Monday, December 7, 2009

Mental Health Mondays- Loving Kindness Meditation

Hey Athenites,

Many people use meditation to ground themselves or relax. Throughout the day, we often become so busy and stimulated that we forget to breathe properly, which may lead to fatigue and anxiety. While it's easy to notice stress or a lack of proper breathing, sometimes it's not so easy to remedy this, especially if at work or school. However, setting aside a few minutes at night or in the morning to be still and concentrate on your breath can be tremendously calming. In this post, I will focus on a particular meditation that I've been doing recently.

When I was in Grade 11 our French teacher sat us down for one class and tried to walk us through a guided meditation entitled "Loving Kindness." It was concerned with embracing ourselves, embracing the world. Although most of the class couldn't sit a minute without laughing, it had some sort of impression on me and four years later I'm revisiting the concept of Loving Kindness.

It started one night as I lay in bed- being pre-occupied as I sometimes am- with the doings of the day, including some regrets and some insecurities. I had singled out a particular person- let's call this person Triangle- whom I felt negatively about, and somewhat threatened by. As I lay obsessing about my drawbacks and Triangle's strengths, my comfortable strain of self-deprecating thoughts was interrupted. I thought of how much love I felt from my friends and family: even when I hadn't seen them for a few days, I knew it was there, and a thought came to me:

Breathe in- Loving
Breath Out- Kindness

As I breathed in I thought of how lucky I was, and visualized surrounding myself with love. I found that having opened these doors, a sense of positivity that I couldn't really explain came flooding to me. As I breathed out I imagined extending kindness and empathy to the person I had been thinking of negatively a few minutes earlier. At first I found this prospect kind of frightening: "Triangle has so much already, why would they need my positive energy?" (It's easy to fall into patterns of insecurity and envy; I have to constantly remind myself that these phenomena don't get anyone anywhere, and breed misunderstanding and sadness, rather than happiness )

This being said, in this instance I used my energy as a coping strategy. Ideally, these feelings of self-consciousness wouldn't have struck me in the first place, but they did, and I found my Loving/Kindness meditation very helpful. However, it's important to breathe kindness back into yourself, even though this can be very hard to do. As the saying goes, we are often our own worst critics... But I'm hoping that learning how to show more kindness and forgiveness to myself will allow for more happiness and joy in my life.

Try it out! Once you've breathed some Loving/Kindness into yourself, then you could try breathing kindness into your relationships, the good and the bad ones. Try breathing some kindness into your boss, or a teacher you find annoying, someone you love, someone you feel threatened by. You can do this at bedtime, on the bus, on your bike, when you wake up.

How I do the Loving Kindness Meditation:

I do this meditation while lying on my back with my palms either facing upwards by my side or on my belly, so they can stay with my breath. I usually lie with my feet on the ground, knees bent, to protect my lower back. This is very relaxing, but you have to watch that you don't fall asleep! I breathe in deeply, from my belly, and imagine myself expanding to encompass positive energy. When I breathe out, I focus that energy either on my mind, my body, or I send it out to the world.
Good luck! I hope this helps you as it has helped me.


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