I started practicing meditation almost a decade ago while wheelchair bound after a bicycle accident. One of the first things I noticed when I sat down, got still, and looked inward was just how freakin’ mean I was to myself. My subconscious self-talk was a bitch with a capital B. Sadly, this is pretty common. Now when I catch this little b sneaking back out I ask myself, would I talk to a friend this way? Would I criticize a friend’s thighs or yell at them for forgetting their keys or convince them they’re not worthy of that promotion at work? No way, because that’s bitchy and mean. But, folks, that’s often how we talk to ourselves and most of the time we’re not even aware of it.
Meditation can help us become aware of these unwanted, subconscious thought patterns and SHIFT em. Because if we don’t shift these negative thoughts it can really hold us back from livin our best damn lives. And that’s not fair. It’s not fair to you, and it’s not fair to your community, and it’s not fair to the world. The world needs the best version of you, me, your sister, my neighbor Pam with 68 cats. The world needs the best version of all of us.
There are numerous, numerous kinds of meditation. One type of meditation known specifically to evoke kindness and help with nasty self-talk is loving kindness meditation, or in yogic terms metta. In numerous research studies, loving kindness meditation has been to increase self-compassion and positive self-esteem while curbing self criticism. The practice can also increase empathy and kindness to others, but we’re not here to talk about anyone but ourselves. This is about SELF love people. The phrase used in loving kindness meditation differ slightly depending on the teacher and practitioner, but they generally go like, “may you be happy, may you safe, may you be healthy, may you be free.” Feel free to change these slightly so that they resonate exactly with you.
Here’s how you do it:
1. Sit comfortably with your feet flat on the floor and your spine straight. Relax your whole body. Close your eyes or take a soft gaze downward blurring your vision.
2. First, direct the phrases toward yourself. Repeat, “may I be happy, may I be safe, may I be healthy, may I be free.” Repeat.
3. Next, picture someone that you love, visualize that person and direct the phrases toward them. Repeat twice.
4. Now, visualize someone you have difficulty with, or someone you dislike. Visualize that person and send them love using the same phrases. Repeat twice.
5. Finally, direct love (or metta) to every being saying, “may every being, everywhere be happy….and so on…” Repeat twice.
6. Notice how this feels in your body.
7. Take a final closing breathe, in and out, and open your eyes.
Research tells us the most effective “dose” is 15-20 minutes daily, but people see benefits with just a few minutes of practice a day as well. So start with one or two minutes a day and then progress when it feels right. To make it longer you can repeat the phrases additional times, or think of additional people if needed.
Give it a try and let us know what you think!