When I begin a meditation session, I usually begin by explaining to the students about meditation, and how it is an “umbrella term” that encompasses a wide variety of practices. Some examples of different meditation practices include Zen Meditation, Vipassana, LovingKindess, and Mindfulness meditation.
When I first started my practice, I had debilitating anxiety and needed a way to cope with it. Thus, perhaps naturally I gravitated to mindfulness meditation, which I continue to practice to this day. Mindfulness meditation has, through training and experimentation, become an elixir of sorts for my anxiety. Instead of attempting to force my anxiety out and feeling frustrated at being anxious, mindfulness meditation helped me to take a step back, to recognize that there is anxiety within me, and to accept it non-judgmentally. Through this present-moment, non-judgmental awareness, the cycle and force of anxiety I experienced began to weaken.
Although I have been practicing mindfulness for years, a couple of months ago a shift began to occur. Instead of mindfulness, I began to gravitate towards lovingkindness meditation. Why is this occurring? I asked myself. As I began to dig into this question, I recognized that there were a couple different factors at play.
First and foremost, I recognized that there was a gap between my values and reality. I aspired to be like the Dalai-Llama, displaying unconditional love and compassion, yet my day-to-day actions did not align with those values. I still harbored hateful thoughts towards certain friends and acquaintances. Furthermore, I still caught myself making passive-aggressive remarks to my brother and other family members. I also recognized that I judged others before meeting them, and disliked someone for no reason whatsoever but perhaps my preconceived notions and ideas. Recognizing this disparity between values and actions, I strived to create a practice that would help me to narrow the gap.
The second factor involved the termination of a painful relationship. Relationships can be our greatest teachers – they can trigger the most painful psychological and emotional trigger points. After the collapse of my relationship, I began to contemplate my actions and reactions, and realized many things about myself: I desired perfection (or my view of it) from others, and got angry when it didn’t happen; I judged my partner for the smallest of things and the most insignificant of errors; I allowed my love and compassion to ebb and flow depending on whether I got what I wanted.
Through these unhealthy patterns, I became someone who I did not want to be. But although I could not bear the full blame, I did recognize that I aspired to become someone who embraced others for whom they were, and not for whom I wanted them to be. I aspired for unconditional love and acceptance, and not grasping and judgement. This too pushed me towards lovingkindness meditation.
This is the beautiful thing about the practice. Through its myriad shapes and forms, it allows us to mold onto ourselves the characteristics that we desire and aspire to obtain – courtesy of our “plastic” brain. Do you want to become a more compassionate and empathic person? Loving-kindness might be the way to go. Feeling tense, overwhelmed, or stuck in cycles of rumination? Try mindfulness meditation. Through this process, all that is required of us is persistence and the open-mindedness needed to become malleable.
Author: Manuel is a teacher at Innergy Meditation currently teaching the Mindfulness class Sunday’s at 7PM.
Photo credits: Quino Al – https://unsplash.com/@quinoal