I’m currently reading Jon Kabat-Zinn’s “Full Catastrophe Living” , which was recommended to me as the best place to begin my mindfulness journey.
I’ve been reading it for months, a few pages at a time, as I gradually integrate mindfulness into my life. My progress is intentionally slow, as I stroll along smelling the flowers and enjoying the scenery, rather than racing to the finish line.
To begin with, I felt a self-imposed pressure to finish the book, but the more time goes by, the more it feels like an integral part of the growth process, and less like an item on the to do list. I no longer feel guilty picking up a novel knowing that I’m not even halfway through Full Catastrophe Living. Instead I’m enjoying making it last.
I’ve noticed that since expanding my mindfulness practice, my overall awareness of self-imposed pressures like this has increased. I hear that little voice in my head more clearly, and question it more quickly. This isn’t what I expected mindfulness to give me, but I’m not complaining!
However, heightened awareness isn’t all about peace, harmony and relaxation, as I discovered when I recently came to the section on Loving-Kindness Meditations.
The Loving-Kindness Mediation, also called a ‘Metta’, is about cultivating unconditional love with wisdom; a softening of the mind and heart to experience friendship, concern and warmth, regardless of whether we think or feel that someone is deserving.
I embarked on this mediation expecting to encounter resistance to wishing good things on those who have hurt me the most, but that wasn’t what happened.
The mediation began with the request that I repeat silently to myself:
May I be well,
May I be happy,
May I be peaceful,
May I be loved.
I stumbled over these phrases, and experienced an incredible rush of sadness and loss, as well as a powerful resistance.
Overwhelmed by the strength of my reaction, I delved into the internet to find out more about the origin of this meditation, and came across this quote:
The practice always begins with developing a loving acceptance of yourself. If resistance is experienced then it indicates that feelings of unworthiness are present…. there is work to be done.
Buddha Dharma Education Association
It doesn’t matter which phrase I resisted, or why, or which you would find the most challenging, if any. Maybe you’d struggle more with wishing ‘May you be happy’ to someone who has recently hurt you. We all have our own challenges to face. You either acknowledge them or you don’t. I have revisited the Loving-Kindness Mediation many times since that first encounter, and it’s getting easier. Easier, but not easy.
Being kind to those who have hurt us the most can be an uphill struggle, if we even bother to try, but so can being kind to ourselves. The Loving-Kindness Meditation is the perfect companion on this path, when you’re ready to take it.
Here is an example of a guided Loving-Kindness Mediation for you to try at home.
May you be well
May you be happy
May you be peaceful
May you be loved.
I think probably kindness is my number one attribute in a human being. I’ll put it before any of the things like courage or bravery or generosity or anything else.