Today, I’m pleased to present a guest post by Brenda Bentley, a therapist and mindfulness teacher.
She’s also author of the book Eat, Guilt, Repent, Repeat: Break the Cycle! which features real-life stories and strategies to cultivate peace with your body, food and life.
Below, she shares a meditation to help readers find peace within ourselves and promote peace toward others.
Being at peace with ourselves in our life begins within. I teach my clients to become the expert of themselves and that everything they experience in the external world is a reflection of their internal world.
One of the techniques clients learn is to use mindfulness meditation to improve their relationship with their body and I have adapted a meditation that is simple to use and helpful in this process.
The adaption comes from the Buddhist mediation Metta Bhavana Meditation, which means “Loving Kindness Cultivation.”
The aim is to feel more appreciative of ourselves and helps the individual to feel more integrated and less prone to internal conflict. The basic psychological principle recognises that if we can’t feel good about ourselves, then we are less likely to be able to feel good about other people.
So a metta bhavana meditation session leads from concern with oneself, to a concern for others.
You begin with self reflection and the project this to others. It’s a process of using your imagination in a powerful and positive way that feels really good. It’s simple and can be done anywhere. I recently was visiting NYC for some book promotion work and did this on the trains to-and-from the city.
With a comfortable but dignified posture connect with your breath by noticing the inhale and exhale. Notice your thoughts coming and going. If your mind wanders, bring it back to the breath. The breath is an anchor for the present moment.
Reflect: What is it that other people like about you? What do you think you are good at? What achievements are you particularly pleased with? Hold these good qualities in your mind for a little while, and feel good about yourself. Every now and again repeat to yourself “may I be well, may I be happy, may I be free from suffering.”
Project: Imagine a friend. What is it that you like about your friend? What do you think they are good at in particular? What do you think they should be most pleased with? Hold these good qualities in your mind for a little while, and feel good about your friend. Every now and again in your mind’s eye say to them “may you be well, may you be happy, may you be free from suffering.”
Reflect: Repeat to yourself “may I be well, may I be happy, may I be free from suffering.”
The cycle is to reflect onto oneself and then project onto others and repeat. Continue this pattern opening up to imagining an acquaintance or neutral person, then you can move to a stranger, then move to someone who would be difficult for you to feel or wish goodness towards.
Let it be OK that it may be difficult at first to wish well to someone you dislike! With practice you develop compassion for all while developing your self-compassion.
In my own practice, I have simplified the practice and I encourage my clients to adapt a practice that feels right to them. I like to imagine a beam of green light coming out of my chest which is the heart center chakra and this light extends out of me in every direction; first I start with it beaming out ahead of me as far as I can imagine into the horizon.
I use the shortened version of the mantra beginning with me, focusing on my breathing, being in my own space I repeat “may I be well, may I be happy” then with the light extending out to others, “may you be well, may you be happy” – repeating and extending in every direction – ahead, behind, side to side, above, below and all around.
It’s very relaxing and by the time I arrived from a hectic morning commute I was Zen.
Taking a few minutes out of your day to reflect and project loving kindness will cultivate a peacefulness within that can open you to experiencing more love in your life.
A good time to pave out a loving kindness for your day is first thing in the morning, while you are awakening in bed or in the shower. Be sure to include your immediate family in it as well. Notice how your interactions with others are improved.