Saturday, November 08, 2008

Loving Kindness Meditation

I don't know why I sometimes get so much anxiety before my pdoc appointments . I always look forward to meeting with Dr. X. I love sitting in the chair across from him. Generally, within a few minutes of sitting in his office, even if I am really stressed out, I feel a calming effect coming from him and his side of the room. That happened on Thursday.

My appointment began with me feeling intensely stressed, but I soon became aware of what was happening (that I was anxious), and that awareness helped me refocus. I'm not sure what helped me become aware.

Maybe it was Dr. X wittingly, or unwittingly, wrapping me in calmness. In a way, it feels like a Buddhist "Loving Kindness meditation" taken to the next level, the level of practice, when I sit across from him.

So many of us are compassionate and loving beings. Unfortunately, to often, for me anyways, my depression, anxiety, mood swings and frustration with not becoming well, or remaining ill take over my compassion and I become anxious or angry.

A good example is how I sometimes become filled with road rage at small indignities done (of course from my perspective TO ME), by other drivers. The driver who races to the front of the left lane and then butts in right at the front, while all of us other driver's patiently wait our turn, or the driver that cuts me off, or races past me at mach speed. I become angry sitting in my car and the anger begins to turn into anxiety.

Why do I do this? I have been really trying to let go of this rage, and accept that others may have good reasons for doing what they do, or there may be a reason I do not know that makes them need to get somewhere faster than everyone else. I have no idea what is happening in the person's life to make them need to get to the front of the line faster than anyone else.

I remember a story from when my mom was dying. She was visiting me and suddenly began going into shock. We dialed 911 and the ambulance took her to the hospital. At the hospital the Dr. told us that they believed she had sepsis(?), that she had infection raging through her body and she was going to die that night.

I called my sister's to come over. My one sister had to fly from the island. She had 10 minutes to get to the airport or she would miss the last plane. She lives in the country and was racing down the road when she came upon her neighbours car in front of her. She tried to pass him, but he kept driving into the middle of the road to stop her passing. He also slowed to a speed well below the speed limit to physically force her to slow her down. She began honking and flashing her lights to no avail. Finally she managed to pass him despite his efforts to "keep her in line". She was mad as hell, but she made the plane, and managed to see my Mom, who pulled through for another month.

What if she had missed the plane because this man tried to aggressively stop her from passing him. What if she had missed the plane and my Mom had died before she was able to say goodbye? He may be right in that the speed limit was lower than she needed to go, but he had no idea how important her race down the road was. I try now to let go and to understand that I only see the behaviour, I don't see WHY people are behaving the way they do. I try to be more compassionate.

Dr. X. just seems to live and breathe compassion. I do not think I have ever heard him say anything negative about anyone. My Mom was like that to. The only other person I met like that was my grade 12 English teacher. He was a Buddhist and he was calm in the face of daily interaction with a bunch of riotous teenagers. It always amazed me.

On Thursday, part way through my session I felt my body relax, my hands stop twirling my hair and tapping my eyebrow (this is a strange habit I picked up over the past few years when I'm really stressed. Either that or I did it before and was unaware of it), my shoulders and arms became relaxed, and I leaned back in the chair. I suddenly felt calm. It felt like the presence of Dr. X was making me calm. It reminded me of the power of a Buddhist "Loving Kindness" meditation. He seems like loving kindness personified.

A Loving Kindness meditation is meant to fill your heart with compassion and love for yourself and then extend it towards all other beings.

  • In the loving kindness meditation I know you begin by imagining yourself wrapping yourself in warm white light. You say to yourself, "may I be filled with loving kindness, and be healthy , well and happy.
  • You then think of someone who is a mentor or leader to you, and you take the warm white light that is wrapped around you and you extend it to surround them, and you say out loud, or in your head, e.g. "May Dr X. be filled with loving kindness, and be healthy, well and happy"
  • Then you extend the white light to wrap around yourself, your mentor and someone you love, and repeat the mantra, "May (my loved person) be filled with loving kindness, and be healthy, well and happy"
  • You then think of someone you are having difficulty with and you then extend that radiant warm white light around the person you are having difficulty with and say, may (the person you are having troubles with) be filled with loving kindness, and be healthy, well and happy"
  • then wrap the light around all the beings in your family and repeat: may all beings in my family be filled with loving kindness, and be healthy, well and happy"

Then you continue to increase the size and magnitude of the warm white light and wrap it around:

  • All beings in the house: "May all beings in this house be filled with loving kindness, and be healthy, well and happy"
  • All the beings/people in the building: "May all beings in this building be filled with loving kindness, and be healthy, well and happy"
  • All the beings on the block:" May all beings on my block be filled with loving kindness, and be healthy, well and happy"
  • All the beings in your city: "May all beings in my town or city be filled with loving kindness, and be healthy, well and happy"
  • All the beings in your country: "May all beings in my country be filled with loving kindness, and be healthy, well and happy"
  • All the beings on the continent: "May all beings on this continent be filled with loving kindness, and be healthy, well and happy"
  • All the beings in the world: "May all beings in this world be filled with loving kindness, and be healthy, well and happy"
  • and finally out into space: "May all beings in the universe be filled with loving kindness, and be healthy, well and happy"

Note the meditation is embracing all "beings", not just people. I would suggest beings in my version of the meditation includes all life; plants and animals, the ocean, the lakes and rivers, and also all the earth, space, planets and universe. The meditation is a means for a person to embrace all beings lovingly and compassionately in their mind. It feels really good to do.

The more I do this meditation the more compassionate I feel. When I do it my anger towards others subsides and I begin to recognize that we all struggle, we all want health and love and wellness, and we all deserve love and compassion.

10 comments:

Tamara said...

It is a wonderful meditation. I have done it many times and it can be quite powerful. I guess it would be considered the next step is Tonglin Meditation where you breathe in the pain of someone else and breathe out peace. You want to be in good space to do this but it is also very powerful when you are dealing with someone that you have a conflict with. So, you are in essence taking their pain and giving them peace. Of course, you allow their pain to pass through you - you don't hold onto it.

Buddhists have some very interesting and amazing practices. How special that you have a pdoc that you feel has this level of peace.

Hugs,
Tamara

Handsome B. Wonderful said...

I'd be dead without Buddhist meditation. I really like to just focus on my breath and enjoy the deep breathing. Then when a thought enters my mind I think about it for a bit and then just breath out and let it pass on.

Then if it comes back I repeat. It seems to take some of the punch out of those powerfully, negative thoughts. Then when I let the thought pass I breath in and say, "I am present" and then breathing out say, "I am aware."

Doing that part really helps me enjoy just being without judgments. I take some time at first but it's really beneficial.

Annie said...

Thanks so much for the meditation. I know how helpful it can be but I don't think about doing it that much. Your ideas in the post were helpful.
Annie

Lola Snow said...

These recent posts you've been writing are a series of beautiful ideas Aqua. This one reads a little like poetry, and the rhythm is certain soothing. I love the idea of incorporating the rivers and trees and stuff in the the meditation, makes for a real sense of harmony

Lola x

Aqua said...

Thanks for the feedback, and the other meditation ideas. Great ideas.

This week I have decided to try super hard to just be in the moment, and to allow the moments of joy, happiness, or even simple everyday pleasures to seep into the time I am not feeling well. I am also trying to SEE that I actually do have enjoyment in my life every single day.

So often it seems like I cannot feel pleasure anymore...but lately I have been finding it in the oddest, and simplest,of experiences. Like my mushroom hunting for example, or waking up when it was supposed to be raining all day and having the rain stop midday...ahh no rain. In the winter, on the "Wet" Coast this is definitely a blessing.

Lola Snow said...

Thats so great that you have taken that attitude Aqua, I think a lot of people could do with trying that (myself included). Your post about mushroom hunting really amused me, although I was reminded of that show "The X-Files". I'd try the one about the raining, just waiting for it to stop!

Lola x

TakeAction! said...

VT,

Your "Loving Kindness Meditation" (Tonglin) post is an excellent method to dissociate from self-devaluing feelings and associate with self-valuing feelings. You may also want to visit and share kindness with my blog at http://randomactsofconditionlesskindness.blogspot.com or www.whatarack.org. Both URL's link to the same site.

Take life one breath at a time, and when it comes to kindness, remember to TakeAction!

K said...

Thanks for the information on meditation, Aqua. It's great to learn more positive things about it!

We recently wrote an article on meditation at Brain Blogger. Many people know that meditation has a lot of great perks. Did you know that compassion may be one of them?

We would like to read your comments on our article. Thank you.

Sincerely,
Kelly

Coco said...

Thanks Aqua, I liked this post.

Polar Bear said...

It's great that Dr X is so calming for you.

Road rage - yes...something I need to be working on too. I agree with you that sometimes we don';t know why that other person is in such a damn hurry, but most times I think it's really idiots being idiots rather than them really having a valid reason driving like lunatics on the road.

I don't want to be sexist and ageist, but most times these drivers cutting in and out and exceeding the speed limits are young hot blooded males with their super charged up sports cars. Grrr.... I always want to shake my fist at them.

And don't get me started on 90 years old grannies behind the wheel!!

Sigh... I really do need to work on this.