Dear family and friends,
Today is my birthday and it gives me great pleasure to share with you Part 3 of Mindful Journaling. It is my gift to you. Hope you’ll pay it forward. 
With lots of love,
Shalini

3.0 Mindfulness Practice with Lovingkindness

Mindfulness is awareness. Mindfulness is heartfulness.

How has the practice of mindfulness and mindful journaling been going for you? Some of you may have had experiences of varying degrees of bliss, transformation, challenges or difficulties yet others may have felt nothing. It is fine to feel nothing. There is no right or wrong answer. Just acknowledge and accept the emotions, the moods or thoughts that surface for you during the mindfulness practice.

If you are yet to embark on this  journey of mindfulness, it’s also fine. No one needs to feel they are alone or not good enough. Just try to understand the purpose behind mindfulness and mindful journaling and allow yourself to be curious and have some fun while reaping its benefits.

What are some of its many benefits?

It is a great enabler that will help you to leave behind baggage from the past or pressure that comes from expectations of the future. Just sitting a little longer and observing your breath or sounds and  sights that surround you can be empowering. It allows you to draw energy from the moment and help you to move on

In the end it’s all about cultivating: a sense of awareness, mindfulness and a natural curiosity about your body and surroundings which is what we call heartfulness or the act of love and lovingkindness.

Jon Kabat Zinn in his book: Full Catastrophe Living states that the cultivation of mindfulness is in itself a radical act of love and lovingkindness, and purposefully cultivating lovingkindness has many rewards: 

It can have a remarkable softening effect on the heart. It can help you to be kinder to yourself and to others. It can help you to see all beings as deserving of kindness and compassion, so that even if disputes do arise, your mind can see clearly and your heart does not close down and become lost in self-serving yet ultimately self-destructive negative feeling states

So, self-care is an act of loving kindness to yourself. Just as nothing can flow out of an empty cup, a person who is malnourished spiritually cannot give anything of himself or herself to others.

In our last session, we tuned in to our breathing and sounds far and near. These exercises were an invitation for us to paying attention in an intentional way that would often lead to deep relaxation. It would have helped us centre ourselves calmly and respond consciously and with lovingkindness to the world instead of reacting automatically and mindlessly.

This week, we will tune in to our bodies, thoughts and emotions in a lovingkindness meditation.

What is lovingkindness meditation?

Lovingkindness meditation is a great way to cultivate our natural inclination for love and kindness. It entails sending goodwill messages with kindness and warmth in our hearts towards people we know and don’t know, and even people we dislike by silently repeating a series of phrases with emotion.

By now you should be familiar with the routine to begin meditating: sit comfortably and relax. Find a comfortable position to sit down. Sit upright and make adjustments to your body or clothing if necessary. Prepare to receive this gift of ‘lovingkindness meditation’ to yourself. When you are ready, drop your gaze and close your eyes gently.

1. Tune in to your breath and meditate

Bring your awareness to your breath. Watch your breath. Follow the rhythm of your breath as you inhale and exhale. Notice your breath moving through your nostrils, nasal cavities, throat and down your chest and abdomen as you inhale…… Continue to watch your breath move up your abdomen, chest, throat, nasal cavities and nostrils as you exhale.  Keep observing the passage of air as you breathe in and breathe out. 
 
Do this about 6 X without any expectations of yourself. Just follow your breath. Sit and be with the natural rhythm of your breath for a little longer.

2. Invite feelings of love and kindness towards yourself 

Remember a moment when you felt completely acknowledged and accepted by another person. Visualising the person and that moment, invite the feelings of love and kindness to re-emerge out of your memory. Hold the emotions, thoughts or mood that arise. Repeat the following phrases silently to yourself with emotion: 

May I be free from inner and outer harm
May I be happy 
May I be healthy
May I live with ease

Submerging yourself in what you feel, sit with it a little longer.

3. Invoke feelings of love and kindness towards someone you care about

Next visualise the person who you care deeply about in your mind’s eye and cradle the feeling the person invokes in you and hold it in your heart. Feeling that person in your heart, repeat these phrases and wish the person well:

May he or she be happy
May he or she be free from pain and suffering
May he or she experience love and joy
May he or she live with ease

Submerging yourself in what you feel, sit with it a little longer.

4. Invoke feelings of love and kindness towards someone you dislike

Now identify a person who has not caused you any harm but for whatever reason you don’t really care and don’t want to feel kindness towards him/her. Visualise the person in your mind and intentionally cultivate feelings of kindness and compassion towards the person. Visualise the person as someone who has human feelings and is as vulnerable as you are. And he too like you has hopes and fears, and feels pain and anxiety. Feeling that person in your heart, repeat these phrases and wish the person well:

May he or she be happy
May he or she be free from pain and suffering
May he or she experience love and joy
May he or she live with ease

Just sit with the feeling for a little longer till you are ready to move on.

5. Extend your love and  kindness to people you don’t know and all living creatures in the planet

Next radiate your love and kindness to people in your country and all over the world who are suffering for different reasons and who are in dire need of human kindness and care. Wish them well. Now turn your attention to all living forms and to the life-giving planet itself that is in need of love and kindness and say these words with emotion: 

May they be happy
May they be free from pain and suffering
May they experience love and joy
May they live with ease in
A planet fully loved and revived.

Submerging yourself in what you feel, sit with it a little longer.

6. Return to your body and breath

Bask in the feeling of love and kindness for a little longer before you return to your body and your breathing. Be aware of the gentle inhalations and exhalations of your breath and sit with it noticing whatever emotions you are feeling like warmth, generosity or love…bring your meditation to an end.

3.1 Mindful Journaling

Mindful journaling is an act of loving kindness to yourself. Treat yourself and give yourself the space and time to write freely without judgment. It is a powerful way to get in touch with your emotions at a deeper level. It will help you to discover more about yourself and your relationship with others and the universe. When you accept and acknowledge yourself without judgement you’ll find it easier to let go of any negative emotions you may have of yourself or others.

6 Tips for Lovingkindness Mindful Journaling

1. Write about a moment when you felt love and kindness for 5 minutes

Recollect and visualize the moment when you felt a sense of loving kindness in your heart. What did the person do to make you feel a sense of acceptance, gratitude or warmth. Write without worry.

2. Write freely about a person who evokes feelings of dislike for 5 minutes

Identify the person who evokes feelings of dislike in you. You don’t care for the person though the person has not harmed you in any major way. Just write about whatever emotions or thoughts that come up for you when you visualize the person. Where in your body do you feel the tension whenever this person appears in your mind’s eye. Do you feel the tension easing when you breathe into it. Just write.

3. Write about the people you don’t know out there who are in dire need of love and care for 5 minutes

Imagine the people around the world at this moment who are in dire need of love and care. People who are abandoned by family, friends or the state. People who have lost their loved ones. People who are suffering alone without anyone to care for them. You may not know them but you could have read about them or watched them in the media. Notice the emotions or thoughts that come up for you at this moment. You may feel sadness, anger, love, compassion, guilt, shame or you may feel nothing. It’s fine…Just hold your emotions and thoughts and write about them.

4. Write about your relationship with the planet for 5 minutes

What are some emotions or thoughts that come up for you when you visualize the planet we live in. Write about one thing you will do differently to make this relationship with your planet better for yourself and others around you.

5. Read aloud to yourself what you have written without judgment

Once you have stopped writing…take your time and read aloud what you have written without judgement and kindness to yourself. You must be able to hear your voice and the emotion in your words, phrases and sentences.

6.Reflect on what you have written 

What emotions did you feel while writing? What surprised you? What did you discover about yourself? What did you discover about your writing? How did it make you feel overall? You may write your responses to these questions in your journal or blog about it.

You may share this piece of writing on your blog or social media or just with your close family and friends. If sharing is not your thing, that is also fine.

Shalini Damodaran
Shalini Damodaran is passionate about writing and coaching others to write. She was a teacher educator, specialised in the teaching of writing at the English Language Institute of Singapore.
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Shalini Damodaran
Shalini Damodaran is passionate about writing and coaching others to write. She was a teacher educator, specialised in the teaching of writing at the English Language Institute of Singapore.
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