I’ve never meditated. Except for all those times I’ve counted down with the timer on the microwave while waiting impatiently for my popcorn to be ready. That’s officially meditation by the way. At least it is NOW. You’re welcome for that.
Those who know me know I’ve been dealing with a lot of stressful stuff in my life and have done so for a long time. The particulars of that stuff do not matter for this post. This post is The Account of a Meditation Newbie and Her First Attempts at Meditation to Ease STRESS THAT IS SO STRESSFUL ITS NEEDLE IS BURIED IN THE RED ZONE AND THE ENGINE IS SCREAMING AND SPITTING A LIGHTNING STORM OF SPARKS AND READY TO BLOW AND SPLATTER THE WORLD WITH ITS STRESSFUL STRESSFULNESS.
My new therapist, whom I saw after much procrastination (for reasons I’ll save for another post about how sometimes moms take care of everyone else but themselves), taught me this meditation technique. It’s called Loving-Kindness Meditation. In my cynical state of mind, the name immediately put me off, sounding so froo froo I pictured Snow White, head tilted, and tiny hands clutched under her chin, singing “I’m wishing for lovey-dovey kindness” in her ear-grating voice to twee forest animals. Need a reminder of the song and THAT. VOICE? Dare to click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KlUbWNpg1os
At home, I read the instructions (paraphrased here) on the handout she’d given me:
- Sit comfortably and no, it doesn’t have to be in the legs crisscrossed, palms up and resting on your knees position, but it can be if that’s what you’d like.
- Think of what you wish for in life, not material things per se, but stuff like hope, peace, healing, health, to be heard, to be seen, to be loved, to have featherless dinosaurs etc. Narrow your choices to three or four per meditation session.
- Breathe in for 5 seconds, exhale for 5 seconds, and then say a metta* for yourself. *metta – (n)
also called maitri. Example:
- May I have peace
- May I have hope
- May I have healing
- Breathe in for 5 seconds, exhale for 5 seconds, and then say a metta for someone you are thankful for.
- May (insert person) have peace
- May (insert person) have hope
- May (insert person) have healing
- Breathe in for 5 seconds, exhale for 5 seconds, and then say a metta for someone you feel neutral about – neither positive nor negative.
- Breathe in for 5 seconds, exhale for 5 seconds, and then say a metta for someone you dislike.
- Breathe in for 5 seconds, exhale for 5 seconds, and then say a metta for everyone universally: e.g. May all beings everywhere have healing.
Being the squirmy, not-patient-when-bored person I am, my first session went like this:
I sat down. I breathed in 5 seconds, exhaled 5 seconds and said a metta to myself. So far, so good.
Time for the next metta: I breathed in 2 seconds… and wondered if there’s a Captain Antarticta because Antarctica isn’t actually a country like America so, although there’s a Captain America, that doesn’t mean there’d be a Captain Antarctica because it would be more like Captain The Forty-One Countries That Acceded To The Antarctic Treaty Including The Twenty-Nine Consultative Countries And The Twenty-Four Non-Consultative Countries. I shook my head and tried to focus. Exhale 3 seconds… and wondered why I love my Fang the Kitten of Destruction so much when he wakes me up every morning by biting me on the shoulder and slapping me in the face – and if this means I’m in a dysfunctional relationship with my cat, but then again hahaha isn’t everyone in a dysfunctional relationship with their cat?
And then I felt squirmy-hungry so I got up, opened the fridge, stared into it for about two minutes, and then decided that was pretty much the same as meditating.
First meditation session – I’m calling it a success. More or less.
Made it through the metta to me. So far so good. Yay, me. I’m being all meditatey and stuff.
Next up: Need to metta for someone I feel neutral about. Uhhhhhhhhh. Who the hell do I feel neutral about? Do humans ever even feel neutral about anyone? Or do we either ZOMG LOOOOOVE people, like them pretty much as long as they’re not, you know, talking to me, tolerate them even though they are annoying beyond all reason, or UGH THIS PERSON JUST NO THIS PERSON IS HORRIBLE AWFUL ABOMINABLE AND ALL THE OTHER YUCKY ADJECTIVES. This question seemed rather philosophical and now I needed to go jot down some notes on this topic to potentially analyze in another post or incorporate into a book or who-knows-what. The notes led to other notes and more deep philosophical thinking and I forgot about finishing the rest of the meditation session.
Second meditation session – I’m calling it a success. Because why not?
I made it through the metta for me.
Next: I chose that old guy that walks our neighborhood with huge headphones on and stares only at the pavement as my neutral subject and said mettas for him.
Next up: Say a metta for someone I dislike. Hmmm. Got one. “May that yucky person – who is very yucky, so yucky in fact that I do not wish to visualize this person, but crap, I have a very visual brain and now, EW, the yucky person’s image is in my head – have peace…”
Finally: Say a metta for all beings. “May all beings everywhere – big, small, animal, human, plant, mineral, slimy or fuzzy, or extraterrestrials so alien that I cannot comprehend, all colors, shapes, and sizes, and whether they like awesome dinosaurs with no feathers or lame-ass dinosaurs with feathers – have peace…”
I started to climb out of the chair but Fang the Kitten of Destruction made an exceedingly rare visit to sit in my lap (He’s like Liz lemon – not a lap sitter) so I sat in the chair a while longer until Fang decided he’d had enough, slapped me cutely, and left.
Third session: TOTAL success!
Okay. But did the meditation sessions help my STRESS THAT IS SO STRESSFUL ITS NEEDLE IS BURIED IN THE RED ZONE AND THE ENGINE IS SCREAMING AND SPITTING A LIGHTNING STORM OF SPARKS AND READY TO BLOW AND SPLATTER THE WORLD WITH ITS STRESSFUL STRESSFULNESS?
Yes. Yes, they actually did. And this is saying a lot for someone as stressed out AND impatient with anything boring as I am. I felt less stressed immediately after meditating and was able to tap into this less-stressed state at times throughout the day.
Will Loving-Kindness Meditation help you? I dunno.
Do you even want to do Loving Kindness Meditation? I dunno.
If we all did Loving-Kindness Meditation could we make feathered dinosaurs lose their lame feathers and become bad-ass, rad dinosaurs once again? I DUNNO DAMMIT BUT WE SHOULD TRY.
I don’t know if Loving-Kindness meditation will help you but there’s research to say that it IS beneficial in a number of ways:
Open hearts build lives: positive emotions, induced through loving-kindness meditation, build consequential personal resources. J Pers Soc Psychol. 2008 Nov;95(5):1045-62. doi: 10.1037/a0013262. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18954193
How positive emotions build physical health: perceived positive social connections account for the upward spiral between positive emotions and vagal tone. Psychol Sci. 2013 Jul 1;24(7):1123-32. doi: 10.1177/0956797612470827. Epub 2013 May 6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23649562
Loving-kindness meditation for posttraumatic stress disorder: a pilot study. J Trauma Stress. 2013 Aug;26(4):426-34. doi: 10.1002/jts.21832. Epub 2013 Jul 25 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23893519
A wait-list randomized controlled trial of loving-kindness meditation programme for self-criticism. Clin Psychol Psychother. 2015 Jul-Aug;22(4):346-56. doi: 10.1002/cpp.1893. Epub 2014 Mar 16. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24633992
Now go be awesomely you and take care of your awesome selves, fellow humans, and if part of that self-care process is Loving-Kindness meditation – coolyoolio.