Loving Kindness Meditation

     Sometimes, I fall into a trap of what I feel like my meditation practice should be like. Conjuring up images of a sage, sitting on a mountain in lotus pose, emptying their mind for hours at a time, connecting with the universal energy. This couldn't be further removed from what my meditation practice is like, but it is what I tend to envision. I actually find it nearly impossible to just sit and empty my mind. For me to quiet my inner dialogue,  I need to be immersed in something physically demanding, where I am so focused on my movements, my balance, my muscle engagement, that there is no room for outside thoughts. I think that is what hooked me on yoga when I came to it. But, I also crave calm, quiet stillness. So for balance, with my meditation practice, I gravitate towards more active meditation. Mantra meditation, mala meditation, and guided meditation.

     In a house full of kids, chaos, and well, life happening, I have to choose my moments for meditation. There is no way that all 4 kids are going to sit quietly so that I can have a peaceful space to meditate. I just can't, at this point, block out what is happening around me. So I accommodate for this. Sometimes I get up before everyone else so that I can start my day by centring. Sometimes I wait until the kids are off at school. If I meditate at night, it is aways a guided meditation (one that I listen to) because by this point, my mind is too busy. I always first practice pranayama, or breathing exercises, to help balance my energy to get ready for guided meditation. One of my favourite meditations of all time is the buddhist loving kindness meditation, also known as the metta meditation. This meditation allows me to direct my thoughts, and visualize, which focuses my mind in one place. Even though it is not a completely quiet mind, it is quieter.


     After the kids left for school the other morning, I went for a bike ride, to get rid of some of my busy energy, and then sat down by the river to practice the metta meditation. I parked my bike, and took a seat on a bench. There are so many variations on how we can practice this, and I change how I practice based on what I am in need of at the time of the meditation ( I will follow up with another variation of this practice very soon). Lately, I have been feeling a little greedy, taking all this time to work on myself. I feel like I am letting down the people around me. I have incredibly patient workspaces that are accommodating me being off, but I feel bad for taking so long. I have a wonderfully supportive family, but I am fully conscious of the fact that I have stopped financially contributing to the household. I have pulled back from a lot of social engagements, because it is overwhelming and awkward for me right now. And, it is increasingly important for me to accept that for me to get back to feeling like myself again, all of this is necessary, and not selfish. In this meditation, I needed to practice self compassion, to let go of all of the guilt that I have tied to this break that I am taking. I needed to acknowledge all of the 'hats that I wear'.

     Closing my eyes, I took three full, long breaths in, drawing the breath all the way down so that my belly expanded, sighing out each exhale. And then I began my meditation practice.  As I sat, feeling the breath in my body, I began to visualize a six pointed star in the middle of my field of inner vision. This star began to slowly draw in energy form all around me. I imagined it pulling in energy from the trees, from the wind, from the water. I stopped myself from analyzing this imagery, and just let it continue. Next I began the actual loving kindness meditation. I pulled up a picture in my minds eye of myself as a mother, trying to imagine myself in this roll, with as much detail as I possibly could. How look from my children's point of view, how I sound, how it feels to be a mom. Holding this image in my head, I repeated to myself; 

               "May I be filled with loving kindness. May I be safe, may I be well, may I be peaceful and at ease."

     I then began to focus on some of the other aspects of who I am. A wife, daughter, sister, friend, yoga teacher, photographer, woman, and at the core of it all, this soul, having a perfectly imperfect human experience. For each and every side of myself individually, I visualized in as much detail as possible how I am in that capacity, and repeated the meditation.

                "May I be filled with loving kindness. May I be safe, may I be well, may I be peaceful and at ease."

     In total, I spent about 15 minutes by the water. But that 15 minutes shaped the rest of my day. Later on, when I was busy cleaning bathrooms (I know, so much fun, try not to be consumed with jealousy), I got to thinking about what that six pointed star might have meant. Six pointed stars have many different theological and symbolic meanings, but the one that resonated most with me, was that it is the yantra ( or geometric pattern) that represents the heart chakra, Anahata. Our heart chakra is the mid point between our upper and lower energy centres. It connects our mind with our body. It governs the emotions of love, joy, compassion, both inwardly and outwardly. So, it was amazingly fitting that it is what I would have visualized at the beginning of my meditation.