Loving kindness is a practice that focuses on the cultivation of kindness in every form of life through our experiences, emotions, bodily sensations, and thought patterns. The intention of a loving kindness practice is to greet each life experience with kindness in others and ourselves. A loving kindness practice is literally better for our health and increases well being. Studies show that a loving kindness practice develops prosocial behavior and by focusing on compassion and cultivating more compassionate behavior. Research shows that college students with a thirty minute loving kindness practice over a month had an increase in positive emotions, interpersonal connections, and understood complex thoughts in others. We are often hard on ourselves and others, full of expectation which can cause us to miss out on the good life. The cultivation of self compassion is critical for health outcomes, and personal growth. The intention to begin loving kindness focuses on being compassionate to ourselves, first and foremost. Remember to put on your own oxygen mask and nourish your self compassion.
1. Make peace with imperfection. Perfection impedes advancement. I suffer from major perfectionism and if I let it rule me this post would be sitting buried on my hard drive if, I did not get over myself. Bottom line, there is no perfect and nothing is ever complete. Growth is leaping into the unknown and being ready to fall flat on your face and get back up again. Self compassion for your successes and failures and letting go of expectations opens you to the present moment. Embrace your beautiful imperfections.
2. Saying no is saying yes to yourself. When I was a little girl my favorite book was Shel Silverstein’s, The Giving Tree, for two reasons the tree and giving. Trees are our lifeline, the process of photosynthesis giving us oxygen to breathe and our symbiosis amazes me. A tree is my church, Aspen, magnolia, red wood, maple, pine, and oak. In the book, the tree gave and gave and gave until it was only a stump and the little boy, took and took and took. What I realized, I was giving to the point that I was a stump, depleted and nothing left to give, lacking simple photosynthesis. My physical, mental and emotional health was suffering when I gave out of expectation rather than my own intention. A light bulb moment occurred when a dear friend told me, you have to practice discernment, listen to your intuition, and release the guilt. I was full of guilt where I did things out of others’ expectations rather than at my heart center. Now, I give myself space to decide when it feels right to give, symbiosis and when it does not serve me, parasitic. People ask me all the time, can I pick your brain? That sends me running the other direction and I never look back. Importantly, I have more time to sit, watch, and listen to trees in the wind and breathe the oxygen they release. You have the choice, when you say no to things that deplete, you are saying yes to yourself. That is art of practicing true self compassion.
3. Realize the impermanence of everything. Nothing is permanent, the good, difficult and neutral. Recognize that the “good” moment will pass just as the “difficult” moment or situation that weighs on your heart. Neutral is the homeostatic balance of the good and difficult. Too often as humans we cling to the “good” moments or feelings and “fight off” the difficult emotions and situations. The cycle of elevation and lack creates a homeostatic imbalance. When we open ourselves to the ebb and flow of the of the human experience and emotions, the impermanence of a moment or a feeling we are in tune and can recognize the moment is already fleeing. Good, difficult, and neutral are beautifully intertwined and actually one of the same. When you develop a self compassion, you recognize your situation, tune into running thoughts in your mind, and identify your emotions, you are better equipped regain a homeostatic balance of your life and be present for what really is.
4. Take time and practice a loving kindness meditation. The health benefits of a loving kindness practice allow you to live a more full life, taking in all elements with self compassion for yourself and the world.
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