I’m participating in Sharon Salzberg’s 28-Day Real Happiness Meditation Challenge again this year, and my plan for this blog series is to write a poem or reflection on each day’s practice. You can find all the responses on the landing page.
This is my favourite kind of meditation, the lovingkindness (or metta) meditation, in which we wish these things for ourselves and any being who comes to mind or crosses our path: May I be well. May I be peaceful. May you be well. May you be peaceful. May she be well. May he be peaceful. Those are the two words — well, peaceful — that Sharon mentioned today.
Most days, multiple times per day, I recite these four wishes for myself and other beings:
- May I / you / they be happy;
- May I / you / they be safe;
- May I / you / they be healthy;
- May I / you / they live with ease.
Today’s was a walking meditation, which Sharon suggested take place outside, but I walked inside today because it’s cold and snowy outside. Still, I could see various birds through the windows, and vehicles passing by. People and animals came to mind and I wished them well, too.
I think I like this exercise so much because I am naturally critical (thanks, Dad). Maybe not critical of birds but often of people. Yet it’s easy for me to recite these phrases, and not just recite them but actually feel compassion and real desire for these states to be manifested for everyone. This meditation reminds me how refreshing and effortless it is to change our focus, at least for a few minutes. And then maybe a few minutes more. We can shift our attention, cultivate a larger sense of who we are and how we are all connected.
I was also reminded doing this meditation of something I saw on Instagram this week, that the first thought that goes through our mind, when we encounter someone, for example, is what we’re been conditioned to think (and for me, it’s likely to be a judgement, even if a positive one); it’s the next thought that defines who we are.
Again, we find the pause, the moment after the first reaction, the moment after the instinctual — or perhaps the long-ago conditioned, fabricated, constructed, habituated — thought or feeling, when we can choose differently, once we’re aware.
Offering lovingkindness in this way doesn’t mean we don’t understand limits or the laws of nature; we don’t say or think these words acting as if we can circumvent reality with magical language. Rather, this is one way we can cultivate our own sense of kindness, connection, and empathy with all. When we extend friendliness toward others (and ourselves), we’re reminded that others desire the same things we do, are vulnerable to despair and fear, dis-ease, violence, and mortality like we are, and at least for a few moments, while recognising our common situation, we can nurture empathy in ourselves for all of us.