One of my favorite meditations that I often use to start my day is a loving kindness meditation. I believe it may originate in Tibetan Buddhist practice, but I learned it from Mindfulness: an Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World. It starts by saying to yourself:
“May I be safe and free from suffering. May I be happy and healthy. May I have ease of being. “
These are said quietly, not out loud, but internally. Each sentence is said in approximately one out-breath. Then we simply pause and notice if any feelings come up, any resistance, etc. Then we extend the sentiment to a loved one: May [name loved one] be safe and free from suffering; may [name] be happy and healthy; may [name] have ease of being. Pause and breathe for a few moments. The practice as I learned it moves onto someone we do not know very well, perhaps someone we see on the bus, or see at work, but with whom we are not close. We then move to someone who is “difficult” or with whom we might be having difficult emotions or experiences (that one can be tricky for me). Finally we move toward loving kindness to all beings: May all of us be safe and free from suffering; may all be happy and healthy; may all have ease of being.
Very often after that initial practice (which typically takes less than 5 minutes), I remain in silence for another 10-20 minutes and just notice my thoughts and feelings. I almost always feel much more at peace than when I started. My breathing is usually slower and more steady and my thoughts are calmer. Now and then if I am particularly agitated with someone, I notice that and may come back to another round of loving kindness. Once in a while it is hard to extend this kindness toward myself, and I focus for a while on the final words: ease of being.
Sometimes when my thoughts seem to be spinning I just use this as a mantra: ease of being, ease of being, ease… Then I seem to notice my shoulders relax, my jaw release and any other tension that I am unconsciousness holding in the body begins to ease up. It is powerful. People often have misconceptions about meditation: that you are supposed to “clear your mind” and not think, or if you cannot reach some “transcendent” state, you are not doing it right. For me, it is about observing, noticing my thoughts, feelings, sensations in the body, but not getting too attached to any of those occurrences. It takes practice to let that all go, of course. Some of us have PLENTY of practice hanging onto afflicting thoughts and emotions. It is a well-practiced habit. So it can be challenging to learn to let go. Certainly I am a beginner and I realize it takes a lifetime of practice to master this, and it is well worth getting even a tiny bit better if we can.
With all of the events and news of the world, I hope this “ease of being” practice may help you find equanimity and calm in the storms of your day. Some advice if you are new to meditation: try not to get caught up with any rules you have heard. Many people say you must start with 15 minutes. But that was a big barrier to me when I started, since I was not always able to schedule it. So I then just worked with 3 minutes, 5 minutes, worked up to 10 minutes, or more. Some days in the morning all I have is a few minutes, and then maybe I take a break over lunch and do a few more minutes. It all helps me, and I hope it can help you too.