Practicing Self Acceptance and Kindness towards Ourselves is a Radical Step
'Loving Kindness is not a sentimental feeling that sugar coats how we really feel'
I've broken down caring into the groups Caring for Ourselves and Caring for Others but actually they are not two different things. The more we can extend kindness, acceptance and understanding towards ourselves and connect with our own good heart and inherent intelligence, the greater is our capacity to stay present for others. A simple truth? Yes. Easy to apply? No.
What is Loving Kindness
The practice of loving-kindness connects us to the source of love we have within us and helps us discover the confidence and courage we need to keep caring. Angela, who works with seriously ill children and a graduate Certificate Program writes,
"My meditation and extending loving-kindness helped me to gently befriend myself … I was astounded when I realized that being present is actually a skill that I can learn and practice. I’m learning to show up in ... extremely painful situations because I’m more in touch with myself.”
What Loving Kindness is not
Loving-kindness can be misunderstood to be a sentimental feeling that sugar coats how we really feel. In fact, quite the opposite is true. We are not forcing or pretending to feel differently, but train our mind to hold whatever comes up such as anger, frustration, boredom or resentment with the same loving attitude and sense of equanimity. All can be there, we just do not react to it.
Loving-kindness helps us to develop a healthy sense of self and gently works with our limitations without letting them define us. So, where do we begin? We begin by practicing loving-kindness for ourselves first. Only then do we extend it further to gradually include others, loved ones, friends, strangers and even those we have difficulty with, slowly bringing the same feeling of loving-kindness to all.
The vision of the practice is to cultivate loving-kindness for every being. We repeat the phrases
"May you be happy, may you be well"
silently to ourselves to cultivate this feeling of warmth and closeness.