Meditation For MBAs: Train Your Mind, Improve Your Game — Part III

Essentially, you’ll choose someone to whom you’d like to send lovingkindness. It may be the person or pet you just imagined, or you may choose someone else. Start with someone with whom your relationship is easy and open. You’ll imagine seeing or feeling this person in front of you and will silently send the following phrases from your heart to them, feeling what it’s like to say them to your recipient and sensing what the impact is on him or her.

May you be safe.

May you be happy.

May you be healthy.

May you live with ease.

Take time to internally say and send the feeling behind each phrase. Notice what you feel in your body as you send each one. You may find that some phrases are easy to send and some are hard—or maybe all of them are hard to do, that you’re just not feelin’ it. If it’s hard, that’s okay. Stick with the practice nonetheless. In so doing, you’re both becoming conscious of where your heart may be a bit closed and you’re planting seeds that will sprout later. As with mindfulness meditation, you want to be in relationship to what is, as it is. If your heart feels closed, notice that as kindly and gently as you can. And as with mindfulness meditation, you have an anchor for your attention—in this case the phrases. If your mind wanders off, just return to repeating the phrases and sending the intention behind them to the recipient.

You can repeat these phrases to this same person for the duration of your practice session, or you can change the recipient of your well wishes after a few rounds of the phrases. While the traditional teaching suggests sending lovingkindness to oneself first, many meditation teachers have found that Westerners can be hard on themselves and it can be easier to “moisten” the heart by sending lovingkindness to someone to whom our hearts are quite open and then proceed to ourselves. So if you’d like to change recipients, you’re next! Imagine yourself facing yourself in your mind’s eye, or tune in to your body as you send the following phrases to yourself:

May I be safe.

May I be happy.

May I be healthy.

May I live with ease.

Notice what you experience as you send and receive the phrases. You might feel touched, joyful, uncomfortable, angry, unloving, full of grief, mechanical, or any other number of feelings. Everything is allowed.

As you do this practice, you may find some phrases spontaneously arise for you that you’d like to use. I recently decided to incorporate the phrase “May you/I feel connected, loved, and supported” into my practice. At the same time, try not to make the practice too complex and have dozens of phrases from which to choose. In sum, feel free to be creative and use what has meaning for you, but don’t go overboard with it!

Some people find they can get a lot of mileage and heart opening by doing the lovingkindness practice for just themselves for months at a time. This may be just what the doctor ordered. You may also want to experiment with extending lovingkindness in more challenging situations. You might pick a neutral person next, someone for whom you have no emotional connection or charge. This might be someone who lives in your apartment building, a guy at the gym, or one of the baristas at your favorite café. You might also try sending lovingkindness to someone with whom you are having some relationship challenges. Believe me, this can be hard to do! A super-advanced practice is to send it to someone you find really difficult or downright dislike. Through sending lovingkindness to “difficult” people, I’ve often been able to shift my attitude at least a little bit toward them. Finally, if you’re feeling really big hearted some days, wish that all beings may be safe, happy, and healthy. It feels really good!

If in a particular sitting period you find it really too hard to send lovingkindness to yourself or others, repeat this phrase and observe what happens inside you:

For whatever it is I am feeling right now, may I hold this too with kindness.

You may choose to do a sitting practice consisting entirely of lovingkindness meditation, or you may do mindfulness meditation and precede or follow it with a few minutes of lovingkindness meditation. You can also practice lovingkindness meditation “on the spot.” Sometimes when I’m walking down the street, I’ll look at the passersby and silently send a phrase to each one of them. When I do this, it often feels as if I’m sending people anonymous presents, which I find delightful.

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