I’d never be the person that would describe myself as easily angered or one to hold a grudge. As a self-confessed people-pleaser I tend to have a smiley persona, keen to encourage warmth and kindness from others as I expect back in return. I guess recently with moving to a new city, I’ve become extra sensitive to noticing my surroundings and other people.
When I’ve taken time to watch the world with compassion in mind I’ve noticed a real quickness to berate others or get worked up openly and explosively.
Last week I had a pretty hectic, jaw-to-the-floor experience that prompted me to write a post on Metta Meditation, the Loving- Kindness practice.
It was cold, wet and gloomy last Wednesday and the day started off as usual. I got in my car and after checking my mirrors many times I pulled out of the drive. I did not, hands up, see a car pelting round a corner towards me. Thankfully there was no actual contact nor damage and all that was needed was a quick foot on the brake. What followed however was a woman storming out of her driver’s seat, raging up to my window to scream and call me every name under the sun. It was a honest mistake and I was not expecting quite the onslaught of abuse.
Obviously this was quite unnerving and had I not been aware of the Three Step Breathing Space and Loving Kindness Meditation I probably would have got really upset at the confrontation. Instead however I felt so much empathy, something had obviously happened that day to make her fuse blow so quickly and she was so blinkered to other people’s worth. I almost wanted, weirdly, to hug her and give her a tea (?!) and tell her that it was OK so that she could get on with the rest of her day calmly without having had me mess it up.
Since this incident I have seen so much more of the same; overhearing people openly criticising others, yelling obscenities through their windscreen at pedestrians and having nasty temperaments with service staff. It seems even the smallest of mishaps are bringing about huge catastrophic reactions from others.
This seems like a whole lot of unnecessary stress where there a far more crazy things occurring than a person crossing the road too slowly.
I’ve found the Loving-Kindness practice a great way to reduce my stress by becoming aware of others’ being and experience empathy and compassion for those who are not just the ones I love.
A little history on the who what where :
Loving-Kindness meditation came about because of the Buddha’s response to a group of monks who were scared. The monks had gone to a remote forest to meditate however when they got there, they started hearing strange noises, smelling terrible things and seeing scary spirits. They fled the forest and asked the Buddah for help.
The Buddha taught them Loving Kindness and told them to go back to the forest and develop Loving Kindness for these scary spirits. The monks returned to the forest and began to practice this meditation. Soon the spirits became as kind and friendly to the monks as the monks were being to the spirits. The monks stayed a long time in the forest, living peacefully with the spirits.
This meditation is now fronted By Emma Seppälä at Stanford University and has benefits of increasing our:
- social connections
- emotional intelligence
- Anti-Ageing effect (see Emma’s website here for how!)
It can even help curb our self-criticism and bias towards others.
How-to: Loving-Kindness Meditation
I like to be seated whilst doing this 15 minute practice and to use a guided soundtrack. I like Emma’s here however do have a look on YouTube for your favourite.
In the practice you will give and receive loving kindness by silently repeating phrases whilst picturing yourself and others. The words are really lovely and uplifting and follow the lines of:
“May you live with ease, may you be happy, may you be free from pain.”
“May your life be filled with happiness, health, and well-being.”
Also , check out this Ted Talk from Emma Seppälä on how we can breathe for happiness!
I really hope you have a little chance to try Loving-Kindness and see how you feel after! I remember doing this for the first time on my 8-week course and we all felt it was a really freeing experience wishing compassion to even those who may have done us wrong.
Do share your experience below and let me know how you get on