When life gets you down, try a little loving kindness

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It is easy to take life for granted when things are going well.  When they aren’t, you feel anxious, fearful and uncomfortable.

In the midst of an incredibly busy two weeks with tons of writing projects and appointments, my 4-month old baby girl Angela got really sick.  Hit by a respiratory infection likely transmitted by her big brother Josh who can’t stop from sticking his finger in her mouth right after coughing on it, she is a picture of stuffed up, red-eyed misery.

There is nothing that makes me feel more powerless than holding a little creature who is too small to talk, and knowing there is nothing I can do to make her feel better.

Those of you who have kids know exactly what I am talking about.  And those that don’t can surely sympathize, if you have beloved pets, elderly parents, dear friends or nieces and nephews that have fallen ill.

After a whole day commiserating with her, I came across the Loving Kindness Meditation which comes from the Buddhist tradition.  Like so many nuggets from faiths around the world, it is not necessary to practice the religion to get a great deal of benefit from it.  The meditation is simple:

Loving Kindness Meditation

May you be happy

May you be well

May you be free from suffering

May you be safe

After reading these four simple phrases, I felt myself relax.  And as  as I said them again, I felt Angela relax against my chest.

A sick child is just one of many daily experiences that can make you feel the need for a bit of comfort such as:

  • Financial stress
  • An argument with a loved one
  • A stupid mistake (if it is a public one, even more!)
  • A run-in with an aggressive driver
  • Pressure from deadlines
  • A bad performance review
  • A scathing email or comment on your blog
  • A difficult interaction with a client

I could go on for pages, and I am sure you could too, perhaps from something you are experiencing at this very moment.

At its most basic, this meditation can be said quietly while you are going through stress to alleviate pressure and feel a sense of well-being.

The more you do it, the more you want to share the feeling with those around you.

In that spirit, here are 10 practical ways to demonstrate loving kindness:

  1. Bring a meal to a friend or neighbor.  This happened to me just yesterday, when my awesome neighbor Jessica dropped by the house with a big pot of soup.  She knew we had been sick and busy and thought we could use a little help with dinner. You can easily do this by just doubling a recipe.
  2. Pick up trash. When I was small, every summer we would go on a two week family camping trip to Lake Almanor, Calfornia. One day each year, my Dad would request large platic bags from the Park Rangers and my siblings and I would walk around the lake picking up trash.  We had a great time doing it, and it felt so good to turn in 4 huge bags of trash at the end of the day.  In case you wondered if nature was animate, I can confirm it is.  I swear, you can see a clean natural landscape smile at you after picking up trash.  Try it yourself and report back!
  3. Send a silent message to a victim on the news.  Today’s media is filled with so much doom, despair and terror that it is enough to make you want to bury your head in a pillow.  Instead, after hearing a heartbreaking story, send the loving kindness meditation in the direction of the people affected.  You never know, they just may feel it.
  4. Use it when tossing and turning at night.  I am pretty good at getting through a stressful day, but worries start talking to me as soon as my head hits the pillow. When this happens, take a deep breath and recite the meditation.
  5. Send an uplifting email to someone you admire.  During the time that I was writing this post, I got two emails:  one from my god daughter Maria Jose that told me she was getting a 4.0 average this semester, and one from a new reader who wanted to express appreciation for my blog.  Both gave me the “loving kindness” feeling inside.  Your message doesn’t have to be long — one or two sentences will do.
  6. Hold the door for someone.  It is amazing how often we forget to do this small, simple gesture to demonstrate to a stranger that we see them, acknowledge them, and want to make their day just a little bit easier.
  7. Pay the toll for the car behind you.  This is one of my favorite things to do.  When I lived in the Bay Area, I did it all the time.  There is nothing better than seeing the surprised expression on the face of the person in the car behind you.
  8. Smile at someone in the street.  Big cities are notorious for people passing by without looking each other in the eye.  For a change, look at someone you don’t know and smile at them.
  9. Introduce yourself to someone you see often and don’t know.  In large offices or huge housing developments, you can spend months or even years walking by people without acknowledging them.  You may be surprised at how good it feels to simply introduce yourself and extend your hand.  The people we tend to ignore the most:  janitors, mail delivery people,gardeners and repair people.
  10. When someone makes way for you on the road, wave.  We all fall victim to occasional road rage if someone cuts us off or comes dangerously close behind us.  What about when someone does something nice?  Let them know with a friendly wave and big smile.

We can’t control what happens to us, but we can certainly control how we react to it.  When love and kindness are in the center of your attention, everything else falls into place.

My wish for you right now?

May you be happy

May you be well

May you be free from suffering

May you be safe

Try it, and let me know how it works!

For more on loving kindness, see this helpful post.

14 Responses to “When life gets you down, try a little loving kindness”

  1. jun says:

    Loving Kindness is one of the three pillars of the Salesians of Don Bosco’s system of education. Being a product of that system, I’ve seen it being far more effective than shouts, threats and reprimands. Youth with angst and hatred in their heart have changed into loving and caring citizens.

    Great post!

  2. Heather S says:

    What a great post! First, good luck with your little one. I have been there and she is lucky to have a mom who is so willing to give her comfort. Second, great site! I just subscribed to your feed. Best of luck!

  3. Paula G says:

    Great post. I like this meditation in the Lovingkindness book by Jack Kornfeld as it goes in cycles to be like:
    May all beings be happy

    May all beings be well

    etc… I find it can really help open me up to the bigger picture, the bigger consciousness. Always guaranteed to snap me out of whatever helplessness or pity party I may find myself in.

    Good random acts of kindness tips as well. I know I have been sending some food over to a neighbor recuperating from surgery. While I don’t hear much back I know it is appreciated and if nothing else makes me feel better ;0

    Hope the little one is feeling better soon!

  4. Great post. But I must admit that the part that resonating with me most was where your son was sticking his fingers into your 4-month-old’s mouth. My nearly 3-y-o is doing this with my 4-mo-old now and it is driving me insane. I see I’m in good company.

  5. Thank you, that was a wonderful post. This would make a wonderful bit for a businesscard sized reminder. It’s amazing how much I forget what works when I need a solution the most.

  6. Bambi says:

    Very wonderful to see this today –
    I’m going to spread the love of this post to friends.

    Cheers and peace!
    Bambi

  7. Shawna says:

    Amazing!

    My prayer at night for the last 21 years has been that my boys may be safe, happy and healthy. Who knew that it was so similar to a Buddhist Meditation!!!

  8. Andy Pels says:

    Definitely a post to print and use daily. Being a dude, I love the practical steps of course. Nothing can pull you out of a funk better than being kind to others. Thanks for de-funking yourself on us (gosh I hope that came across how I meant it!)

  9. Shannon says:

    Thank you very much for this blog Pam. Believe it or not, I look forward to the day I hold my daughter in my hands and comfort her when she is ill. I have used loving kindness meditation in the past and will definitely use it when I, or another loved one, falls ill.

  10. Max says:

    Nice post, I’m sorry to hear that your young daughter is sick and I hope she gets better soon. I’ll definitely make an extra effort to demonstrate some loving kindness today, thanks for the inspiration.

  11. Lisa says:

    I’ve had a nasty bug inhabit my body for the past two weeks and your wish for me (for all of us) comes at a perfect time. I send healthy thoughts to little Angela and extend the meditation back to you, my friend.

  12. RayChung22 says:

    Wow. It’s almost like dejavu! I just read a very similar blog post over by Sam’s blog.

    Check it out, you might resonate
    http://samdavidson.blogspot.com/

  13. A lovingkindness story that always makes me smile: When Lucille Ball was in the hospital during her final illness, the building’s neighbors learned she was in there and posted a banner visible from her room that read, “We still love you, Lucy.”

  14. Angie Powers says:

    THANKS FOR THIS! I NEEDED TO READ THIS TODAY! YOU JUST MADE MY DAY!!!

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