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Practicing Compassion & Loving Kindness in the New Year

Louise Stanger is a speaker, educator, licensed clinician, social worker, certified daring way facilitator and interventionist who uses an invitational intervention approach to work with complicated mental health, substance abuse, chronic pain and process addiction clients. With the New year upon us, I think it is important for all of us to look back and […]

Louise Stanger is a speaker, educator, licensed clinician, social worker, certified daring way facilitator and interventionist who uses an invitational intervention approach to work with complicated mental health, substance abuse, chronic pain and process addiction clients.

With the New year upon us, I think it is important for all of us to look back and review how our year has been.

For me, 2018 was replete with tumultuous changes and startling discoveries. I did not always welcome or like the changes. I found that – once again – relationships are simultaneously joyful and  challenging. Relationships are not always smooth sailing and like many of us, you gain some new friends and alas may lose some old ones.

When someone hurts you or does something you neither understand nor can comprehend, our ego may stop us from forgiving them or wishing them well. We may build resentments in our head which tragically only lead us down the path of martyrdom lane, pity path road or perpetrator alley.

Such was a predicament I found myself in this year. Not truly understanding why someone could take an incident that was not meant to be harmful and create a war zone of resentment towards me, I was saddened and dumbfounded. There was no amount of amends that seemed to satisfy that person and no way to reconcile. Each time I would see the person, they turned the other check. I felt sad and curious about the resentment because it seemed so much bigger than the “alleged crime committed.” I found myself wondering what crime  did I commit that deserved such banishment. I struggled to let go.

Being a people pleaser, I wanted that person to like me. I tried my best to make amends. Alas, they chose not to even acknowledge me and when I saw them I could feel the ice picks in their eyes. Realizing I could not change their perspective and that I could only change myself, I began practicing  Metta Sutta, which means “compassionate love” or “loving-kindness.” It’s a meditation practice that consists of wishing others and ourselves happiness and well-being.

Sending metta sutta at the moment of difficulty is challenging but valuable. Sitting and meditating with feelings of anger and blame can feel like trying to put out a fire that keeps growing stronger. Metta sutta is the water we need to put out that fire.

When someone hurts us (or pain is created through relationship interaction), our ego can stop us from forgiving them or wishing them well. We keep the hurtful story in our minds and continue to identify with it. Living with a painful past isn’t easy, but what’s even more difficult is trying to detach from it.

Then, the solution to our problem becomes more clear. If nothing changes outside, at least we have changed how we perceive our problem on the inside and can stop allowing it to negatively impact us. And we don’t lose anything by wishing others well—but we do lose inner peace and happiness when we keep our suffering burning inside us.

Begin with yourself. We can’t properly love or help others if we can’t love and help ourselves. Every word that we express in metta must be heartfelt. Don’t merely repeat words. Try to feel the vibration or the motivation behind them.

Repeat the words: “May I be happy. May I be peaceful. May I be healthy. I forgive myself for any harm I have caused myself or others.”

As S.N. Goenka says, the choice of words doesn’t matter. We might wish others or ourselves awareness, joy, abundance, understanding—we can wish whatever the other person needs but most importantly, we should wish them peace, happiness, love, and forgiveness.

When you are ready, bring to mind a person with whom you have difficulty. Imagine them sitting in front of you for a few minutes.

When the image is clear in your head, repeat the words:

“May you be happy. May you be peaceful. May you be compassionate. May you be healthy. May you find love. May you be safe. I forgive you for any harm you have caused yourself, others, or me.”

As 2018 comes to an end, try practicing this mediation for the next 90 days. Let me know how it goes for you as you send good vibrations to all that effect you. In addition, The Elephant Journal reminds us that we can also cultivate motivation, compassion and empathy in the New year. Motivation comes from empathy, from appreciation, and from the feeling that we can be of benefit. Good news: we can cultivate those three things through our morning, and evening meditation.

Now there’s your New Year’s Resolution. Meditate, for a few minutes each morning. Begin with a bow, and dedicate your day to be of benefit. Then, good posture, place attention on breath in and out. Eyes open (especially in the morning) as we don’t want to separate ourselves from our lives, but to infuse of daily life with the power of this simple (straightforward) yet difficult (lifelong) meditation.

End with a contemplation: “What is one thing I feel compassion about?” And, “What is one thing I’m grateful for?” You’ve already started with the aspiration to be of benefit. Bow out.

To learn more about Louise Stanger and her interventions and other resources, visit her website.

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