Categories
Meditation Recovery

What is Loving-Kindness? Practicing Meditation with Jack Kornfield

 

 After decades of filling prescriptions of antidepressant, mood stabilizing, and antipsychotic drugs, I finally rejected conventional psychiatric wisdom. Using ancient methods, I went against doctors’ orders to heal. Through these methods, I treated the root cause, not merely the symptoms. I charted my journey in a series of essays. 

I write bi-monthly articles, publishpodcasts, and host workshops on healing, recovery, and the root causes of pain. Sign up for two stories per month, that’s it. I charted my journey and this first article is Complex PTSD: When Your Therapist Thinks You May Be F*cked. My second article is How Breathwork Helps Process Stress, Pain, and Trauma: Why I Practice.

I am sporting a blue hoodie that says ‘Des Moines: Hell Yeah’, unmatched striped colored socks, dark blue jeans, and a black baseball hat.

I’m in a room of over 50 strangers, my mustache, chin beard, and blue glasses starkly contrast to the crowd of mostly white, baby boomer women.

Some people rest on blankets on the wooden floor, while others sit in chairs with their feet firmly rooted to the ground. 

Legendary monk and mediation teacher Jack Kornfield sits in front of us. 

He rings a Tibetan bowl three times. 

“Good morning,” he says, his voice sweet and soothing.

If he was a Crayola crayon in a box of 64-colors, his color would be Calm. 

The room is full of unfamiliar faces, and I have never meditated in a room with this many people. My shoulders remain unmoved as I try not to make any noise above the hum of the heater purring in the background. 

Jack and his wife Trudy Goodman are hosting a Sunday Morning Sit in Santa Monica, CA. at Insight L.A. Sitting in a meditation class with Jack and Trudy is like attending a PhD-level course in meditation. 

What is loving-kindness?

Today’s meditation is loving-kindness, also called metta. 

Though the loving-kindess practice I learn to how to intentionally give and receive love.

Loving-kindness can be super-helpful if no none ever taught you to love yourself. As a child, no one showed me how to love myself. This is how it helped me.

The goal of loving-kindness meditation is to focus unconditional love for yourself, and others. You want good things to happen to other people. You are wishing well to other people and yourself, while you are in mediation. 

Metta is the ancient word for loving-kindness and is translated to mean friendliness, goodwill, fellowship, and non-violence. 

According to Jack, the loving-Kindness meditation uses words, images, and feelings to evoke loving-kindness and friendliness toward oneself and others.

In today’s thirty-five-minute meditation, we move positive energy towards people in our life, to ourselves, and the entire world. 

The practice is in four parts: 

  1. Give love to a friend whom I have an easy relationship with. 
  2. Give love to myself. 
  3. Give love to my community and the rest of the world. 
  4. Give love to a person whom I have a difficult relationship with 

Giving loving-kindness to a friend

Jack speaks at a volume just above a whisper. After a few minutes of sitting together, Jack begins the loving-kindness meditation:

Picture someone with whom you have a loving relationship. As you picture them, then begin softly inside, repeating simple phrases of well wishing and kindness.

I think of my cousin Kathy, someone whom I love. 

Jack asks us to think about this person and reflect on them, giving them loving-kindness and well wishing. 

I feel positive heat surfacing up in my body. From inside my core, the warm energy is pushing itself out to arms, legs, and then feet and hands. 

With a gentle monotone voice, Jack repeats the words again:

May you be filled with loving-kindness.

May you be safe and protected.

May you be well, healed, and strong in body and mind.

May you be filled with loving-kindness.

I sit, thinking of my cousin. As Jack says the phrases of well wishing, I send love to my cousin Kathy, whom I love. I have an easy sense of care for her. In sync with Jack, I say in my head:

Kathy, may you be filled with loving-kindness.

Kathy, may you be safe and protected.

Kathy, may you be well, healed, and strong in body and mind.

Kathy, may you be filled with loving-kindness.

Kathy lives on the other side of the country, and I am sending her love from my body. There is a rush of energy warming me.

As a kid, I would meet up with Kathy’s family, going swimming in my Aunt and Uncle’s backyard pool. 

Envisioning Kathy in my mind, I care about her. I imagine Kathy in her house, eating at her kitchen table, and then going on a brisk walk outside with her dog. It’s winter and she is wearing a cold weather jacket. She sees her breath in the wind. Her dog loves running around outside. I send well wishes to Kathy and her dog.

There is a tingly sensation coming from inside my body. 

Giving love to myself

Jack continues speaking and asks us to move onto ourselves. He wants us to give ourselves well wishing. 

 Spoonfeeding me a sorely needed healthy serum of love, my eyes are more relaxed.

Instead of looking outside for validation from others for love, I am looking inwards at my own body. It’s not easy. 

Inside my mind, with Jack’s voice as my guide, I repeat his words:

May I be filled with loving-kindness.

May I be safe and protected.

May I be well, healed, and strong in body and mind.

May I be filled with loving-kindness.

As I give love to myself, the left shoulder gets stiff, while my left hip is throbbing. My body’s left side is where I keep the majority of my physical stress. I send love to my body as I imagine loving myself. I struggle with the pain, which feels like trapped negative emotions from my childhood.  

Through the practice, I learn to take care of myself. I learn to soothe myself. I learn to love myself. 

In retrospect, I see that loving myself helped me to become aware of my body. Finding physical self-awareness comes in the form of love. 

Giving loving-kindness to my community and the rest of the world

Jack requests that we practice loving-kindness for the world. 

He asks us to think about our neighbors, the people sitting next to us, and the members of our community. He says:

May you be filled with loving-kindness.

May you be safe and protected.

May you be well, healed, and strong in body and mind.

May you be filled with loving-kindness.

Scanning my life, I’m sending love to a college friend Edward, who passed away in his twenties. He is no longer on Earth, yet I feel his spirit. 

I say to myself:

Edward may you be filled with loving-kindness.

Edward may you be safe and protected.

Edward may you be well, healed, and strong in body and mind.

Edward may you be filled with loving-kindness.

I envision Edward and I seeing a concert together when we lived in Nashville. We are dancing in a sea of people at the Exit/In bar. He’s grooving in the front row with me, shaking side to side.

We then pick up BBQ sandwiches at Hog Heaven, a local divey BBQ shack. It’s next to a dive bar where we would drink Natural Light beers, play pool on an uneven pool table, while the jukebox blares Sympathy for the Devil by The Rolling Stones.

In a dream-like state, I hear his voice in my head for the first time in decades. 

An old nickname from him, “Sugar Boy,” rings in my ear. It’s like Edward is over my shoulder talking. “Sugar Boy.” I hear it again. 

I tear-up, thinking about his spirit. I have not properly grieved for Edward since his physical passing (Later I realize this!). 

Warm energy rushes into my body. I love the memory him. 

Giving loving-kindness to a person you have a difficult relationship with

Jack asks us to give love and well wishing to someone with whom we have a difficult relationship. I think of my relatives with whom I have not always kept in close contact. 

Scanning my relatives, I bring love to my Aunt Dolly, Uncle Jerry, Uncle Seamus, and cousins who I have not seen in many years. I send love to my entire extended family during the practice. Our relationship is always delicate, and I give them love.

Alongside Jack, I say to myself:

Aunt Dolly, may you be filled with loving-kindness.

Uncle Jerry, may you be safe and protected.

Uncle Seamus, may you be well, healed, and strong in body and mind.

Mary Ellen, may you be filled with loving-kindness.

As the meditation continues, Jack’s voice goes silent. He suggests that we sit with our feelings in silence. 

Mentally, I am underwater. For a few moments, it’s like I cannot breathe. I am exhausted.

I miss my extended family, and haven’t kept in very good touch with them through the years. I am filled with deep emotion, I would like to quit the meditation. 

I love my family.

I fight to not open my eyes. 

It’s overwhelming to think about loving all these people. 

I hear a ring from Tibetan Bowl. Jack asks us to open our eyes. The meditation is over. 

I stretch my body out. My left shoulder is tight. My left hip is stressed. The love that I give helps to heal my stressed body. 

Through today’s practice, I expand my capacity to love others. I expand my capacity to love myself. As a child, I did not learn to love myself. 

The practice can shift your thinking into helping other people. The practice is a gentle way of looking at the world. 

I learn to hold onto these feelings of love. 

Self-love is a practice. 

Loving one’s self takes discipline, and it never dawned on me to practice it. 

Loving-kindness is an antidote to the trauma, stress, and suffering,  it calms the body down. 

Loving-kindness helps you find new neural pathways that connect your brain. While it opens open up new ways to live a more whole life. 

Loving-kindness can be super-helpful because no one taught you how to love yourself.

You see how much loving-kindness has helped me. You can try Jack Kornfield’s Loving-kindness meditation live from InsightLA or his Loving-kindness recording online

Big thanks to my editors: Drew Stegmaier, Piyali (Peels) Mukherjee, Elisa Doucette, Nanya Sudhir, Joel Christiansen, and Kavir Kaycee.

Links:

Jack Kornfield’s Loving-kindness meditation at InsightLA

Insight LA

Jack Kornfield

Trudy Goodman

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *