Up front confession – If you have been reading my blogs since at least last fall, then I’ve shared this meditation with you before.
Really want to cut to the chase? Here’s the recording:
Not-so-confession’y – why am I sharing it again? BECAUSE IT’S SO DANG POWERFUL.
Lastly – it’s the freaking fourth of July. AKA: Independence Day for ‘Merica! FREEDOM DAY, basically, and wouldn’t we all like to be a little more free????
Free from judgment (self, or otherwise)
Free from stress
Free from worry
Free from confusion
Free from guilt
Free from doubt
Free from pain
Free from the demands of our calendars
Free from _________ (name the burden).
One of the things that keeps us tethered to a sense of being trapped or weighed down – in other words, NOT feeling “free” – is our respective life baggage. Oh, Sarah, it’s, as you said, it’s the freaking Fourth of July, why are you talking about baggage?!
Well, ya, baggage could be A LOT of things, but we don’t have to unpack it entirely in order to heal it just a smidgen at a time.
Baggage could be a small or large mistake you feel like you made in a relationship, it could be the nagging in your brain about the weird criticism you got from your boss, the hurt heart about the sibling who dissed you, the depression from the trauma with a capital “T” you experienced, frustration with the daily rush hour grind, good old self-judgment for not being “enough” of something, or guilt about the entire pint of ice cream you ate last night…while standing there with the freezer door open.
So, in honor of this week’s celebration of freedom in the USA, I want to give thanks to you AND I wanted to share one of my all-time favorite meditations with you. This is commonly known as the “loving kindness” meditation, and it is a powerful and life-changing one if I do say so myself.
Give it a try, and I promise you’ll see what I mean. (Seriously, try it, then post a comment below!)
If you’re asking yourself, “What good is meditation in times like these?” read this blog first, then do the meditation.
Spoiler alert – it’s good for you and everyone around you because MINDFULNESS IS RESILIENCE TRAINING because these various practices are precisely about checking IN (not out), cultivating CONNECTION (not disconnecting), and WAKING UP by honing your awareness of what is real and present (not numbing out). Frankly, it can help you feel and be HAPPIER.
Sure, meditation can be spiritual; it can also be VERY practical.
Final note before handing over the goods and giving you the meditation script, if you want more background on this particular form of meditation, again please go visit my previous blog about it. It’s good stuff. 🙂
Here’s the recording
And here’s the script:
May ___ be happy.
May ___ be healthy.
May ___ be peaceful.
May ____ be free.
In this progressive meditation, each “blank” represents a particular person. I will guide you through a few rounds.
Please find a comfortable seat or posture lying down if you know you will be able to stay awake, alert and relaxed. After taking a few deep breaths, no longer try to control your breath. Move your focus from your breath to your heart. You may find it helpful to place one or both of your hands over your heart. If possible, meditate somewhere quiet and peaceful, free of interruption. That being said, this is a meditation you can take with you anywhere.
First, deliver self-compassion upon yourself: As you do this, say to yourself with sincerity and clarity, may I be happy, may I be healthy, may I be peaceful, may I be free. Allow your breath to freely flow as you repeat these phrases. Allow your breathing to assume a natural pace here. It may be difficult to say these words to yourself or feel these feelings, do your best to acknowledge what you’re feeling, though. Be kind to yourself in this very process. Repeat may I be happy, may I be healthy, may I be peaceful, may I be free. With each breath, let these words and love reach out to every cell in your body. May I be happy, may I be healthy, may I be peaceful, may I be free. Be in this loving moment.
Now call to mind someone you care about. A close friend, a family member, a partner, someone you love very much. Someone for whom you have positive regard. Say their name to yourself. Feel their presence. It may be helpful to visualize this person sitting in front of you. Direct loving kindness toward this person. May you be happy, may you be healthy, may you be peaceful, may you be free. As you say these words, feel the joy in your heart. Feel it as it radiates throughout your body. Visualize it radiating through your body, as well as reaching out toward this person. May you be happy, may you be healthy, may you be peaceful, may you be free. With each wish, imagine this person receiving your love, peace, and joy. May you be happy, may you be healthy, may you be peaceful, may you be free. Be in this loving moment.
Continue to watch the breath breathe in and out.
Now it potentially gets a little trickier: think about someone with whom it is challenging or difficult to work, live, or exist. Someone who are experiencing conflict with, where there is unhealthy communication. Say their name. Feel their presence. It may be helpful to visualize this person sitting in front of you. Notice if your breath or body changes. Do your best to keep the breath smooth. Then, direct loving kindness toward this person. May you be happy, may you be healthy, may you be peaceful, may you be free. Again, this can be difficult, so make sure to be patient. To forgive, to understand, to accept may be difficult. Continue to let these feeling wash over you. Do not be harsh with yourself. Do your best to continue to say May you be happy, may you be healthy, may you be peaceful, may you be free. With each wish, imagine this person receiving your love, peace, and joy. May you be happy, may you be healthy, may you be peaceful, may you be free. Be in this loving moment.
Now, bring someone to mind with whom you interact frequently, but do not know very well. Perhaps a neighbor or a coworker you don’t know well, a waiter or waitress, or a grocer or postal worker. Pick one and visualize that person. Direct loving kindness toward them. With them in your mind’s eye or present on your heart, say to them May you be happy, may you be healthy, may you be peaceful, may you be free. As you repeat these words, feel the joy in your heart. Feel it as it radiates from your heart to every cell of your body. Visualize it radiating out of your body and touching this person. Breathe in and breath out. May you be happy, may you be healthy, may you be peaceful, may you be free. With each wish, imagine this person receiving your love, peace, and joy. May you be happy, may you be healthy, may you be peaceful, may you be free. Be in this loving moment.
Now, broaden the scope of your deliverance. For instance, teachers may think about the students and faculty on their campus; or consider people in your neighborhood or country; members of your identity groups, such as veterans as a whole or another identity group with which you identify; or even the entire animal kingdom. The basic idea is to extend compassion and good-will to groups we may or may not know, or even like. With that group in mind and on your heart, repeat May you be happy, may you be healthy, may you be peaceful, may you be free. With each wish, imagine this group receiving your love, peace, and joy. May you be happy, may you be healthy, may you be peaceful, may you be free. Be in this loving moment.
To conclude, visualize love, kindness, wellbeing, and peace. Let these radiate from you and your heart toward yourself, toward the person who is close to you, toward the person you have difficulty with, toward the person you don’t know but who touches your life, and toward a broader group with which you identify. Wish them all well. Repeat may you be happy, may you be healthy, may you be peaceful, may you be free. Now return to this current space and time. Bring with you the feelings of kindness, peace, love, wellbeing, happiness, and freedom. Carry it with you and share it with others.
When you are ready, open your eyes and stretch out your body.
Congratulations for trying this loving-kindness meditation. Even if this was your first time, know that this, too, is a practice. Try it once but you will reap the most benefits if you make this a regular practice. You can do it anywhere – in your office, when waiting for a doctor’s appointment, or while riding public transportation.
If possible, meditate somewhere quiet and peaceful, free of interruption.
There are many versions of loving-kindness meditation that vary in length, scope, and format. Your task will be to find a method that speaks to you.
Here’s the recording one more time:
*I teach yoga and meditation at public studios in the Washington DC area. If you’d like to connect on one of my international retreats, or for a private session, yoga therapy, or holistic health coaching, please feel free to email me at Sarah@SemperSarah.com.
–> I did mention, afterall, that this $hit would change your brain 🙂
In 2008, a study from Stanford reported that even an abbreviated loving-kindness induction led to deeper feelings of social connectedness and warmth towards strangers. That same year, colleagues at UNC demonstrated that loving-kindness practice increased adults’ social support, purpose in life, mindfulness, and life satisfaction. Since these seminal investigations, numerous other empirical studies have identified additional benefits of cultivating loving-kindness:
- Decreased symptoms of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (link)
- Improvement in back pain, anger levels, and psychological health among sufferers of chronic back pain (link)
- Reduction of rumination (repetitive thoughts) (link)
- Improved cognitive processing (link)
Loving-kindness is not simply a Buddhist tradition. For instance, closely related are the Hebrew virtue of chesed, the Hindu/Jain value of ahisma (“nonviolence”), and the Greek concepts of agape (“unconditional love”) and theoria (“loving contemplation”). You don’t need to identify as Buddhist, religious, or spiritual to practice and reap the benefits of loving-kindness meditation. All you need is an open mind – and soon your heart will follow.