Loving-kindness practice: An exploration of how this use of concentration, connection and language can truly make our heart flourish.
Session Details - June, 2018. Our discussion explored the traditional heart practice of loving-kindness meditation. We shared amongst us the different ways we all practice it, what we find it most helpful to refer to our practice as and how we find our own language of love that truly brings a sense of acceptance and connection.
This Chinese character for Mindfulness (to the right) combines the two symbols: presence and heart. I find it a useful symbol for my loving-kindness practice. Into this heartfelt presence I can include others and of course - me.
Loving-kindness practice is an inclination of the heart, practicing feeling kindness and giving and receiving kindness. It is a deep, warm practice in the spirit of friendship towards yourself and others.
When first starting out it may be helpful to have some memorized well wishes as your phrases. Letting them be short, kind and honest. Practices with a person who is easy to love and then when the juices are flowing snuggle in there with them. Imagining how someone you care for would wish you to join in.
Once you feel steady and familiar with this heart practice and your inner voice of kindness is at the ready you can start meeting any difficult moment with some on the spot loving and kind words and phrases.
Discovering your own phrases:
Loving Kindness phrases can anchor our awareness, just like the body, breath or sound. For phrases to truly anchor deep into the heart they need to be words that ring true for you, they need to be; simple, clear, honest and kind. This ensures there is no argument within, instead the phrases are met with - 'thank you, thank you thank you.' I often remind myself of the gentle encouraging words of Steve Hickman, that we are not mining for the ‘right’ words, here it needs to be more of a melting.
‘Words that come from the heart will land in the heart.’ - Rumi
If possible dropping the following questions into your heartspace and being receptive for a response:
- What do I need? What do I truly need? Allowing the answer to be a universal human need/s
- What is it that in this moment I need to hear?
- What may I long to hear from others? Words that would be received deeply with 'thank you, thank you."
Seek - by Nayyirah Waheed from her book of poetry - Salt
You will find your way
It is in the same place as your love.
These phrases can be seen as our language of love. In a moment of struggle perhaps you can simply ask what would love do? What would a loving response be in this moment? What would I offer a friend?
How you love yourself is how you teach others to love you. – rupi kaur, from her book of poetry Milk and Honey
As my practice has deepened I now keep my phrases flexible, so they can meet my need in any given moment. In those times when I am feeling low or fragile I may need to buff them up a bit, so as they really are digested without any argument or resistance. Things like: ‘….as best I can’, or ‘may I keep learning to…”
Poetry by Nayyirah Waheed, from her book - Salt
and i said to my body. softly.
'i want to be your friend.'
it took a long breath.
'i have been waiting my whole life for this.'
"Life is like an ever-shifting kaleidoscope - a slight change, and all patterns alter". - Sharon Salzburg
Firstly taking a comfortable posture, feeling a sense of being grounded and present.
Bringing to mind someone you care about and love, it may be a friend or pet. Taking the time needed to connect to them; either a clear image or a strong felt sense, like they are here in the room. Enjoying their good company, awakening loving-kindness in your heart-space. Allowing this to be a ‘neck-down’ practice, perhaps placing one or two hands on the heart area to further assist this as a felt sense.
When you are ready, silently, in a warm and friendly tone, slowly offering these phrases – from your heart to the heart of the one you have brought to mind:
- May you feel peaceful, have a peaceful heart
- May you feel well, in heart, mind and body
- May you feel joy
- May you feel connected
Staying with the felt sensation of kindness in the body, and your warm connection. Continuing to come back to the phrases and your own heart. Feeling free to start tucking yourself in, including yourself in the flow of loving-kindness.
- May we both feel peaceful, having a peaceful heart
- May we feel well, in heart, mind and body
- May we both feel joy
- May we both feel connected
Sensing the heart-space as vast and edgeless, like the ocean, each phrase going out like a wave from the vast ocean of loving-kindness. Sense this vastness within you, your connection to it.
No special way to feel, just the intention of friendliness and connection.
Now perhaps giving thought others, knowing that we all struggle from time to time, we all get stressed, confused and at times feel alone.
During this practice continue to be mindful of what arises in you; thoughts, feelings, body sensations, and as best you can, staying with that sense of spaciousness, knowing you can return to the anchor of the breath. If you feel something is becoming difficult, as best you can sending your loving-kindness to that part of you that may be struggling –‘may that part of me find peace, ease and contentment.’
The bud stands for all things, even for those things that don’t flower, for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing; though sometimes it is necessary to re-teach a thing its loveliness, to put a hand on its brow and retell it in words and in touch it is lovely until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing. - Galway Kinnell