In MIDL Mindfulness Training 28/52 it is time to recondition your habitual defenses by cultivating positive qualities of heart. The natural feeling of love & kindness towards yourself and others is practiced throughout your life. If during your life you have been habitually defending yourself then your heart may be closed and intimacy with yourself or others may be weak. By bringing a loved one to mind, sending them thoughts of love & kindness then transferring the feeling towards an image of yourself you can recondition the mind and make these loving feeling towards yourself your natural way of being. Submit Your Question
Your Question: What are the words that you are using in this meditation and how do I do it?
Stephen Procter: When practicing loving kindness using the loved one to generate the loving feeling we can follow two simple steps. During this meditation we can begin with ourselves, then loved one then our self again but these days I teach to begin with the loved one first as many people find it difficult to feel love and kindness towards themselves.
Step 1: Loving Kindness to a Loved One
Sit down comfortably, make a half smile on your face and bring someone you care for or respect to mind. Gently repeat:
“(insert their name) may you be well ........”
“may you be happy........”
“may you be peaceful ........”
Keep gently repeating these phrases to yourself, in no hurry, and really mean it. Smile when you say it. The key is to develop the feeling of love that comes from this wish of kindness.
Step 2: Loving Kindness to Yourself
Once you can develop the feeling of loving kindness to your loved one then you can transfer the feeling towards yourself. First start by developing the feeling on your loved one, then bring yourself to mind. The feeling will then carry over. If the loving feeling fades then swap back to your loved one again to recultivate the feeling. Apply the feeling to yourself again until you also are a loved one.
“may I be well ........”
“may I be happy........”
“may I be peaceful ........”
Your Question: My only difficulty with these meditations is that I cannot picture people, faces (or anything much), so I find it hard to concentrate and focus in that way. I just wondered if you might have any helpful advice...
Stephen Procter: Different people experience images in different ways - some see them, others feel them. I also do not see images of people when I bring someone to mind, but I feel their presence and I feel my relationship to them. The importance with practices of cultivating positive qualities of heart, such as Metta: Loving Kindness, is not the clarity of the image but rather the emotional feeling beneath them - in this case the genuine wish for happiness and peace.
This is why we first start with someone that we already feel genuine caring towards, such as a loved one or someone we respect, because it is easier to cultivate the feeling of genuine love and kindness towards them. The emotion behind the phrases is what is important, the person is just used to encourage the feeling to arise. Once the emotional feeling of loving kindness has arisen we then encourage it to grow, to fill every cell of our body - this feeling is the meditation object.
Once strong, then we can transfer the feeling over to our self, this then will start to dislodge any negative feelings we have towards ourselves and replace it with the positive feeling of loving kindness. When the feeling starts to weaken we then go back to the loved one and so on. In this way loving kindness starts to 'stick' to the thought of ourselves and the loving response becomes natural. We can then cultivate loving kindness on our loved one and ourselves, before transferring it to different people within our lives until everyone becomes a loved one.
Your Question: I can't feel love. I imagined my 3 years old daughter that I think I love very much. But I couldn't feel anything. The nearest thing to love was that I didn't want something bad to happen to her. I can see I am ready to put myself in danger to make her safe. But I couldn't feel love. I have a problem in seeing good emotions in myself. I can see anxiety and anger very clear in myself but not love.
Stephen Procter: This is quite normal, the feeling of love for others starts with our relationship towards our self. If we do not like our self, if we can not feel love for our self, then our love for others may be driven by fear and attachment but not from actual love & kindness.
It always comes down to our relationship with our self, the ability to see the good within us, to embrace all parts including the parts we do not like. Mindfulness meditation is not about creating a better me. Trying to add more to our self is the trap of this life. Mindfulness meditation is a process of stripping back the layers of defensiveness that create separateness within our self. This feeling of separation within our self conditions our relationship towards our self and also our relationship towards others. The anxiety and anger you feel is very clear in regards to this.
Whatever is our dominant state of mind is, creates our path of practice in MIDL mindfulness meditation. Anger is a defense mechanism that arises out of anxiety, so the experience of anxiety is your meditation path. Any attempt to avoid or try to escape from this will only make it worse. Your first step is to develop sensitivity towards your breathing patterns and how they reflect your state of mind. When you are calm and relaxed your breathing with be in your belly, when anxious it will move up, short and shallow, into your chest. Maybe at this time your breathing is always up in your chest. This will than become your reference point from which to observe your relationship towards yourself and others, from which Wisdom will arise.
You begin with MIDL Mindfulness Training 3/52: Retraining Autonomous Breathing daily for 3 - 4 weeks to retrain your stress breathing patterns. Making diaphragmatic breathing normal for you. This will lower the defensiveness of your survival mind and create your reference point from which to observe and soften your relationship towards your life.
You then need to forgive yourself, for things you have done to disrespect yourself and others. Without forgiving your past you will always feel fragmented now and your relationships will reflect this. You can than forgive others for when they have disrespected you within your life. This is a necessary healing of the past which is needed for you to feel love in your heart, now. MIDL Mindfulness Training 32/52: Forgiveness: Healing the Heart.
Your can then start to develop loving kindness towards yourself, this will be slow at first, like a small ember on a fire, but as the fire grows it will naturally transfer over to your daughter. You do this by generating the loving feeling first on a loved one or someone that you respect - just on them. When you can do this you generate the feeling on your loved one / respected person and then bring yourself to mind, side by side with them - the feeling will start to transfer. Keep doing this until you are both loved ones. You can then add people like your daughter. All these steps are found within the book I sent you 'Step by Step Guidance in MIDL Mindfulness Meditation', it is designed to follow the MIDL path using stress / anxiety as the doorway for mindfulness.