Friday, October 24, 2008

Lovingkindness

Yesterday in my Mindfulness Class we learned about lovingkindness meditation, which focuses on bringing kindness into our meditation practice and into our daily lives. Our teacher told us that an attitude of lovingkindness can help support us in remaining composed while dealing with the difficult parts of our lives. This concept may sound seriously hippie woo-woo, but considering how frustrated I’ve been with my condition lately, and how this frustration has been spilling all over the people I love, I think lovingkindness meditation will probably be a really useful skill for me to work on.

Our teacher gave us an article that perhaps describes the practice of lovingkindness a bit better than I can: “The practice of lovingkindness meditation brings to life our innate capacity for connecting to ourselves and others. The lovingkindess we cultivate breaks through the habit of indifference of judgment that keeps us feeling separate from others. A capacity for friendship and kindness exists within each of us, without exception. No matter what pain we might have gone through in our lives, that capacity is never destroyed. It may be – and often is – obscured, but it’s there.”

So, in class, we started with a gratefulness circle, which is exactly as hippie woo-woo as it sounds! Basically, we went around in a circle and said, out loud, things we were grateful for in that moment.

I was grateful for my boyfriend, APL.

I was grateful that my second Remicade treatment was over and seemed to go well.

I was grateful for my friend, we’ll call her Judice (ha!), who went out of her way to drive me to my Mindfulness Class that afternoon, because otherwise I probably would have stayed home.

I was grateful for my puppy, River, who always brings a smile to my face.

I was grateful for ANTM and the mindless enjoyment I get from watching it with my friends.

I was grateful that internet that allows me to stay connected to my friends and family who are spread all over the world.

After the gratefulness circle, we took some time to think about the experience. And I realized two things. First, we went around that circle six times and I picked a different topic each time, but I could have easily offered six different reasons that I was grateful for APL or six different reasons that I was grateful for Judice. Despite how icky I may feel, I still really ought to try to show my gratefulness to the people I care about more often, because I honestly wouldn’t be able to get by without them. Second, I realized it actually made a difference in my mood to think about things I am grateful for. Despite the fact that I am honestly pretty unhappy with the shape of my life right now, there are still good things. If I focus more on those good things, maybe things will get at least a little easier. Probably another one of those goals that is easier said than done, but at least I can try.

Then we moved into the formal practice of lovingkindness meditation, and I thought that was really interesting too. Like the article describes, “We begin with ourselves because truly caring for ourselves is the foundation for being able to care for others.” Our teacher directed us to repeat silently, over and over, the following phrases:

May I be happy. May I be healthy. May I be peaceful. May I be safe. May I stay calm and patient while I try to work on these things!!

From there, our mindfulness teacher directed us to offer the same phrases to a person who has been a teacher or a mentor in our lives, someone who has shown us the best in ourselves. I immediately thought of a professor we call “the Guru.” He has been my professor, my boss, my mentor, and my friend. He has taught me, guided me, appreciated all the hard work I have done, and been there for me during difficult times. This semester I’ve realized exactly how much I appreciate him because he is on sabbatical in California and I miss him!

Guru, may you be happy. Guru, may you be healthy. Guru, may you be peaceful. Guru, may you be safe. Guru, may you come back to Colorado soon!

Next, we offered the phrases to a friend. I immediately thought of Judice, who was pretty much responsible for me being there to do this meditation in the first place. She knew I was feeling exhausted from my treatment but that the mindfulness class was good for me, so she picked me up at my house and drove me to it. She also gets the majority of the credit for helping me survive through 1L year of law school. Actually, for helping me survive law school in general. And since my diagnosis she has been an especially great friend. She takes River hiking when I can’t. She helps me talk through my frustrations over delicious hot chocolate (for which APL should also be grateful!) Also, sometimes she brings pie! I honestly don’t know what I would do without her.

Judice, may you be happy. Judice, may you be healthy. Judice, may you be peaceful. Judice, may you be safe. Judice, may you laugh at me calling you Judice. Also, may you have facebook in the Pennsylvania courthouse because otherwise I have no idea how I will survive without you next year!

We then had to try to offer the phrases to a difficult person in our lives. Someone who has annoyed or frustrated or hurt us, or all of the above. For obvious reasons, I’m not going to go into the details of this person here. But I tried to offer the phrases as a gift, expecting nothing in return. And I tried to offer the phrases as true – not only to help that person but also to help myself in dealing with that person.

May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be peaceful. May you be safe.

In the end, we offered the phrases to everyone.

May all beings be happy. May all beings be healthy. May all beings be peaceful. May all beings be safe.

And may I try to keep this attitude of lovingkindness. At least some of the time!


6 comments:

A said...

So interesting. I think, at the core of things, thankfulness gives us many gifts including peace, perspective, and, well, a reminder that life aint so bad (most days!) if we really think about it.
Interesting too about directing those statements to yourself, to your friend, to you enemy, etc...
It reminds me of the way you teach little kids (um, and me) to pray...
Dear God,
I am thankful for this...
I am hurting/sorry for this...
I need help with this...
Please bless...
Amen.

Gratitude leads, then allowing for shortcomings, then asking for help, then offering thanks for the wonderful things and people in your life. It's a good reminder, especially for me today and for the world right now.

Woo-sah, Z. Woo-sah.

Z said...

Yeah, I'm actually quite aware that this lovingkindness meditation concept is actually very similar to praying, but you didn't have to go pointing that out to everyone!! It's agnostic praying, I swear! Hippie praying!! ~;o)

In all seriousness, you know I always told you there were some things about your religion that didn't seem so bad. Guess this is one of them.~;o)

sacbootycall said...

I'm proud of you. Really proud of you. And the APL. Bless you both.

~kelly marie~ said...

This is really wonderful that you are doing this. I think a lot of people don't realize what having an autoimmune disease does to one's emotional health as well. I have been doing Reiki, and at first I wasn't quite sure about it, but it has made a world of difference for me. I thought it was just helping me emotionally, but my last blood work showed some really good numbers that I had never had before, and the only thing that had changed was doing Reiki.
Thanks for posting this. I really like this idea. I've already started saying the phrases to myself.

Z said...

Kelly Marie: I think I'M only just starting to realize what having an autoimmune disease does you your emotional health! And it isn't good! So I'm glad that I am starting to figure out some ways to help deal with the emotional strain. The system isn't near perfect, though. I still fly off the handle at poor APL for no apparent reason sometimes. And, approximately every other day, I cry for no reason. But, I'm working on it. I'm glad you've found something to help you too. Maybe I'll have to check out reiki next.

Sacbootycall: Thanks for the blessing. ~;o) But what's with the, um, bootycall? ~;o)

~kelly marie~ said...

I hear you, Z. I am seriously F-ed (I don't want you to be a spammer again. I'm not sure if bad language makes one a spammer!) up in the head after five years of this. There's some serious crazy going on. One of the things I've learned from a book I've been reading is that there is no reason that a person can't feel good. Every time I feel pain or negativity or ... etc. I say to myself: "I don't like this feeling" "What do I really want?" "I want to be _____" I fill that in with happy or at peace or just "I want to feel good". It is so hippy woo woo, but it seems to be working for me because I am beginning to recognize all my negative thoughts and how many there are! It is not a perfect solution, but it has definitely helped some.