May 27th, 2010 at 1:00 am
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Practicing Loving Kindness

by Sue Lanza

Having an almost-fully-legal daughter at home (she turns 21 this month–can that be true?) gives me plenty of opportunities to practice loving kindness!

I know it sounds very “new-agey” but hang on for a second.  Yes, the idea of loving kindness does come from a Buddhist tradition but don’t worry about all that and instead focus on what this simple practice can do for you and for the lives of those around you.

Our world moves at a very fast pace, swirling us around and sometimes even dropping us on our heads.   So what could be better than doing something to counter that craziness by softening our minds and hearts by a few words or thoughts of loving kindness?

The idea here is to direct unconditional love and overall good thoughts to yourself or another person for the purpose of putting yourself or that other person in a place of peace.  Still sound kooky to you?  Stick with me here while we try an exercise that you can do while you are growing impatient waiting in the doctor’s office.

Close your eyes (don’t worry–no one is watching) and take three full deep breathes–slowly!  When you are done with the breaths, pick one of these phrases (or make up your own) to use next:

  • May I be happy
  • May I be at peace
  • May I be healthy
  • May I be free from harm

Once you have picked your phrase, repeat it to your yourself with each in breath and again with each out breath.  Do this for a few minutes or as long as you feel comfortable and note the results.  Do you feel calmer?  I thought so.

Now here is the twist–once you have practiced loving kindness and get that warm feeling (instead of the impatience you just had), you can extend this practice out to others:  people you care about, people who bother you (the hostess at Denny’s, your cousin….) and even strangers who may need some mental stroking.  When you send the mental thoughts out, you would just change your key phrase to “may YOU be…”. 

When my daughter and I have conflicts, I try to stop and get the loving kindness feeling towards her (not easy!) and sometimes the conflict melts a bit.  I once shocked her in the middle of a “discussion” by impulsively hugging her and that was it–it broke the mood.

Doing this a few times a day even for the briefest moment will bring you joy.  And who knows, if we all keep doing it, we just might change the world.

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