Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Loving-kindness Exercise Reflection

The loving-kindness contemplative practice was a bit of a struggle for me…even though I was up early to avoid disruptions and maintain a relaxed state of mind; however, my mind was far from calm. It was my daughter’s 20th birthday, and I was feeling a bit guilty about my commitment to another school assignment and not spending quality time with her. Moreover, it was Sunday, and I kept thinking of the promise I made to myself about getting back into the routine of attending church services…but here I was once again doing another school assignment.

At least, there was the sound of crashing waves that provided some relaxation so I could attempt to clear my mind. Throughout the exercise, I followed the prompts with good intentions; however, I still had to struggle with disruptive thoughts and feelings. I had to literally force myself to fight off the “demons”; I even thought how is this going to make me relax? Then, I recalled reading that contemplative practices are not about rest and relaxation; they are more of a mental workout; or as Dacher states, “the progressive development of an expanded consciousness and its healing capacities” (Dacher, 2006, p. 65). No wonder I was experiencing such discomfort! I was expecting some external stimulation to provide relaxation.

Initially, I felt a tad uncomfortable trying to practice loving-kindness to those who are suffering as I did not think that I was able to help them. I realized that I was initially focusing on my immediate thoughts, feelings, and worries; somehow, I had to shift the focus away from me so that I could open my mind. Eventually, I was able let go of those feelings and focus on other people. I even realized that I do possess an authentic concern and compassion for others who are suffering; and by focusing on their suffering, whatever thoughts, worries, or concerns I had were suddenly not that important. I visualized their problems, insecurities, fears, pains, etc. and allowed them to enter into my heart with each inhalation, then to vanish on each exhalation. In the process, I sent out a prayer for happiness, health, and a brighter 2011.

I admit the exercise did take some effort on my part…as with anything meaningful in my life. If I could discipline myself to work out six days a week, eat healthy meals, complete my school assignments in a timely manner, and so on; why could I not apply the same discipline and effort to my mental health? And in spite of my initial discomfort, I felt the exercise was beneficial. While reflecting on the exercise afterward, I have to admit that whatever worries or concerns I had before were gone; I actually felt calm and looked forward to a positive day. Also, I was still able to spend quality time with my daughter later that day as we celebrated her special day. With that, I learned that by practicing loving-kindness, you get back what you give.


Dacher, E. (2006). Integral Health: The Path to Human Flourishing. Laguna Beach, CA: Basic Health Publicatons, Inc.


singlecoop32 said...

Aww your post this week really touched my heart. I can remember feeling the same way many of times when earning my Associate Degree and raising 3 teenagers.
I am glad that you were able to finish the exercise and receive the benefits. That is great that you were able to quit focusing on your own feelings and focus on helping others.
Remember that when life is hectic, you can practice these for shorter periods of time throughout the day. I used to do this on my lunch break and it helped me through the rest of my day and I would do this outdoors so I could also enjoy nature.
God bless you and good luck

Min said...

Hi, I enjoyed your post. I definitely understand feeling guilty about having to do things when you just want to spend time with your kids. My son is 4 and there are times when I just have to stop what I am doing and read him a book because it bothers me and eats at me. But I remind myself and him that I need to do my school work so we can have a great life.

As far as the loving kindness I actually found it to be easy. I woke up early today to do it because I just couldn't get to doing it over the weekend. I kept getting disturbed. I can understand how this could've been difficult with so much going on. I also had difficulty with trying to focus on someone elses struggles rather than my own. But finally I was able to do so.

I think the trick here is to do what you can when you can. If you can only dedicate 5 minutes to a mental workout than that is what you can do. That is what I will be trying to do.
I enjoyed the reading