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Meditation for a Mindful Existence
Lovingkindness or compassion
Taking the time to pay careful attention to our experience opens our hearts to loving ourselves genuinely for who we are, with all our foibles and imperfections. When we undertake spiritual practice based on a motivation to learn to love both ourselves and others, we can befriend ourselves no matter what we might be experiencing inside.
Devoting some time to meditation is in itself an act of caring for ourselves. If we are primarily accustomed to taking care of others, this is a bold move. We discover that our own renewal transforms how we relate to the people in our lives. The calm and openness we develop through meditation enables us to see others more clearly and lovingly. We might become more inclined to step forward and deepen our connection to someone, to let go of past hurts more easily, or to offer a friendly gesture to someone we might have ignored before. Through meditation, loving ourselves becomes the gateway to loving others.
How do I do it?
Meditation instructions usually sound simple, but following and accomplishing them often proves challenging. Meditation reveals how all the elements of our experience change continually. It is natural in meditation to go through many ups and downs, to encounter both new delights and newly awakened conflicts from the subconscious mind.
Sometimes you will tap into a wellspring of peace. Other times you might feel waves of sleepiness, boredom, anxiety, anger or sadness. Images may arise, old songs might replay, long-buried memories sometimes surface. Instead of feeling discouraged if you end up with sleepiness when you wanted peacefulness, remember that the core components of meditation are concentration, awareness and lovingkindness. We can practice these no matter what we are experiencing. Success in meditation is measured not in terms of whatever may be happening to us, but rather how we are relating to what is happening.
Here’s how you can begin:
Sit comfortably, with your back erect, without being strained or overarched. It’s fine to sit in a chair or on an arrangement of cushions on the floor. If necessary, you can also lie down. Close your eyes if you feel at ease doing that, or keep them slightly open, without staring or fixing your gaze. Take a few deep breaths, feeling the breath as it enters your nostrils, fills your chest and abdomen, and releases. Then allow the breath to become natural, without forcing it or controlling it. Let your attention rest on the feeling of the natural breath, one breath at a time.
You may find a place where you feel your breath most distinctly: at the nostrils, or the rising/falling motion of your chest or abdomen. If there is a particular place, you can rest your attention there. If you wish, you can silently, very gently, repeat words like “in” “out” to support the awareness of the breath, or perhaps a word meaningful to you, like “peace,” or “love.”
If your mind wanders, don’t be concerned. Notice whatever has captured your attention, let go of the thought or feeling, and return to the awareness of the breath. In this way, meditation teaches us gentleness and an ability to forgive our mistakes in life more easily and to go on.
At the end of your meditation period, lovingly acknowledge those you feel connected to—your family or your community, maybe the whole planet. This forms the bridge between our inner work and our resolve to act with more awareness and love in our daily lives.