Mindfulness-based practices are extremely helpful in moving us toward a more compassionate heart. As we learn to feel compassion and love in our bodies, we gain greater acceptance of the more challenging parts of ourselves and our lives and extend it outward more naturally. We do this through witnessing and partaking in experiences of loving-kindness (our relational spaces that support the felt-sense experience) and practices, ideally daily, of centered awareness and nonjudgmental, compassionate attunement.
Here’s a simple “loving-kindness” meditation, which has been used in many traditions and practices, with slight variations. This simple exercise/practice supports an embodied experience of heartfulness to oneself and others.
Instruction practice (This is what I do. There are other ways to do it, see what works for you): It could be useful to use the Insight Meditation app or any other and set your phone for however long you want to meditate. Thirty minutes is doable and allows for sufficient time to both center the mind and bring forth people and groups for intentional compassionate awareness blessings. It is helpful to set two interval bells at the 10 minute mark and 20 minute mark. When the start bell rings, for the first 10 minutes, focus on some object of awareness: the breath, notice the breath going in and out, or one can focus on sound, bodily sensations, or thought. Once the first interval bell rings at the 10 minute mark, the practice is to send blessings/good wishes to oneself (the loving-kindness meditation narrative). It can vary based on what one is feeling and needing that day, but the most traditional is a variation of: “May I be blessed with loving kindness, may I be blessed with compassion, may I be blessed with happiness, may I be blessed with peace.” Feel these qualities deep within. At the second interval bell, the last ten minutes, are utilized to send blessings and wishes to people and groups. For example, “May X be blessed with loving-kindness” and see and feel that person being blessed with the quality. May Democrats and Republicans be blessed with understanding and gentleness.” One can fill in any group, organization or person he or she chooses, and it’s important to see and feel the good wishes upon the person or group of people; this is the embodied practice.
The practice of blessing oneself invites and expands our own hearts; and, in blessing/wishing well for others (those whom we love and those whom we find harder to love in the micro and macro), the terrain of both our emotional and geographical borders are easier to cross. Those fleeing war, poverty, addiction, governmental or societal oppression…those whom we see as “different” have already been touched (in our meditation practice), which puts in motion thoughts, feelings and acts of loving-kindness, which further reinforce one another.