Most Saturday afternoons between 12:45p and 1:30p you'll find me leading Meditation at Kripalu Center. I am always surprised and delighted at how many people show up. I am always curious at to why people meditate. The reasons people give vary from to reduce stress to find the stillness inside, to connect with the divine forces. No matter why folks come, most of them are searching for ways to find themselves and live their best lives.
Meditation is being praised by modern day science as a practice that helps with emotional self-regulation which is the ability to manage disruptive emotions and impulses as well as the ability to cheer yourself up after disappointments and to act in a way consistent with your deepest held values.
In her broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions, Barbara L. Fredrickson and her research colleagues assert that people’s daily experiences of positive emotions compound over time to build a variety of consequential personal resources. The authors tested this build hypothesis in a field experiment with 139 adults, half of whom were randomly-assigned to begin a practice of loving-kindness meditation. Results showed that this meditation practice produced increases over time in daily experiences of positive emotions, which, in turn, produced increases in a wide range of personal resources (e.g., increased mindfulness, purpose in life, social support, decreased illness symptoms). In turn, these increments in personal resources predicted increased life satisfaction and reduced depressive symptoms.
For those of us with really busy lives the best news is that the benefits from Metta or Loving-Kindness Meditation kick in after about 7 minutes of meditation!
Metta or Loving Kindness is very simple to practice:
You offer these wishes-blessings-prayers to a number of different recipients. Traditionally you start with the self then move onto: a loved one, a neutral person, a person of challenge, and finally all living things.
Any words or phrases that are meaningful to you can be used. Traditional phrases are: safe, happy, free, at peace.
You may take some time to consider what each one of these wishes means to you and develop a personal connection to them. You can also personalize your wishes, finding ones that feel just right for you.
Begin by bringing yourself into a comfortable position: standing, sitting, or lying down. Make sure your body is in a position where you will be awake & alert and simultaneously at ease. Take a few minutes to become present with your body, allow your breath to be calm and steady, and connect with your heart. Then bring attention to yourself and silently repeat the phrases:
May I/you be happy. May I/you be healthy. May I/you skillfully ride the waves of your life. May I/you know peace no matter what life circumstances
Stay with yourself as long as you like and then move onto the next person and so on. After offering to all living beings let go of the wishes and for a few moments simply breathe, relax, and observe the effects of the meditation.
The practice can be expanded or compressed to any length of time. Depending on time and the needs of your heart it can also be narrowed down and directed towards one individual.