#lovingkindness

Send Your Roots Down Into Soil That Nourishes Your Soul

Overnight my phone rang at 3 am.  It was my daughter who lives in Nashville TN.  Over the past few weeks she and her fiancé have been through a tornado which destroyed their new neighborhood of east Nashville. They have, as all of have, made many difficult adjustments to their lives due to the spread of coronavirus.  And last night – the phone call.  Their living roof caved in and collapsed on their dog crate (yes – dog inside) and all over their living room.

Strength, Gratitude, and Loving Kindness

A lot to cope with.  And yet, when I spoke to her this morning her attitude was upbeat, they had a friend helping them store some items, had saved their artwork, and prepared their home for the contractors as they pack up and head to Montana to wait out this outbreak. They are safe and un-harmed, and the dogs are safe and unharmed.  Thank goodness. The new couch is completely ruined.  That, we can handle. We are so grateful.

I was reminded of a phrase my father has shared me often when I have faced difficult times.  “God never hands you more than you can handle.”  I know this to be true.  We are all stronger than we think we are.  There will be pain and there will be loss. There will be days where it feels like the roof is collapsing over our heads and spreading dust and chaos everywhere.

We do not move through these times by avoiding the conversations, by resisting our fears, and ignoring our emotions.  Brain science and the mindfulness research teaches us that facing our fears and acknowledging our emotions is the key to moving through the stressful, anxiety ridden moments in our lives.  And there is no greater time then now to practice gratitude for what we do have and to show loving-kindness to those around us, and through meditation, to those around the world.

Important Strategies for the Days Ahead

  1. Communicate.  Call family and friends. Write Letters. Gather virtually for dinner and parties.
  2. Listen with empathy and without judgement.  Everyone is going to experience these days differently and with various lenses.  Just listen. Let people feel how they feel.  Let people share their opinion even if you disagree. Listen and hear.  “I hear you.”  “Thank you for sharing.” “I understand your feelings.”
  3. Move, Move, Move.  Everyday.  There are tons of online yoga and exercise programs out there.  I am offering a GENTLE YOGA CLASS on Tuesday afternoons from 3 pm to 4 pm through ZOOM beginning Tuesday the 24th of March and ongoing for the next 5 weeks. 
  4. Get outside and get fresh air.  Talk a walk, go for a run, or go hiking.
  5. Practice mindful meditation and learn more about “mindful living.”  I am going to be offering Mindfulness and Meditation on Tuesday and Friday mornings from 8 am to 8:30 am through ZOOM, starting on Tuesday the 24th.
  6. Practice Gratitude and Loving Kindness.

Inspiration

Here are three quotes that are inspiring me each day – I hope you find a light in reading them.

“Hardships often prepare ordinary people for extraordinary destiny.”

How can we each be extraordinary as we travel the road ahead?

C.S. Lewis

“I am stronger because I had to be, I ‘m smarter because of my mistakes, happier because of the sadness I’ve known, and now wiser because I learned.”

Now, more than ever, is the time for us to practice gratitude, to be kind, and to know we are more capable than we often believe ourselves to be.

Nick Schluga

“Storms make trees take deeper root.”

Send your roots deep into your faith and into the soil that nourishes you.

Dolly Parton

Two Meditations to Cultivate Compassion

Loving Kindness Meditation

In the Loving Kindness meditation we practice sending love out into the world.  It is a practice that helps us cultivate compassion.  This meditation is non-judgmental, we send out kindness, love, and good thoughts without concern of whether or not someone deserves or has earned the kindness and love.  We just give, unconditionally. You can simplify the words, the length of practice, and practice this meditation even with very young children.  If you are teaching this meditation to your class, you could have the students design their own Metta (loving-kindness)  phrases to repeat at each stage – what kindness, what good would they like to send out to those around them?  Come to a comfortable seat and relax your hands down into your lap, right handover left with thumbs touching, palms face down on your thighs or back of hands-on thighs first finger and thumb touching.

Imagine a person you love very much, feel your love in heart, in your body and send these words  to them:

May you be safe and protected
May you be free from harm
May you be healthy and strong
May you be physically healthy and free from pain
May you be truly content
May you be deeply peaceful
May you live with ease
May you have acceptance of self and others
May you have abundance in love

Simplified version:
May you be safe
May you be well
May you be happy
May you live with ease


Continue in this manner and imagine:
Friends and Family
Community/Neighborhood
Country/Area of the world
A person you are challenged by, in conflict with, holding anger toward

Bring your hands over heart if they are not there and send love to YOURSELF and send the words to yourself.

Stay here in meditation for as long as you need following your breath and feeling peaceful and at ease.

Tonglen Meditation

This is a practice that helps us to cultivate compassion and empathy for those around us who may be suffering, experiencing sorrow or feeling pain. Tonglen is a visualization practice that means “giving and taking.”  We breathe in, taking the suffering, sorrow, or pain in with our breath, and we breathe out compassion and understanding. I use this practice personally and would suggest practicing with students 7th grade and older.

Come to a comfortable seat and begin to connect to your breath. Bring your hands to your heart and say to yourself these words.

  • May I be safe
  • May I be well
  • May I be happy
  • May I live with ease

Now relax your hands down into your lap and picture an image of the person who is suffering standing in front you. Imagine a dark cloud around them that is their suffering sorrow or pain.

As you inhale, imagine breathing in the dark cloud. Breathe in, imagine the cloud becoming a bright, warm light of compassion in your heart.

When you exhale, breathe out the light of compassion to the person you are picturing and imagine the light washing away the suffering, sorrow, or pain.

Continue breathing in the dark cloud, turning it into a light of compassion and then sending the light back to the person in front of you.

When you are ready, come back to your own breath and then send these words to the person.

  • May you be safe
  • May you be well
  • May you be happy
  • May you live with ease

End by bringing your hands back over your heart and repeating to yourself.

  • May I be safe
  • May I be well
  • May I be happy
  • May I live with ease

Stay here in meditation for as long as you need following your breath and feeling peaceful and at ease.

Emotional Intelligence: Practicing the Art of Compassion

“Let our hearts be stretched out in compassion toward others, for everyone is walking his or her own difficult path.”

Dieter F. Uchtdorf

It is not always easy to love, to forgive, and to find compassion for our families and loved ones.  And it is even harder to love, to forgive, and to find compassion for our enemies.

Our enemies, it seems a harsh word. The dictionary defines an enemy as someone who is actively opposed or hostile towards us, someone we have verified as adverse or threatening, a challenger, a competitor, a rival, or our nemesis.  How often have you used these words to describe a friend with whom you had a falling out, an ex-partner or spouse, a family member you are no longer speaking to, a colleague who you avoid in the hallway, or who beat you to a promotion?  We often make these individuals our enemies. We spin scenarios in our brains of what we would like to say to them; if they would just apologize or understand why what they did was wrong, then we could get along again.  We avoid, we spin, we stay angry, we blame, we play the victim – and in all of these cases we fail to grow, we get into a rut, we hold onto an anchor that keeps us rooted in one place, we waste time, and we create internal pain and darkness.

Can We LEARN Compassion?

Yes. We can integrate practices into our lives that cultivate love, forgiveness, and compassion and teach us to be more aware of delivering these qualities under challenging situations.

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