19 March 2021
A Forgiveness Meditation
In this exercise you are invited to observe and acknowledge thoughts, emotions and physiological sensations, without judgement. Meditation helps us practise living in the present moment rather than worrying about future demands or feeling sad, angry or guilty about mistakes, experiences, or past misfortunes. Further, it requires a degree of openness to experience, which can only be achieved through perseverance and repetition. In mindfulness meditation, we are acknowledging, observing and acting towards our valued-life directions as opposed to changing, challenging or trying to make our experiences more positive. Moreover, we consider thoughts, emotions and sensations represent a small, every changing, part of who we are. In this light, they may come and go, be good or bad, without this impacting on our true being or sense of self.
How to practice forgiveness:
1) Wear comfortable, breathable clothing and sit in a restful position.
2) Notice your breath, breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, for several seconds
3) Silently (or audibly) recite phrases of forgiveness, starting with people that you think you might have unwittingly treated unjustly or harmed. You may try, “If I have hurt or harmed anyone knowingly or unknowingly, I ask for their forgiveness.”
4) Notice any thoughts, physical sensations or emotions that might arise. You may find that this event might trigger memories, of other tough situations or persons you have come into contact with, under similar circumstances. Don’t push these feelings, sensations or thoughts away— you might notice you feel guilty, angry or sad, you might be having thoughts relating to self blame. Acknowledge their presence, bring your focus back to the present moment, focus on your breath and continue sending forgiveness towards any upcoming thoughts, sensations and emotions. Take as long as you need in this exercise.
5) Next, begin to offer forgiveness to those who have not treated you justly or harmed you: “If anyone has hurt or harmed me, knowingly or unknowingly, I forgive them.”
4) Once again, resurfacing past painful thoughts and experiences may trigger a variety of sensations and emotions. As these feelings, images, and memories come up, you may simply recite, “I forgive you.”
5) Now, turn your attention to forgiving yourself. Most of us, have experienced self-blame from time to time, in different situations, perhaps in our relationships, or when experiencing a stressful situation. For this final stage reiterate: “For all of the ways I have hurt or harmed myself, knowingly or unknowingly, I offer myself forgiveness.”
6) Finally, slowly bring your attention back to the room you are in, what, if any, sounds do you hear? Do you notice any smells? Continue slowly breathing through your nose and out through your mouth for several seconds... If you had your eyes closed, slowly open your eyes, look around and start to move from your original position.
Guided Loving-Kindness Practice
19 March 2021
Assume a comfortable position, deciding to either close your eyes or focus on a spot in front of you.
Bring someone you like to mind. This can either be someone you know well or met briefly, an animal, or even a spiritual figure you believe in. Think of someone who has been kind to you, helped you in some way, or for whom you feel respect or gratitude towards. Hold an image of this person in your minds eye, or recite their name (either aloud or using your mind's eye). Direct loving-kindness towards them, wishing them safety, happiness, and peace. Very gently, one phrase at a time, let your mind rest in each wish you direct towards them.
Now, bring a neutral person to mind. Someone for whom you don’t have a strong sense of liking or disliking. Extend the feeling of loving-kindness towards them— consider, just like us, they also deserve safety, happiness and peace.
If you feel ready, bring to mind someone whom you've experienced difficulty with e.g. someone you feel a sense of unease with or general dislike towards. Do not bring into mind someone with whom there’s current conflict and tension. Remember, this person, is just as imperfect as anyone else, they deserve another chance and the benefit of the doubt, they might have even acted out of ignorance or suffered injustices themselves. Are you able to extend loving-kindness towards them? Loving-kindness does not mean that we approve or condone their actions. It means rather, that we can see actions for what they are, incorrect or unskilful, human behaviour. Can you perhaps identify one good thing about this person? If so, reflect on it, if not, reflect on the fact that everyone desires happiness.
Expand your awareness to all living things, everywhere, without distinction, without exclusion.
Reiterate: may they be free from danger, may they have happiness, may they have ease of well-being.
All creatures, known or unknown, near or far, some we like, some we don’t like, some we’re neutral towards.
All individuals… happy, suffering, causing suffering have this wish to be happy, to be free.
Slowly bring your attention back to this room, what sounds do you hear? What smells do you smell? Bring your attention back to your body and your breath. Slowly open your eyes. Look around and slowly start to move.
19 March 2021
This week was half-term at school. A true blessing to stressed teachers everywhere! I've always valued practising what I preach and so I began the week, by dedicating it, to sending myself loving-kindness! Whenever I would find a spare moment alone during the day, I would go around the house reiterating: may I be healthy, may I be happy, may I be peaceful, may I be liberated. To my horror, I felt absolutely nothing!
Towards the end of the week, something work related happened, quite unexpectedly, and I had to concentrate fully on the task at hand, leaving me little, to no time for my planned week of self care. I noticed I felt doubly bad—not only did the exercise not work, but I did not accomplish my planned goal for self care!
Then, in the midst of my despair, something miraculous happened! A glimpse of hope, as I was rushing around, in the flurry of having to leave. I was standing in the kitchen and I dropped a jar of something, which shattered into a thousand pieces! Now normally, this would have resulted in some sort of verbal backlash on how big a fool I am, and how I have even less time to accomplish what I set out to do in the first place! Instead, the very first thought that came to mind was: “ I love you.” What a surprise, I thought, “Oh wow! Look at that.” Here I was thinking and feeling like nothing was happening...judging myself, my process even. Yet, it was happening! It just took a while for me to realise the effect.
In summary and for everyone out there who is feeling stressed: Leave the struggle. Let it happen. It will happen...