By Cawood Fitzhugh
May I be happy
May I be healthy in mind and body
May I be safe and free from inner and outer harm
May I find peace, as my life shifts and changes
The Lovingkindness Meditation is a way to tap into lovingkindness, extending wishes to ourselves for our own wellbeing. Lovingkindness is an innate quality that is already in us all. It can become clouded at times through the culture we find ourselves in and from not feeling “good enough”, whether this comes from within ourselves or from the systems we encounter- media, technology, the current culture of perfectionism or even the style of a work culture. Many of us find it easy to be loving towards others but find it almost impossible to be as kind to ourselves. So, why is it that we are so hard on ourselves?
It’s a profound question and one that we can examine with curiosity. Being kind to ourselves can feel pretty foreign. It’s much easier to give this to a benefactor and much harder to give it to ourselves. It takes courage to begin the shift to extending lovingkindness to ourselves. So, how is this done?
There are many variables that contribute to the “why I’m not good enough” scenario. Upbringing, grading systems in schools, past coaches, and even the way we are evaluated in our professional lives are all mostly geared towards what we don’t do well or how “we didn’t quite meet the mark”. Generally speaking, little emphasis is placed on personal strengths and positive contributions with the emphasis instead placed on what we need to do better. We can internalize this and only see what we didn’t do. This “tough talk” may at times be a good motivator, however, it doesn’t serve us well as the primary approach to self evaluation. Almost inevitably, this focus on the negative will stop producing positive results and can contribute to professional burnout.
The more we wake up to the negative results of our own self-criticism and judgement and see how badly it actually feels to beat ourselves up, the less excited we become to continue to do this. Acknowledging these habitual patterns of behavior allows moments to begin to open up for lovingkindness to move in. The Lovingkindness Mediation allows the opportunity to hold ourselves in our own embrace, wishing ourselves well. It feels much better and also trains our brain for new patterns of behavior in how we view ourselves. This becomes the motivator. Extending lovingkindness to ourselves reduces stress, anxiety and brings a sense of contentment and ease, improving our own well-being and health.
Any time you notice the trigger of self judgement try a “noting” practice. Just noting “judgment” “self-critic” “feeling of failure”. Notice how painful it feels to beat yourself up. Notice what sensations you feel in the body, the thoughts or emotions that accompany it. Do you feel constricted or spacious, heavy or light, anxious or peaceful? After acknowledging what is here, then offer yourself a moment of kindness- acknowledging all you have done well. It can be a single phrase or a silent embrace of just putting your hand over your heart for a moment, acknowledging your goodness. Notice what you feel in the body, what is happening in the mind and what is evoked in the emotions. What does it feel like now? What does it feel like to know you did the best you could do under the circumstances? How does this affect your day, your mood, your physical sensations and your outlook? If you notice resistance to this kindness, remind yourself that you deserve this just as much as anyone else. When you do this, notice what this feels like. This helps to familiarize yourself with your own innate wisdom of well-being through lovingkindness.
Filed Under: Monthly Musings