The Buddhist practice of loving kindness is like an antidote to help us work through our difficult emotions. The Buddha taught that hatred cannot co-exist where there is love meaning we cannot carry two opposite emotions at the same time. If we practice sending love to ourselves and those around us then we strengthen our ability to deal with our personal storms when they arise.
Loving kindness is like placing the most beautiful garland of flowers around the neck of others and saying I accept you as you are. It states that if our heart is closed just a little to anyone then we are not fully able to love. I contemplated this as I walked this morning. When do I close off to people the most? When do I feel my heart becomes caged rather than free and open? I could name the states. When I was criticized, blamed, shamed, unappreciated or ignored. When I have been rejected or embarrassed. When someone says or does something that irritates me or when people act in an unthoughtful manner.
When we want to strengthen our muscle of loving kindness to those around us we must first start with ourselves. We need to drop into that place within us that is the ‘bad guy’, the one that blames, judges and rejects us. If we hold these feelings within us then we are unable to combat or work with these feelings outside of us. To make the practice of loving kindness more palatable we must first find it within ourselves to believe that we are ok as we are and to accept ourselves exactly as we are. When we see and feel this love towards ourselves, like a river of energy, we are able to pass it on to those around us. When our hearts are full and accepting we grant this expansion out into the world.
We can encourage the feelings of loving kindness in different ways.
By visualisation. See yourself or the person the feeling is directed at smiling back at you or just being joyous.
By reflection; Reflect on the positive qualities of a person and the acts of kindness they have done. And to yourself, making an affirmation, a positive statement about yourself, using your own words.
By Mantra; Here is a mantra for loving kindness. Take some time out today to fill yourself up with the space and love that can come from repeating these lines to yourself.
May I be filled with loving kindness.
May I be safe from inner and outer dangers.
May I be well in body and mind.
May I be at ease and happy.
source of mediation mantra: Jack Kornfield.
Practice for the week: When you feel that slight grip around your heart or when you feel like you are closing off towards someone try one of the techniques for loving kindness and see how it softens your feeling towards them and yourself.