Do you remember the last presidential election? Of course you do! It was a game changer in more ways than one. Presidential election cycles tend to bring out the best – and worst – in people, both motivating people to be good citizens by voting but also encouraging neighbors to become enemies simply because of the signs on their lawns.
Many people lamented over the lack of kindness during the last election, yet also struggled with some of their own feelings of anger towards others. In fact, the anger over the last election seemed to be unprecedented (and perhaps social media paid a large part in that) and sent many people to bed at night feeling troubled and concerned for the heart of our nation.
So how do we even begin to bridge the gap that keeps Americans from understanding each other’s perspectives and talking with each other about real issues? How do we merge the divided chambers of this nation’s heart so that we can all feel united again?
Not surprisingly, it all starts with kindness.
Kindness to others begins with compassion and being able to look at others’ perspectives and see where they’re coming from. When you can look at men and women of all racial, ethnic, socio-economic, and religious backgrounds, and see not just a one-dimensional headline but the whole person, you can approach everyone with kindness.
It sounds wonderful, but it’s not always that easy, is it?
One of the simplest and oldest practices for bringing more kindness into the world is the Loving Kindness Meditation. There are a number of variations but they all share similar guidelines:
To begin, take a few deep breaths to center yourself. Focus your energy on your heart, actively imagining what your heart looks like and how an open, loving heart would feel. Say the following mantras to yourself:
May I be filled with loving kindness. May I be safe from inner and outer dangers. May I be well in mind and body. May I be happy and at ease.
Continue focusing on your heart as you repeat these mantras to yourself.
Next, continue the mantras while focusing on others, beginning first with someone you love and have an easy relationship, then with someone you love but have a difficult relationship with, and finally with someone you feel anger or hatred toward.
May you be filled with loving kindness. May you be safe from inner and outer dangers. May you be well in mind and body. May you be happy and at ease.
Continue as long as you would like, and end with three deep cleansing breaths.
To get the greatest benefit, practice the loving kindness meditations daily or at least weekly. Concentrate on different people or even groups of people with each practice.
Loving kindness meditations saw an increase in the last presidential election, and continue to be a way of meditating that helps men and women the world over to feel more compassion and greater kindness from day to day.