One of the leading experts in Loving-kindness meditation, Sharon Salzberg, has a new book called Real Love: The Art of Mindful Connection (Flatiron Books, 2017) which is full of ways to center yourself this summer and get back to a peaceful loving center that can radiate kindness to yourself and outwards to all others. In a world of increasing anxiety, we need this ability more than ever.
Here are some useful takeaways from her approach:
The capacity to love generously and give compassion exists inside each of us. Difficult experiences may make it more challenging to trust or love, but the capacity to do so still exists within us.
Compassion isn't a special talent. It's available to each of us by paying attention to others and being aware of the limitless number of ways we can connect with other human beings. This includes strangers as well as people we care about.
All experiences hold the potential to help us learn, grow and accept ourselves and others as we are.
We can let go of the negative stories we tell ourselves about our past, present and future.
The more we practice loving-kindness for ourselves, the more easily we can share it with others.
Random acts of kindness and compassion improve not only the other person's state of mind, but ours as well.
Being mindful helps us see situations and conflict in a new way, recognizing feelings like anger but not getting lost in them.
As we release expectations and assumptions in relationships, we free ourselves up for real love.
Giving loving-kindness to others doesn't make you weak, it makes you strong and authentic.
How can we learn to soften up that space within us that cares about you and others? Loving-kindness meditation is a tool that can help you cultivate this sense of peace and well-being. Sit comfortably and close your eyes. Start with the phrases, "May I be safe, may I be happy, may I be healthy, may I be filled with peace and may I be filled with loving-kindness." When your mind wanders, simply bring it back to your words, and the gentle repetition of these phrases. Wrap up the meditation session by extending that generosity and loving-kindness as a blessing to all beings everywhere. When finished, open your eyes gently and relax. Try this practice daily and watch for what unfolds inside of you.
Salzberg's book is a good reminder that no matter how many anxious and upsetting things are going on around us, taking a few minutes everyday to practice compassion and kindness for ourselves is a wonderful place to act locally. As we let go of our own perfectionism and habits of being busy and distracted, we can be more present in our relationships with everyone else our life touches. We can each do our part of bringing more compassion, forgiveness and love into everyday life. Most human beings I know are so thirsty for it and we are each a source.