Have you ever yelled at someone you love? Ever been upset or unhappy with yourself? Ever gotten irritated with a perfect stranger (think: cab driver, cashier, person driving the car who cut you off)? Ever felt anger towards your arch enemies?
You probably have, if you're human and not the Dalai Lama.
We experience a gazillion different emotions each day. It's part of life. And though it's only natural to experience negative emotions towards others and even towards yourself sometimes, what we may not realize is that it's within our power to soften and even sweeten these emotions.
There's a quick and easy practice you can do that will help you change your mental habits and retrain your mind to be more open, accepting, kind and loving towards yourself and everyone else in your life. It's a Buddhist practice called loving kindness meditation (and even if you're not a meditator, stick with me – it's not what you think it is).
Loving kindness meditation is by far the most powerful practice I've experienced in terms of shifting your mental state.
Here’s how it works:
1. The prep. Take a comfortable seat on the ground, or really anyway you'd like, as long as you can sit comfortably and stay alert. Close your eyes and start to breath deeply.
2. The loved one. First, picture someone you love deeply (and just go with the first person who comes to mind). Direct all your attention to this person. Let your heart open towards this person. Now mentally direct these words to your loved one (you don't have to speak them out loud, just think them): "May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be safe. May you be at ease." Repeat this 3 times (or however many times you'd like, but pick a number and stick with it throughout the other stages of the practice).
After you've finished, sit for a few moments and feel the positive energy you just created inside you and let it reverberate through your body. Do this again at the end of each of the next three steps.
3. The man/woman in the mirror. Next, picture yourself. Focus intently on yourself and wish the following, with all your heart, for yourself: "May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be safe. May you be at ease." Repeat. Rest.
4. The stranger. Now, picture a stranger. You don't have to visualize exactly what he or she looks like but think of anyone that you don't know very well. Bring this person to the forefront of your mind and send these same well-wishes to this stranger: "May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be safe. May you be at ease." Repeat. Rest.
5. The pain-in-the-butt. Finally, picture the pain-in-the-butt in your life (we all have them). Someone you might be harboring ill-will towards or someone who has recently upset or hurt you or whom you are having trouble dealing with. Bring the image of this person into your heart and, with conviction, offer this person the same blessing: "May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be safe. May you be at ease." Repeat. Rest. (This last step might sound difficult, but as you open your heart more and more through this practice, you may actually find it more difficult to close it off at this point in the meditation).
That's all there is to it. Try it just once and see how it goes. I guarantee that at the end of it you'll feel softer, more open and happier. And the more you do it, you'll begin to chip away at those deeply rooted, inherent patterns of thought that create the negative feelings and behaviors toward ourselves and others that we may experience from time to time. And, if you keep with the practice, you might just find that you've become a kinder and more loving person somewhere along the way.
And to all you MindBodyGreen readers, I wish you this: May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be safe. May at you be at ease.