This week I want to talk about love. Maybe you don’t know this, but Friday is Valentine’s Day and that can kick up some stories for people. Some days I wake up and really don’t know what love is. Most days, actually. How can I be this age and still not really understand love?
I believe that my mind might be getting in the way of my heart. In my asana classes I’ve been starting with a meditation practice to help move one’s sense of awareness from the head (brain-mind) to the heart (heart-mind). I certainly find that my sense of “I” lives in my head and this practice is helpful for me. It’s hard! My awareness is slippery and tends to boomerang right back into my head. When I am “in” my heart-mind, I feel calmer, less worried, more connected. I like to be there and yet it is a challenging practice for me.
ls this heart-mind where we feel love? Can I really give love if I haven’t filled my own cup with love first? The practice of Loving Kindness (metta) is a great way to take care of yourself and then turn this care to others.
Loving Kindness practice
To begin, find a comfortable way to sit. You could close your eyes or gaze softly downward. You might begin by feeling where you feel a “self”. If it’s in your head, invite this awareness to move into your heart. You could place one or both hands on your heart. There are infinite options for the words you could use for your Loving Kindness practice. I will offer some of my favorites and you can use these or find your own.
Say to yourself, silently:
May I feel safe.
May I be well.
May I be happy – happy with my life as it is.
May I be free – free from attachments, free from worry, free from rushing.
May I love myself just as I am.
May I take care of myself joyfully.
May I find wonder and delight as I move through my life.
You can repeat this and notice the effects on your body, breath, heart, etc.
Then bring to mind (heart!) someone with whom you have an easy, uncomplicated relationship. This might be a child or a pet. Say these same prayers for the other:
May you feel safe.
May you be well.
May you be happy – happy with your life as it is.
May you be free – free from attachments, free from worry, free from rushing.
May you love yourself just as you are.
May you take care of yourself joyfully.
May you find wonder and delight as you move through your life.
Repeat this if you like.
The next step is to repeat these prayers for someone who is neutral in your life, maybe a clerk at a shop or a neighbor whose name you don’t know yet.
Repeat as you like.
Having filled yourself first with all these wishes for freedom and love, you might now feel a sense of abundance through giving this same warmth to others. This is a wealth that is free from the material world, a freedom no one can take from you. Now that you know your own wealth, you could try the “advanced” practice.
Repeat the meta prayer for someone you don’t like, maybe someone you hate or wish you would never meet again. Notice that you are not condoning anyone’s behavior or committing to have them in your life. These wishes have nothing to do with agreeing or disagreeing.
Notice how you feel.
I find this practice very helpful when I have strong opinions and judgements. It helps loosen that grip of righteousness for me. It gives me something to do with my recurring thoughts that bring my own suffering.
Loving Kindness practice reminds me that I need to take care of myself, even when that feels selfish. It is actually the opposite of selfishness because it fuels me up to offer care to others. If I try to care for someone else when I am also needing care, it can leave me more depleted and even resentful.
Maybe if you’re about to start cutting out pink hearts and pasting doilies for your loved ones, start by making make a Valentine for yourself! How would that feel?