“You’ll miss the best things if you keep your eyes shut”. – Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!
As I have written before, I practice Mindfulness on an almost daily basis. I have been practicing and experiencing the benefits for the past eighteen months. I have found the ability to be fully aware in the present moment really uplifting, both at work and also at home. I have been calmer, more peaceful and more engaged with life in general.
However, just recently, in fact, this past month, I have felt that I have not been as present as I was before. I have felt disconnected and more “stressed”.
Was it work related? I was given a “wonderful work opportunity” just before Christmas. It is a very compressed project that would have normally taken three months to complete and instead try to do in one month. This has meant 8am to 6pm conference calls every day of every week since the New Year and a lot of work related pressure. Nope, it is not that.
Was it social related? I am just about to start a new volunteer role in the scouting movement, so have been spending a raft of time thinking and planning the new role. In addition, I attended the first scouting meeting of the year and I missed the first group Mindfulness session of the year. So, what that the cause? Nope.
Was it family related? We are looking to save to go on a foreign holiday this year as an expanded family group, which means we are trying to plan a trip for ten people and at the same time try to economize and budget for the holiday. Nope, it has not been that either.
Finally, is it because it has been dark, wet and miserable so far this year and I have not walked and exercised as much. Nope.
I now know what it is. I changed my morning Mindfulness routine slightly and instead I have been practicing a basic breathing mindfulness practice. I have not practiced the Metta Bhavana, or Development of Lovingkindness practice for over a month.
The practice helps us to actively cultivate positive emotional states towards ourselves and others so that we become more patient, kind, accepting, and compassionate. It covers:
- compassion (empathizing with others’ suffering)
- empathetic joy (rejoicing in others’ wellbeing and joy)
- and equanimity (patient acceptance of both joy and suffering, both our own and others’).
That at is why I have felt disconnected and more “stressed”. I have forgotten the five major premises of the practice, that of:
The practice is in five stages. We cultivate the practice for:
- Loving kindness to ourselves
- Loving kindness to a good friend / loved one [at one stage late last year, it was a whole group of people]
- Loving kindness to a “neutral” person — someone we don’t have any strong feelings for
- Loving kindness to a “difficult” person — someone we have conflicts with or feelings of ill will towards
- Finally, Loving kindness to a all sentient beings
I have restarted the practice and can already feel the benefits. f you practice Mindfulness, I’d love to hear if you too have seen the impact of the Loving Kindness Meditation practice and its positive results on yourself.
I leave you with the following quote which really touched me when I came across it:
“We leave you a tradition with a future.
The tender loving care of human beings will never become obsolete.
People even more than things have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed and redeemed and redeemed.
Never throw out anybody.
Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you’ll find one at the end of your arm.
As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands: one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.
Your “good old days” are still ahead of you, may you have many of them.”
― Sam Levenson, In One Era & Out the Other