"Being kind to ourselves is a prerequisite for being kind to others." I read this a few days ago in Mark Nepo's The Book Of Awakenings & it just keeps coming back to me. Sometimes you read something that it is a giant heart hit. Boom! Your heart is wide open.
The last year has been a tough one dealing with some intense family issues that have been mostly out of my control. It has rubbed raw some tender spots lingering from PTSD. This has caused my relationship with myself suffer. I used to look at myself, seeing & feeling vibrant, bright, beautiful radiance. My glow has faded into often avoiding seeing myself & an unkind inner dialogue. It is a fast decent downhill from there. To prevent that, I chose Loving Kindness.
Metta meditation, or the Loving Kindness Meditation, is a beautiful, simple buddhist mediation I learned many years ago. Metta means positive energy & kind thoughts towards others. The practice, however, typically starts with offering that kindness to ourselves. There are many different versions of the Loving Kindness Meditation, but they are all rooted in extending love & wellness to ourselves then out to others. Once you offer yourself this blessing/prayer/mantra, you then begin to visualize others, sending them the same. The others typically include someone you love, an acquaintance, someone you are not in right relationship with/have conflict with & finally the world as a whole. For me, the world as a whole includes all beings: human & animal, all plants, water, air, everything making up our planet.
I love that Metta meditation starts with ourselves because like Nepo states in his book, all kindness must begin with ourselves before it can be extended to others. The Loving Kindness meditation always brings me back to the center of my heart where I can easily love myself, nurture myself, be compassionate with myself & ultimately be kind to myself. From that deeply loving space with myself, love & kindness flows with ease out into the world.
Over the years of practicing Metta, I have found a version for myself that embodies how I want to feel & what I pray for others.
May I be free from mental anguish & distress.
May I be free from psychical pain & suffering.
May I be healthy & strong.
May I be safe & protected.
May I be happy & peaceful.
May I be filled with love & kindness.
May I live with ease & joy.
May I be well & always surrounded in loving kindness.
To practice loving kindness simply sit and close your eyes. I like to bring my right hand over my belly & my left hand over my heart. Begin by visualizing yourself, hold that image close in your mind & offer the blessing to yourself. Next visualize someone you love, hold their image close in your mind & offer the blessing out into the universe for them. Then visualize an acquaintance, hold their image close in your mind & offer the blessing out into the universe for them. Then visualize someone you are having conflict/difficulty with, hold their image close in your mind & offer the blessing out into the universe for them. Finally visualize the world as a whole in all its parts, hold the image close in your mind & offer the blessing out into the universe for it. Close your practice by offering gratitude & sitting for a few moments in silence.
Cultivating loving kindness towards ourselves is not always easy. We live in a culture of high demand & pressure that depletes us of our worth. Life gets complicated & messy taking us further away from our heart center. Come back home to your heart by practicing loving kindness towards yourself daily. Remember to extend gratitude & grace to yourself, be well with yourself so that you can share that love & kindness with others.
"Being kind to ourselves is a prerequisite to being kind to others. Honoring ourselves is, in fact, the only lasting way to release a truly selfless kindness to others." -Mark Nepo The Book Of Awakening