Love isn’t a perfect state of caring. It is an active noun like struggle. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.
You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.
~ the Buddha
“Attention is the most basic form of love.
Through it we bless and we are blessed.”
-John Tarrant Roshi
Maitri is a Sanskrit word that means loving kindness. At its root, its essence, it is the wish for ourselves and others to be happy. This is a beautiful and much-needed practice that truly has the power to transform the world and can radically shift your own presence and your own capacity to be kind to others. The formal meditation practice that has been passed down through the Buddhist tradition essentially is offering wishes of loving kindness to five different classes of beings.
- Loving Kindness for yourself
It’s important that we start with ourselves. When beginning, for at least a week, just work with yourself. Because self-kindness, self-compassion, and self-care are the foundation of being truly kind and compassionate and caring for others.
- Loving Kindness for your loved ones
Bring to mind people you love, people you care about–anyone who is close to you.
- Loving Kindness for strangers
Then we move onto strangers–people that are neutral, that you just see walking down the street or with whom you have very little interaction.
- Loving Kindness for difficult people
Then we offer loving-kindness to people who are difficult. In the traditional teachings these are called our “enemies.” These are the people who push our buttons and challenge us. The people that perpetuate the suffering that we see in the world are people that we put in this category.
- Loving Kindness for all beings
The ultimate expression of maitri is this unconditional wish for all beings, without exception, to have happiness.
If you wish to begin a Loving Kindness practice, you may utilize the traditional phrases below. To learn about the four essential stages of Loving Kindness and practical ways to incorporate it into your life, join Kelly Lindsey at the end of March for a live, online six-week deep dive into the practice.
Traditional Loving Kindness Phrases
May I be happy.
May I be healthy.
May I be peaceful.
May I live with ease.
May you be happy.
May you be healthy.
May you be peaceful.
May you live with ease.
May all beings be happy.
May all beings be healthy.
May all beings be peaceful.
May all beings live with ease.
Where you live?
How did you come to meditation?
During high school and college, I was a member of Sodality, a group dedicated to Mary in the Catholic Church. Meditation was a regular part of our practice.
What inspires you to meditate?
I have always been drawn to that “still small voice within”.
In our daily lives, we are often surrounded by noise that distracts us from really feeling ourselves. Having tasted the profound healing of silence, I have come to believe that the constant noise that surrounds us creates unnecessary stress, anxiety, and illness. Yet, most of us are uncomfortable in silence and we perpetually fill the space with sound and unnecessary speech or busy-ness. We really do have to learn how to become comfortable being still and silent.
Practicing silence is a way of connecting with what is sacred. When you walk into a church or temple or sacred place, or find yourself in the presence of a holy being, you might discover that you spontaneously fall quiet and listen, deeply. Meditation practice is an invitation to do the same. By honoring deeply what is sacred within each of us, we can tune in to what is happening right now.
I found it interesting to discover that the words SILENT and LISTEN contain the same 6 letters. When we practice silence, we learn to listen. When we are still we can listen with more than our ears, we can begin to listen with our whole being. Stillness leads to silence.
In much the same way that stillness is not the absence of movement, Silence is not the absence of sound. Buddhist teacher Adyashanti says that “silence is the absence of ego.” Ego is the part of ourselves that wants things to be other than they are.
In the silence, we have an opportunity to really listen to the silent whispers of our own hearts. There are a few lines that keep coming to my mind from a children’s movie that came out a few years ago called “Happy Feet”: “You have to find your heart song all by yourself. It’s the voice you hear inside. It’s who you truly are.”
When you listen deeply, what do you hear?
Practicing with Silence
I suggest you try to commit to a little bit of formal meditation practice each day, connecting with the stillness and silence in your body and mind:
Choose to be quiet and to listen to the sounds and sensations arising within and around you.
Practice silence when taking a walk or eating a meal.
Consider taking a one day sabbatical from television, radio, internet, and the telephone.
Plan to spend a day, or even just a morning, in silence, not speaking or being spoken to (you have to get your family and friends on board if you choose to try this).
Retreating to Silence
Your daily meditation practice provides you with an opportunity to experience moments of silence every day. But sometimes you may long for a deeper commitment to silence. That’s when going on retreat can be a way to nourish and strengthen your practice.
Be Still, and the Silence will sing for you.
You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.
~ Franz Kafka
Being present isn’t something that happens once and then you’ve achieved it. It is being awake to the ebb and flow and movement and creation of life. Being alive to the process of life itself.
— Pema Chodron
Join co-founder of Dakini Meditative, Adam Smith, for a 90-minute presentation on The Science of Meditation: Skills for Life and Work. Adam’s talk will be live and accessible through The Mind Oasis, a non-profit online community, on Sunday, January 21st, 2018 from 6:30pm-8:00pm.
“Remember that it’s not so much about reliving or recounting the past, and it’s not about planning for every unpredictable eventuality. It’s about finding a way to process what is happening now, what you’re feeling now. How we respond to what’s happening now is what shapes our future.”
– Adam B. Smith D.O., Physician, Coach and Patient Advocate; Partner, Dakini Meditative, LLC
Mindfulness, in practical terms, is the skill of paying attention. Meditation is the practice that helps us build this skill. In a world of distraction, disease and overwork, there is a growing body of scientific evidence that supports mindfulness and meditation as tools to help us reduce physiologic stress, cultivate greater kindness toward others and ourselves, and improve our overall sense of satisfaction in our relationships, in the workplace and in the world at large.
For many, mindfulness and meditation are terms shrouded in mystery with a voodoo component — akin to quackery in medicine. Working at the intersection of medicine and mindfulness, I aim to de-mystify these concepts and practices for the every-person. Don’t think meditation is for you? It can be. Are you ready for it? Maybe not yet. And while this week may not be the best week to stop sniffing glue or stop smoking, it’s a good tool to know about.
I look forward to shedding some light on this millennia-old wisdom practice and how it may be relevant to you and your life in my upcoming Mind Oasis talk, entitled The Science of Meditation: Skills for Life and Work on January 21st at 6:30pm CST.
I look forward to seeing you there,
Meditation is about seeing clearly the body that we have, the mind that we have, the domestic situation that we have, and the people who are in our lives. It’s about seeing how we react to all these things. It’s seeing our emotions and thoughts just as they are right now, in this very moment, in this very room, on this very seat. It’s not about trying to make them go away, not trying to become better than we are, but just seeing clearly with precision and gentleness.
~ Pema Chodron
Delight in meditation and solitude.
Compose yourself, be happy.
You are a seeker.
— The Buddha
Each of us arrives to the cushion with our own unique individual aspirations and reasons for wanting to meditate. Why d you practice meditation?
It is said that the Buddha only taught about two things: suffering and freedom from suffering. You may meditate to reduce the stress of your everyday life and cultivate more peace of mind. That’s creating freedom from suffering. Each of our flavors of suffering may be different, but in any case, our suffering often motivates our practice.
Daily meditation practice helps us relate more peacefully and compassionately with whatever is going on in our lives. The Buddha taught that much of our suffering comes from trying to escape reality. We are often struggling against the way things are. Meditation is a way of making contact with our immediate experience and befriending ourselves. We do this by training the mind in sustained attention–the ability to stay in the present moment, attentive to whatever is happening right now.
Be Here Now
The style of meditation that I teach is called Shamatha meditation. Shamatha is a Sanskrit word that means to abide peacefully. Peacefully abiding does not mean to feel peaceful all the time. It means to be at peace with our experience of ourselves in the present moment, no matter what the present moment holds. This means that you can peacefully abide through moments of anger, or irritation, or grief, or sadness, or excitement, or joy. Peacefully abiding does not mean to be free of thought and emotion, it means to be attentive and aware of what is happening moment to moment in our experience.
In Shamatha meditation, we train in staying present by resting our attention on the breath. One reason why is there is not a breath that you can breathe that is not a present moment breath. The breath is always happening in the present.
Sitting Like a Mountain
Our posture in meditation is extremely important. It doesn’t matter if we are sitting cross-legged or kneeling on the floor supported by a cushion or blanket, or if we are sitting in a chair with our feet on the floor. What matters most is that we take a posture that feels stable and that we sit with a long spine and an open heart. When we have postural stability and we allow our bodies to rest in stillness, that stillness becomes very supportive of attentional stability. Then we can more easily attend to the breath. Attending to the breath means feeling the experience of the breath coming in and going out.
As we sit in stillness and breathe, we will become aware of sounds, sensations, thoughts, and emotions arising in our experience. All of that is perfectly okay! When something arises in our experience, it does not need to be regarded as a distraction, but rather an invitation to notice what is happening now. Our task as meditators is to recognize what is happening in our experience without getting carried away by it. As soon as we recognize that our attention has moved away from the present moment, we simply acknowledge what has carried us away, and restore our attention in the feeling of the breath moving in and out of the body.
Cultivating stability in our physical meditation posture helps to cultivate stability of mind, the ability to repeatedly return our attention to the breath. Commitment to our daily practice further fosters stability because when we meditate a little bit every day, we are able to meet our daily lives with a more stable response.
- Breath – Focus the attention on a specific place in the body where we feel the breath most easily. This could be at the nose where we feel the breath moving in and out through the nostrils, or in the rising and falling sensations of the lungs, or in the more subtle movements of the belly. Having a physical place to return to can be very helpful in cultivating attentional stability. When the mind wanders, no problem! It doesn’t matter how many times our attention wanders, the only thing that really matters is that when we notice we’re distracted, we come back.
- Hands – Another way to cultivate stability is the placement of the hands. Placing the hands palms down on the thighs is called Resting the Mind mudra. It can help us to feel a little more grounded and stable.
- Gaze – Keeping the eyes open and resting the eye gaze a few feet out in front can also be very helpful in staying anchored in the present moment. It’s much easier to drift off when the eyes are closed.
Make a Commitment to Yourself
I hope you are able to make a commitment to yourself to begin to practice a little each day. The greatest benefit comes when we practice a little bit every day over an extended period of time. It is extraordinarily helpful to choose a particular place in which to practice, to practice at about the same time every day, and to decide clearly how long you intend to practice for each day. Whether it is 5 minutes a day or 50, time spent on the cushion is time well spent! Arguably, it is the most important thing you could do with your time. Cultivating an everyday meditation practice requires a commitment, otherwise we become easily distracted by the busy-ness of our lives.
Keep it Simple
You might consider keeping a meditation journal this week, writing down the day and time, and duration of your meditation. You may include notes about what is working in your practice, what is challenging, and insights or questions that arise as a result of your practice. However, you may keep it as simple as writing down the basic details of your practice. It shouldn’t take more than a minute to do so, and it will help you begin to cultivate discipline and structure around your practice and help you track your commitments.