now, bring to mind a loved one. Picture them sitting directly across from you
- Choose a person you know, someone you are close to, someone you care about
- As you extend the warm, soft, glowing light from your heart to theirs, think the following four thoughts
- May this person have all the happiness in the world, and all the causes for future happiness
- May this person be free from all their pain and free from the causes of future pain
- May this person, who I love, never be separated from joy
- May this person, who I love, live in a state of contentment, free from grasping to things and free from aversion
- Spend as much time as you’d like with each thought, all the while, filling your friend with light
- After sending the four thoughts, picture your friend having received those thoughts, now happy and content
- Notice how it feels in your own body to see your loved one so happy
Expanding Your Capacity for Compassion
As you get more practiced with this meditation, try switching the person you send the four wishes to. We began here with a loved one. As your capacity for compassion increases, try sending the same four wishes to someone you hardly know, this should be someone you have no particular feelings of like or dislike. Then, try the meditation with a person who presents you with a challenge.