Reduce Stress with Loving Kindness…

Loving Kindness

This past summer, I participated in a five-week study on meditation at UNC.  I was randomly assigned the form of Loving Kindness.  Not having practiced this form before, I was profoundly moved as the mantra repeated, and deepened in experience over time.

It so happened that this adventure in consciousness came just as a fairly-challenging social condition arose in my life.  And although the stressful circumstances remained in place for a few weeks, I credit my regular Loving Kindness practice with providing me the capacity to bring more acceptance and ease into the situation.

It’s no secret that the holidays can generate some challenging social scenes.  And for some, the question becomes, “How best to prevent some of the holiday stress?”

If you can manage just 10 – 12 minutes, I highly recommend a daily session of Loving Kindness meditation.  

 It helps to bring one’s self into the center first; so it’s useful to begin with the phrases:  “May I be happy.  May I be healthy.  May I be peaceful.  May I be safe.”  Allow the deepening of feelings with each repetition…

 Then move outward in concentric rings to include an “other,” and then your various communities.   From there, the meditation can include the whole family of Man.  “May you be happy.  May you be healthy.  May you be peaceful.  May you be safe.”  

Once you’ve filled yourself with the love that arises, memorize the feeling as you take a slow, deep breath.  Then repeat that slow, deep breath at any time to signal your call for the peace and well-being that emerge with these sentiments: “May we be happy.  May we be healthy.  May we be peaceful.  May we be safe.”  

And may it be so for you and your families this holiday season.

Kind wishes and much love.

**  Above is the Buddhist Goddess, Bhrikuti.  She was created in Central Java (Indonesia) in the 9th century.  She’s made of bronze and stands 8.7 inches tall.  Bhrikuti “embodies compassion… she helps students of meditation fully realize loving kindness.” 

Photo made available on Wikimedia Commons

Rituals lower Stress

Rituals lower StressLast week’s wonderful, warm Thanksgiving gathering with friends, the lighting of the first Advent candle on Sunday, the weekly entry in my gratitude journal, and this morning’s kata (a choreographed form of movement/breathwork)… I’ve been pondering the place these rituals hold in my life.

Within just this past week, I’ve participated in an annual ritual, a seasonal one, my newest weekly ritual, and a daily grounding-and-centering practice. Each of them has touched a place deep within, reminding me that, and how, I belong in this vast, dynamic web called Life. 

And, I do mean dynamic.  There have been no fewer activities than normal.  In fact, the volume of to-dos has picked up since we’ve formally entered “the holidays.”  But specific rituals serve as touch stones, allowing me a moment to commune with those things I’ve chosen that provide meaning for me. Having them in place also provides a way to pace life – a way to design in some rhythms to live by.

Purposefully generating the combination of meaning and rhythm seems to settle my nerves, to bring me peace, to bring me joy.  It stimulates my sense of well-being.  Reminds me of my raison-d’etre.  Helps to lower stress…

As Terry Tempest Williams has said, “Rituals are the formulas by which harmony is restored.”

What rituals do you have in place as we bring 2015 to a close?  Knowing that they can relieve stress, are you considering any new ones for next year?  Just be sure that they ring true for you.  For “… ritual is permissible only to the extent that it is as genuine as a kiss.”  (Ludwig Wittgenstein, Culture and Value)
To your good health!

Photo credit: Deepak Adhikari

Deeply grateful…

Giving thanks“Expressing thanks may be one of the simplest ways to feel better.”

In research on gratitude, done at the University of Florida, three separate groups were studied through weekly written exercises on particular themes: 1.) what had happened during the week that they were grateful for, 2.) daily irritations, and 3.) events that had occurred, emphasizing neither their positive or negative nature. 

“After 10 weeks, those who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives.  Surprisingly, they exercised more and had fewer visits to physicians than those who focused on sources of aggravation.” Source: 11.01.11 Harvard Mental Health Letter

It’s almost as if the stress of life keeps us in perpetual motion.  Our modern-day lives whiz by so fast and furiously that we hardly take time to rest and breathe well, let alone stop regularly to count our blessings.  But as research shows, there are innumerable benefits of cultivating gratitude.

It’s somewhat easy to remember at this time of year, as Thursday’s holiday reminds us with its name.  But to seed Thanksgiving in one’s heart, and to tend to its growth, routinely and faithfully, seems to me a practice well worth initiating.

I’m going to give it a go…  I intend to follow the guidelines of the study mentioned above.  I’ll engage my journal weekly, with the specific purpose of identifying three – five things that went well over the past seven days.  And, as recommended, I’ll be specific and I’ll re-feel the sensations that arose when something good happened.  Here’s where double-dipping is encouraged

Care to join me in a 10-week journey?  When we meet again over this subject matter, let’s share.  I expect we’ll feel lighter, brighter, and a much stronger sense of well-being.  I’m thinking that to cultivate gratitude must be one of the most refined of the healing arts…

To your good health!

Photo credit: I, Luca Galuzzi

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