Practice: Loving Kindness
After this session, participants will have the knowledge required to:
“We all are so deeply interconnected; we have no option but to love all.”
Video: "This is Water" by David Foster Wallace
Your thoughts about the video
- Wallace brings up the notions of the "I-am-the-center-of-the-universe" default mode that leads to our reflex to think of others as getting in our way, opposing or threatening us. Can you think of a time when you experienced being in this frame of mind?
- Can you imagine an instance in which you are able to choose how you think of a frustrating situation?
- How could you become more aware of your auto-pilot reactions to the external world to allow you to choose your reaction?
Have you ever seen students (yourself included) get caught up in being-in-the-center-of-the-universe? What happened? How did it impact on being successful as a student? Think about this mindset and how it might manifest itself in the following situations and settings
- group projects
- dealing with instructors
- motivation to sustain effort in challenging situations
- What might change for you?
- What would you do more or less of?
- What makes this good idea so hard?
Practice: Loving-Kindness to Cultivate Compassion and Reduce Stress/Over-Reactivity
Loving-kindness practice (also known as "Metta meditation") involves intentionally creating thoughts, mental images, and sensations that bring up kind and compassionate feelings towards other people and yourself; seeing everyone, including yourself, as wanting the same things--to be happy, to feel safe, to be well. You wish yourself well, wish others well, wish the whole world well, regardless. It helps us deal with difficult feelings--pain, anger, hopelessness, and fear--from the biggest and most profound to the daily inconveniences where we get ourselves bent out of shape when we don't get what we want.
Practicing good will and compassion toward others helps us to:
- disengage from automatically feeling that other people and/or the world in general is out to get us
- reduce defaulting to seeing others as a threat to us
- see the "big picture" and not take everything so personally
Self-compassion helps us be okay with being human.
Being human means:
- making mistakes repeatedly
- worrying about how others see us
- being excessively self-conscious
- being overly self-critical
- being needy
- etc...all that human, petty, frustrating crap
BTW, compassion and wishing others well isn't
about letting yourself or others get away with bad behavior, making excuses, letting other people mess with you, or giving in/being helpless. It's about easing the stress and pain that difficulties cause you. Your distress doesn't automatically impact the other person or make them accountable, but it always impacts you. When you're less upset, it's often easier to set limits, hold boundaries, and do the hard work of letting go and taking whatever action is necessary.
Reminder: Loving-Kindness is a training practice
- You have to do it repeatedly for the training effect to occur--for it "to stick".
- It doesn't matter if you feel it at the time or not.
- It can sometimes bring up intense feelings, which (like all feelings) can be noticed and let go.
- Setting up cues or reminders for yourself to practice can be helpful.
Let's give it a try.
The following are guided loving-kindness practices. They are 9- and 10-minutes long, respectively. Try each one, on the same or separate days to see if you prefer one or the other, or just to experience a different voice.
How was that for you?
For the next week,
- Do at least two Loving-kindness formal practices during the week, choosing from one of the above or finding your own practices.
- Continue informal daily mindfulness training.
- If you are doing this practice as a class assignment, download the assignment sheet here: