“Compassion is not a magical device that can instantly dispel all suffering. The path of compassion is altruistic but not idealistic. Walking this path we are not asked to lay down our life, find a solution for all of the struggles in this world, or immediately rescue all beings. We are asked to explore how we may transform our own hearts and minds in the moment.
Can we understand the transparency of division and separation? Can we liberate our hearts from ill will, fear, and cruelty? Can we find the steadfastness, patience, generosity, and commitment not to abandon anyone or anything in this world? Can we learn how to listen deeply and discover the heart that trembles in the face of suffering?
The path of compassion is cultivated one step and one moment at a time. Each of those steps lessens the mountain of sorrow in the world.” – Pema Chodron
Believe it or not, we are going to spend a couple of more days focusing on cultivating loving-kindness and compassion for ourselves before we move on. This practice is an opportunity to spend time being present with yourself and deepening in offering love and kindness to yourself in a new way. How often do you take time to be fully present with yourself? How often do you spend time offering love to yourself? You may not always be able to take time off to just be by yourself, but in cultivating a practice of meditation and of loving-kindness, you are creating an “inner” retreat. This is one of the most loving things you can do for yourself as you attend to the busyness of life. And, it doesn’t have to happen on the meditation cushion, it can also be by inviting some of the aspects of Metta into your day-to-day activities.
For some of us, it is not easy to spend time loving and showering kindness on ourselves; it may actually be difficult or challenging. This is a really good reason to stick with it. It is often easier to focus our energies on others, neglecting ourselves. We may have a strong inner critic, we may be used to focusing our attention on others, or we may believe it is selfish to love ourselves first. Part of our practice is to notice what thoughts, feelings and beliefs come up as we practice. We notice and then return to our practice – generate the feeling of loving-kindness and repeat the phrases.
Many thoughts arise during meditation practice and it is natural to come face to face with our conditioned mind. There are many voices that keep us held in limiting patterns. These are the voices that can actually keep us from sitting down to practice or from taking the time to be still. Often, these begin with not being good enough, worthy enough or deserving of love. In this practice and really in all meditation practice, we are beginning to turn the tables on these limiting beliefs. Metta allows us to see where we are stuck and where it is that we are withholding love from ourselves. I encourage you, even if you are struggling with disruptive thoughts or coming face to face with limiting beliefs, to stay present with the practice and with yourself.
Daily Practice – Begin with the foundational practices. If you have not decided how you wish to begin, take some time today to do so, reviewing Days 1 and 2 if necessary. Once you have settled your body and mind, begin cultivating the feeling of loving-kindness. Then, take a few moments to notice your experience. Your sense of loving-kindness may be deepening as you are beginning to work with it more regularly. Just notice. When you feel immersed in the energy of loving-kindness, begin repeating the phrases. Continue with the same phrases as yesterday or try some others for today. This is still a time for exploration. Be gentle, be open, and most of all be loving with yourself. Practice for as long as you have committed to or as much as you can for today.
- May I be happy.
- May I be peaceful.
- May I be free from suffering.
- May I have ease of well-being.
Also, as you go about the day, you may become more aware of some of the voices that keep you stuck. When you notice this during the day, take a few moments to focus on the breath, the feeling of loving-kindness and even try to a round of the phrases for yourself. This begins to shift your conditioned mind as you are bringing these patterns to light and responding to them with loving-kindness and compassion.
Journal Notes – Are you able to connect with the energy of loving-kindness a few times as you go about your day? How is your practice going? Are you able to commit some time everyday? If yes, how does it feel? If not, what’s getting in the way? Do you need to adjust the time or place to make it workable? What beliefs are you aware of that keep you from your practice and from loving yourself more fully?
I’d love to hear how your explorations are going. May you have a very beautiful and loving day.