Habits of Loving-kindness
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Thank you for joining this course
My wish for you
This course is in 3 parts and can be completed in 3 weeks. I recommend that you complete the course in 3 weeks even though you may feel you haven't mastered the practices. The individual elements are not a progression to be completed and discarded. Each of the exercises offered here is a tool for you to use on a regular basis as fits your needs. After completing the course once, you can return to repeat the entire course more slowly, or review certain elements.
These practices can bring up uncomfortable emotions and it is wise to be prepared for this. This is a natural part of mindfulness practices as you begin to observe the things that are getting in the way of joy and peace in your life. It can be hard to let go of these things. What this course gives you is tools to recognise what is useful in your life, and what is unnecessary and perhaps even draining your energy.
There is no sense of failure or shame in this. These things you can let go of are all essential elements of you, and have at one time or another been useful tools in your life. The question is, are they useful now? Hold this question as you move through the course and give yourself permission to let go of that which does not bring you joy.
Take a moment to set a start date for this course with the knowledge that it can initially leave you feeling a little tired. This feeling will fade with time as you begin to replenish energy though the very practices that at first seemed challenging.
All of the course content is included in a printable PDF file. That way, you can minimise screen time as much as possible and have a reference for doing the practices unguided.
If you have any questions feel free to get in touch
I wish you good practicing.
Part 1: Listening
The line in your own heart
A student recently told me how emotional they get in class. I have had several students cry in class. Sometimes after a focused meditation at the end of the practice, the class sits for 5 or 10 minutes in contemplation. (I hate to interrupt this!) Sometimes I myself cry in class when I see a student overcoming an internal struggle, or when I notice a marked change in someones breathing. These are beautiful moments of letting go.
One memorable moment was when, after I kept on one hyper-flexible student for months about engaging their core muscles, they yelled out "Oh! I found my core!"
Your body functions as a whole. Each part effects the others. Even mental and emotional effort can leave you feeling physically drained. The demands of daily life can create imbalances in your movement patterns and energy levels. Have you ever found yourself clenching your jaw, or hunched over a screen with a headache, or rushing along with shallow breath and to-do list reeling through your mind? These ways of being and moving are unconscious - running on autopilot -often without realising the level of stress or tension, ignoring pain or fatigue.
These habitual movement patterns drain energy which could be better spent on other things. The result of being on autopilot like this is that we have an attitude of "forcing". That is, plough on, head down, to the rhythm of demands that are placed upon us from external sources. When we force, we stop listening and lose connection to ourselves. There are many external forces that makes us think "more is better". I wish to erase that notion from the collective consciousness! There is an inner rhythm of give and take, action and rest. Both are equally important. Action cannot happen without the energy from rest and nourishment.
Nourishment can be food for your body, but also encompasses emotional nourishment, such as social interaction, meditation, and your favourite relaxing hobbies. Emotional nourishment is time just for you, doing whatever you need to feel balanced again and ready for action. There is no right or wrong when it comes to nourishment - each person is unique. However, the method of discovering what you need to feel nourished is the same: you must practice listening deeply and respond kindly to your own needs.
Yielding is the opposite of unconscious and forced movements. Yielding is responsive and requires deep listening. To me, yielding implies softness, while forcing feels hard. That is not to say that yielding is passive. A top athlete can use an attitude of yielding to excel to great levels of performance, while also taking steps necessary to replenish energy, maintain a focused mind, and heal their body. Forcing does not allow for softness; forcing drowns out the sound of what you need to feel nourished and balanced. An attitude of forcing, in my experience with my own body and mind, becomes a fragile holding pattern. I felt that if I stopped forcing, if I loosed my grip, I would spin out of control.
When I began to say "no" more often I found that the people around me were happier too. They were happy that I was happy. This is because they love me and share both my joys and my struggles. It was me who underestimated them and I am sorry for that.
Overuse knocks things out of balance. In this yielding movement inquiry we will explore using just as much energy as necessary to perform a series of movements which soothe, strengthen, and stretch your body. Through deep listening you will gain understanding of your body's needs from the inside out. Smooth and gentle movement done with a feeling of pleasure creates a space. This space can hold a question. It is a seed of true love.
You will need: A stretchy waistband and a place to stand.
Simple body scan
The body scan is a great way to get a "weather reading" of your state of being. Taking this moment to check in with body, mind, and breath interrupts whatever habit you were in the middle of and acts as a reset button. It is a useful practice for when you are feeling stressed or find yourself running around on autopilot.
Each time you do a body scan, you practice deep listening and acceptance. This is a skill you can use when dealing with others too. Deep listening and acceptance of the needs of others, as opposed to what you think they should need, allows you to truly help them. The same is true for giving yourself what you truly need. This is an expression of true love.
A regular practice, at least once a day, allows you to build up a picture of how you are. You will soon be able to recognise when you are feeling off kilter and take steps to soothe yourself.
You will need: a place to sit.
Joy of being
Part 2: Compassion
Imagine that you are hungry: your belly is rumbling, your mind is cloudy, and your body is feeling weak. Someone offers you food and immediately your mouth starts to water. You crave this food; you need this food to nourish body. You are so grateful for the kindness of others.
Now imagine that instead of feeling physically hungry, you feel that you are lacking essential emotional nutrients. You feel a deep weariness that cannot be remedied by sleeping late on the weekends, having a second cup of caffeine, or even treating yourself to a spa weekend. You are using up more emotional “calories” than you are taking in.
In this inquiry we will explore the experience of resting. There are many people who think they don't have time to rest or see rest as laziness. I was raised to believe that if I wasn't pushing all the time, then I was doing nothing. As we explored in part 1, pushing and forcing often leads to the opposite of our intention. What would it be like to yield to your need for emotional and mental rest?
What does your mind do as soon as you start to relax? Usually, it starts to remind you of how busy you are and that there is no time to stop. This is not a failure. In fact, the entire quest of the mindfulness practitioner is to learn to let these kinds of thoughts drift away without becoming engaged with them. That is why we use "objects" to focus the mind. In todays practice we will use the Centering Breath technique as the object of focus.
When doing the Constructive Rest position, described below, we use the Centering Breath to help you to stay in the moment and allow your mind and body to rest. Reassure yourself that all of the demands of your life are waiting patienty for you to finish - it is OK to let go of them for a short time. But maybe, after some time spent nourishing the seeds of loving-kindness inside yourself, you will start to feel and think differently about some of those pressures.
You will need: a place to lie down on the floor (not a bed) and optional 3 blankets/large towels.
The best 3 minutes of your day
A daily constructive rest practice is preventative and most important to do when you are feeling fine. There are many practitioners who drop their daily practice once they start to feel better. This is akin to deciding you will never wash again until you really stink. The cumulative effects of mindfulness practices in body and mind help to you meet the stresses of life with equanimity. You will find yourself better able to face stress and respond to negativity from others with effective kindness.
Mindfulness practices (including meditation) and sleep are not the same thing. Both effect the mind, nervous system, breath, and promote healing, but in different ways. Even though you might find yourself dozing off while doing a mindfulness practice, it is important to take steps to ensure you stay awake.
This practice can be done with or without a timer. You might find that yourself thinking "I can barely fit in 3 minutes", but soon end up doing a longer practice as you interrupt the flow of mental chatter and rest in your joy of being. However long you spend setting up and being in the position is not as important as being there regularly. It is better to do 1 minutes practice every day, than 30 minutes practice once a week.
You will need: a place to lie down (not a bed) and optional 3 blankets/large towels.
Part 3: Non-attachment
No words, just feeling
Imagine a time when you felt safe and loved. Bring to mind the sounds, smells, and sensations of the scene. Notice what happens in your body. You are most likely feeling an openness, a spaciousness, perhaps you sat a little straighter or took a deep relaxing breath. Now imagine the opposite: a time when you felt unsafe. We can feel unsafe both physically and emotionally; it can be something as (seemingly) simple as an altercation with a hard-nosed boss, or a feeling of being misunderstood by a friend. Notice what happens in your body.
A wish for yourself and others
Formal loving-kindness meditation is also known as metta meditation. This practice teaches us to look past the surface and let go of judgements. We wish good things for ourselves, for our loved ones, and extend this even to our enemies. By seeking to view every person as a living being who feels joy and suffering just like we do, we can experience true love. This love recognises the line dividing the heart of each one of us and asks us to accept each other. By listening deeply and with compassion we are able to offer true love. When we understand that our joy of being is only increased by offering kindness to our enemies, so can we offer ourselves the opporunity to discard that which no longer serves us and meet each moment as a blank slate.
You will need: a quiet place to sit.
A habit of loving-kindness
Being kind makes us happier. Kind acts create a sort of positive feedback loop between kindness and happiness. Your daily practice is to call to mind your wish for peace and transformation in your own life, and to extend that wish to others.
Write down your own metta wish using the template below and take a moment each day to recite the words. Think of something you do every day and layer this new habit onto it. For example, say your wish while brushing your teeth, after a meditation practice, only your daily commute, or while waiting for your morning coffee to brew.
We cannot control thoughts popping into our minds, but we can create a habit of loving-kindness so that we turn more and more towards kindness, patience, and acceptance. This is true love: the love that never tries to contain or deny. The love that is like the warmth of the sun. And, just like the sun, true love never says "you owe me".
Use this template to create your metta wish: