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