Several people, after reading last month’s article on meditation, asked for more. There are whole books written on the subject, and classes and retreats are available almost everywhere now, including Lake Tahoe, as people are starting to realize the benefits of meditation.
One type of meditation that I find particularly beneficial, both for myself and for my clients, is called metta meditation, or loving kindness meditation. It’s especially useful when you find yourself struggling with angry or resentful feelings toward someone in your life. Besides being bad for your relationships, this is bad for your own physical and emotional well-being. Think for a moment about a time you were upset at someone, and felt you had been treated badly. Notice how that feels in your own body; the tension and discomfort that brings. Then let that go and think about someone whom you feel loving toward, and focus on that warm feeling. Notice now how that feels. Better, huh?
Here’s how to do the loving kindness meditation, so you can have less of the former and more of the latter.
Sitting in a comfortable place, let your body relax and let go of any plans or preoccupations. Focus for a few minutes on your breath, and allowing yourself to be quiet and settle in. Then say to yourself, silently or aloud:
May I be filled with loving kindness
May I be safe
May I be well in body and mind
May I be content and happy.
Do this for a few minutes, really letting yourself feel it and soak it in.
Then think of someone you love and feel good about, picture them, and do this for them:
May you be filled with loving kindness.
May you be safe.
May you be well in body and mind.
May you be content and happy.
Just send them love and good will, asking nothing in return at this moment. Just send it out to them. Some people find it easier to start with someone they love, and then do themselves later. Whichever way works for you is fine.
Then, do this for someone more neutral in your life. Someone you don’t necessarily have strong positive or negative feelings toward.
Next – here’s where it starts to get tricky – imagine someone for whom you do have some unpleasant feelings. Someone with whom you are annoyed or angry. Remember, you are doing this for your well-being, because we know that holding on to anger or grudges is very unhealthy for us. So it’s in our best interest to learn how to let it go and have more peace and contentment in our lives. So – send them the love, just like you did with the others. You’re not asking or expecting anything in return, you’re not even saying it’s okay whatever they did to make you mad. You’re just sending out loving kindness.
Finally, send out the loving kindness toward everyone, “all sentient beings”. When you’ve done that, sit quietly for a few minutes and let yourself feel the peace.
It may take some practice, but it’s well documented (and just makes sense) that if you can do this on a regular basis, you will have better physical and emotional health, and better relationships as well.
You can think of it as your own version of “think globally, act locally”. Can you imagine if everyone in the world did this regularly? Ah, but there I go dreaming again . . .
Dr. Catherine Aisner is a Psychologist in South Lake Tahoe, helping individuals and couples improve the quality of their lives. She can be reached at 530-541-6696 or online at www.CatherineAisner.com.