Lovingkindness is foundational to cultivating wisdom and compassion in our mindfulness practice. A lot of people feel like mindfulness is a peaceful and relatively sterile thing where we are aware of our surroundings, but I’ve found that at deeper levels of mindfulness, there is also an element of love.
So yes, we can mindfully move through the world with love. But when you’ve had life challenges, that can be hard to do, right? It takes work. We long to love – to be vulnerable – without holding back! But when we’ve been hurt we want to protect. And we may have even been taught to hold back our love by our cuttural upbringing.
I was doing some awesome introspection recently and I realized that despite all of the growth and breakthroughs I have experienced over my life – and especially recently – I still have this armor around my heart – even towards those I want to fully love without reservation.
We think we’re protecting ourselves when we hold back, but it’s the opposite. The true protection, the true refuge, is to love fully. Think about it – if someone happened to someone you love, would you think, “Wow, I’m so glad I held back because now this hurts less?”
The true refuge isn’t in protection – it is in vulnerability and in loving fully. If you lose someone you love, you will be glad you loved fully – no holds barred.
And I think we really all want to experience that – being free to love fully, but it’s when we feel threatened that we stop being open and present. Like when we feel unsafe that someone might disappoint us, or hurt us or that we might lose them. And depending on our culture or our family, we have been conditioned toward different degrees of separation or belonging.
So we begin to get to familiar with that threshold, and we try to control the story, and we armor up.
Usually it’s a deep disconnect that leads to us armoring our heart. That severed sense of belonging separates us from our hearts, and we can feel more distance and less belonging when we are not part of the dominant culture.
Lovingkindness practice (aka metta in Buddhism) is a way of being mindful and expressing care, which reconnects us to the direct visceral experience of belonging.
In other words, we’re trying to undo that conditioning of separation that keeps us from experiencing lovingkindness. We’re de-conditioning so we can be liberated and freed.
There are two steps for re-opening ourselves to lovingkindness. The first is, “Can we see the goodness in others?” It’s our habit to look for what’s wrong, so it takes intentionality to do this.
The second step is taking action and expressing care. You can use the classic metta practice to help guide you, but there are so many ways for how we can express lovingkindness – telling people directly, hugging them, writing letters, and visualizing showing them care (more suggestions in the pod).
Look, this is not a place to fail, so please don’t make it about doing lovingkindness perfectly. It’s more an invitation to really dedicate ourselves to loving the life that’s right here for us, right now. If you feel stuck in these steps, I talk about some great practices that you can do to overcome those walls and open yourself up to lovingkindness in the full podcast Episode.
You may feel selfish practicing lovingkindness toward yourself, but remember that when we hold our inner life with love, it dissolves all sense of separation from others, and true lovingkindness has to start there. It’s the first step in being able to love others fully.
And when it comes to seeing goodness in others and extending love to them, there’s this tendency to not speak out our love, to not show it, to not let others know. But the greatest expression of love in action is to let people know you care about them.
Drop the armor. Be vulnerable. See the goodness, feel the love, and express it in kindness.
In this Episode you will learn:
// Why vulnerability is the most powerful form of protection for our hearts.
// How being willing to drop the armor is key to experiencing and giving lovingkindness
// Why protecting our hearts can sever us from a sense of love and belonging
// Two basic qualities we can train in to practice lovingkindness
// What to do when we hit a wall seeing or expressing lovingkindness toward ourselves and others
// This episode was inspired by teachings from Tara Brach that she gave during the 2-year Mindfulness Meditation Teacher Training Program. You can find her work at www.TaraBrach.com
// Check out Rebel Buddhist Episode 51: Self-Compassion
// If you’re loving what you’re learning in this podcast, you have got to come check out Freedom School. Freedom School is the community for ALL things related to freedom, inside and out.
It’s also where you can get individual help applying the concepts to your own life. It’s where you can learn new coaching tools not shared on the podcast that will blow your mind even more, and it’s where you can hang out and connect over all things thought work with other freedom junkies just like you and me. It’s my favorite place on earth and it will change your life, I guarantee it. Come join us at JoinFreedomSchool.com I can’t wait to see you there.
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