The Practice of Loving Kindness

I have noticed that as I reevaluate goals I have made and intentions I have set for myself, that I often spend much of my reflection beating myself up for not “doing it better.”  Rather than learn from my mistakes or recognize the accomplishments I have made, I tend to look at all of the things I haven’t done.   As I move forward I am beginning the practice of looking at everything through the lens of loving-kindness. Setting intentions for myself that benefit my overall health, well-being and growth, but in doing so, offering up compassion and meeting myself exactly where I am on my journey.

In line with these sentiments, I just completed the book “Bringing Yoga to Life” by Donna Farhi. In speaking about our “blind spots”, she writes:

“When the humility is sincere, we send a clear message to the universe that we would like to see our selves as we really are.  When we begin such a friendship with our hidden faults, we will inevitably be led by the hand into the heart of the self.”

As a practice of stepping into the heart of the self I have begun working with a practice from Pema Chodron’s book Comfortable with Uncertainty, in which she offers a beautiful practice for awakening Loving Kindness. This is a beautiful practice that can be a wonderful addition to a daily meditation practice. Here is the practice, excerpted from her book:

“1. Awaken loving-kindness for yourself. ‘May I enjoy happiness and the root of happiness,’ or use your own words.

2. Awaken it for someone whom you spontaneously feel unequivocal goodwill and tenderness, such as your mother, your child, your spouse, your dog. ‘May (name) enjoy happiness and the root of happiness.’

3. Awaken loving-kindness for someone slightly more distant, such as a friend or neighbor, again saying their name and aspiring for their happiness, using the same words.

4. Awaken loving-kindness for someone about who you feel neutral or indifferent, using the same words.

5. Awaken loving-kindness for someone you find difficult or offensive.

6. Let the loving-kindness grow big enough to include all the beings in the five steps above. (This step is called ‘dissolving the barriers.’) Say, ‘May I, my beloved, my friend, the neutral person, the difficult person all together enjoy happiness and the root of happiness.’

7. Extend loving-kindness toward all beings throughout the universe.  You can start close to home and widen the circle even bigger. ‘May all beings enjoy happiness and the root of happiness.

At the end of the practice, drop the words, drop the wishes, and simply come back to the non-conceptual simplicity of sitting meditation.”