Practicing what’s commonly referred to as loving-kindness meditation is profoundly simple and often really fricking hard.
And I know for certain, the simpler something is, the more awesome it’s impact. But simple has nothing to do with easy.
Essentially it’s this practice of picturing people in your mind, your parents, your family, loved ones… I try to picture their face and say to them, may you be happy, may you be peaceful and may you be well.
It’s really beautiful.
I’ve found, as you grow in the practice, you develop strength to stick with it. My mind wanders less and less and the intention and purity of my practice deepens.
Slowly you extend your reach and are able to send loving-kindness to people who create struggle and hardship for you, random people you don’t know but deserve these 3 essential blessings anyway— and eventually the reach gets to all human beings and non-human beings.
After significant practice, I was finally even able to include myself and say may I be happy, may I be peaceful and may I be well. Accepting that I’m worthy of my own blessing… ugg. I found this one to be the hardest.
One of my favorite loving-kindness practices is to rewind my mind 24 hours and picture every single person I came in contact with and imagine their faces and wish them happy, peaceful, well … one by one.
I love how hard it is to remember the step by step of my day and I like focusing that intently because when I do, everything else falls away.
Honestly, I’ve done this for years without really understanding the benefit.
I tried not to think too much about why I was doing it— like did the people actually receive some kind of “energy” from me as I was sending them these peaceful thoughts?
It’s almost universal in our language to say things like “I’m sending you positive thoughts” or “I’m praying for you”. I’m sure I could and may get a thousand comments back of all the times someone has prayed or sent good thoughts to someone else and they “received” it in some amazing way.
I’m certainly not trying to negate that; it’s just not my actual experience.
I have practiced loving-kindness meditation thousands of times. To tens of thousands of people. And not once has someone come up to me and said “hey man, I got your well wishes today, thanks so much!”.
But I kept going, day after day.
Did I believe I was helping anyone else? Not really.
Was I waiting for some kind of recognition or see some worldly external shift. No.
Would my thoughts create actual peace on earth? Hardly.
But why I kept doing it, I guess just because it felt good… because I feel good doing it. I’ve discovered that for me, the benefits of something like this often show up when I least expect, or in fact sometimes they aren’t ever even identifiable but something inside me inspires me to keep at it anyway…… in a way I guess extending a kind of faith that it’s worth it in the end.
Recently my dear noble friend and Buddhist nun Bhikkhuni Vimala explained that loving-kindness meditation has nothing to do with the people we’re thinking of, it isn’t for anyone else… that it’s just for us, for me. (no wonder nobody ever got my vibes I was sending out!)
It’s like working out and developing a new muscle that you didn’t even know you had and you work it and work it and it’s hard and painful but you do it cause you do and then you have this muscle but you’re not sure why but all of a sudden you pick something up that you really need and it’s effortless… you run father than you could before and it’s effortless, you climb higher and do more and it’s effortless.
What I’ve finally realized is that all that time training my mind has created a situation where I automatically see the world as happy and I more naturally work to develop happiness, I cherish it more.
I automatically see the world as peaceful and I work to make it more so by preserving it within me and creating it in my actions.
And, I automatically see things as well…I assume the best, see the positive, follow the light and avoid the dark.
I get it now big time, what’s happened is I literally re-wired my brain and the result is massive loving-kindness from me to the world, not on that cushion with my eye’s closed, but in my actions out in the world, every single day.
Got it. Roger that. IT WORKS WHEN YOU WORK IT.