Live Whole Health #79: Gratitude to improve your life
Many people are drawn to meditation to help manage those times when things seem down or out of our control. There are many different types of meditation, including visualization, compassion, gratitude, breath, mantra – and the list goes on. These meditations can improve your life by reducing stress and anxiety, and help you feel more grounded and at ease.
But there’s another kind, too.
Loving kindness meditation is a self-care technique that can be done anywhere. It can be used to increase overall well-being and can even reduce stress while increasing love for self and others. Those last two can be difficult: Some find it challenging to send love and kindness to yourself and to others (including those difficult people in our lives). Nonetheless, it can bring healing and a sense of power.
To practice loving kindness, you will repeat loving kindness intentions toward yourself and others through a set of specific phrases. To make it more personal, you’re invited to change the phrases to words that are more meaningful to you and to the people you’re offering the love and kindness to. You will start with offering yourself loving kindness. Then you offer it to someone that has helped you in your life. Next you offer it to a neutral person, demonstrating that you can care and offer good intentions to someone you barely know. Finally, you send the intentions to a difficult person in your life, opening up the healing action of forgiveness which can increase your sense of peace and release any anger taking up space in your heart.
Leo Tolstoy wrote that “Happiness is in your ability to love others.” To get there, we find that it helps to start with a person who has mildly frustrated you, then move on to those who have hurt you the most in life. To send a difficult person loving kindness does not mean that what they did to you was okay or that you forget, but that you can still promote feelings of unconditional love and kindness, which can be so freeing!
Remember you do not need to judge when it comes to sending loving kindness to yourself and to others. This practice is simply an expression of positive and affirming thoughts and feelings toward yourself and others.
Check out this 22-minute version of the loving kindness meditation from Dr. David Kearney from VA Puget Sound.