When Deb used to work in an educational institute, she ran into regular problems with one of the instructors.
No matter what Deb did, the teacher would disagree with and blame her at every turn.
Deb was going to have to spend a week with her at a cabin, so she turned to a loving kindness meditation practice to help.
Here’s what happened:
By the time we got to the cabin, her attitude had begun to change. She was no longer making me the cause of anything that went wrong. Over the next few days, every so often, she would acknowledge me and by the end of the week she was including me, once even asking my opinion. The interesting thing was that she didn’t seem to notice that anything was different!
The only thing I had done differently was loving kindness or metta meditation, through which the ‘hook’ inside me (of inadequacy, having little self-respect and feeling unimportant) that she had been ‘hanging’ all her judgment on had dissolved. She had nowhere to put her negativity; instead, it sort of fell on the floor between us. Eventually, it just slunk away, unable to find a home.
Really? Negativity can just go away?
Imagine your mind is like a beautiful garden. If you let a pig in your garden you will have a hard time getting it out, as pigs really like tasty gardens! In the same way, negativity is like a pig that gets in the garden of your mind and causes havoc.
When someone is being dismissive or disapproving and making us feel unworthy and insecure, it may be because there’s a hook in you for that negativity to latch on too—a place where it can land that triggers all these hidden self-doubts.
How do we get unhooked? It’s pretty simple: we extend kindness toward ourselves as well as toward the person we are having a challenging time with.
Then an extraordinary thing begins to happen: the hook within us begins to dissolve, just as Deb experienced.
This happens because there’s nowhere for the negativity to take hold or to land.
When we embrace ourselves with kindness we are strengthening and reinforcing feelings of self-empowerment, worthiness, and personal value. Sending kindness to an adversary transforms their negativity so they can release the conflict.
It also acts like a shield so that it can’t land.
This is like turning sh*t into gold.
Have you noticed how, when you are in a good mood, it’s not natural to cause harm? You may even take the time to get a spider out of the bathtub. But if you are in a bad mood or are feeling very stressed, then how easy it is to wash the spider down the drain. Our own pain spills over and harms anyone or anything in its way. Someone who incites feelings of discord or enmity actually more love because their internal pain is greater than the pain they cause others.
When we become aware of this we can wish all people to be happy and free from suffering, which is a truly compassionate and humane act!
3 Steps to Metta Meditation
Spend a few minutes on each stage of this practice. Settle your body in a seated posture. Take a few minutes to focus on the natural flow of your breath, while bringing your attention to the heart space in the center of your chest.
- Now either repeat your name or visualize yourself in your heart so you can feel your presence. Hold yourself there, gently and tenderly. Release any tension on the out-breath and breathe in softness and openness with the in-breath. Silently repeat: “May I be well, may I be happy, may I be filled with loving kindness.” Feel a growing sense of loving kindness and compassion for yourself.
- Now direct your loving kindness toward the person you are having a hard time with, whoever it may be. Keep breathing out any resistance and breathing in openness, as you visualize or hold this person in your heart and repeat: “May you be well, may you be happy, may you be filled with loving kindness.” No need to get caught up in the details of the story, of who said or did what. Hold the person gently and tenderly, wishing them wellness and happiness.
- Expand your loving kindness toward all people, in all directions, whoever they may be, silently repeating: “May all beings be well, may all beings be happy, may all beings be filled with loving kindness.” Feel loving kindness radiating out from you in all directions. Breathe in kindness, breathe out kindness.
When you are ready, take a deep breath and gently open your eyes, letting the kindness in your heart put a smile on your lips.
Author: Ed & Deb Shapiro
Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: Mikael Kristenson/Unsplash