Like most people I know, in my 20s I struggled deeply.
Life was tough. As an immigrant from South Africa who had fled being imprisoned for refusing the Apartheid draft, I came to the USA with very little: no money, no car, an incomplete college education, and a waning fantasy about being a professional musician. I lived in one room and rode two buses 90 minutes each way to a job that made me $5.25 an hour. What kept me going was my passion for practicing the yoga and meditation I had learned out of books.
But even this had a struggle in it: I noticed that the self-talk in my own head was very harsh, and even as I pursued “enlightenment” with youthful zeal and discipline, there was a way that the language of “killing the ego,” and “dis-identifying with preferences, desires, and feelings” became this brutal self-attack that eventually was relentless. I was vulnerable to every virus that came around and would get sicker for longer than anyone I knew during cold and flu season. My self-worth was in the toilet. Something had to change.
That was when I discovered Loving Kindness Meditation.
This is a simple practice that cultivates an attitude of compassion toward yourself. You are literally sitting in the feeling/brain states generated by focusing on wishing yourself well. This is great for shifting out of stress overload, is reparative for the immune system, and allows us to be in touch with positive emotions toward ourselves—which can be so beneficial, especially when going through tough times in life. Rather than using spiritual sounding rationalizations to deny or explain away suffering or painful experiences, Loving Kindness meditation is an authentic and gentle yet powerful way of bringing good medicine right to the heart of the suffering that is part of every human life.