How to Make Meditation Be More Kind
I’m a bad meditator.
“No judgment!” say my teachers. “Just return to the breath.”
Yeah, I try to do that, but…. After decades of meditating (on and off), I continue to have the same old struggle with concentration.
Here’s what usually happens when I sit with a meditating friends group.
The chime starts, and they go deep into a concentrated state. I feel the calm… notice my body… one breath … two breaths….
Then I scratch my cheek… remember that I’m supposed to notice the itch sensation instead of react… return to my breath… get dizzy… think about what a crappy meditator I am… notice the sensation of hearing for a few sounds… look at the patterns on the rug at my feet… stress about the usual stress in my tummy… notice some sounds… doze off… check my watch… think about what to eat when I get home… count more patterns on the rug… and finally, after 45 minutes like this, the ending bell chimes.
My meditating friends calmly beam at their experience. I smile and nod, and feel like the little kid pretending to be grown up around her older sister’s friends.
Still, I keep going because of moments of focus and insight, connecting to my body, and appreciating wisdom from Buddha and meditation teachers. But my concentration struggle becomes self-judgment and meditation becomes something else I “should” do.
That is until a few weeks ago.
There I was, sitting in my car, early to a business meeting. I thought I’d try a little meditation – despite my incessant mindlessness – to get more grounded.
But before I closed my eyes, I had an amazing revelation. What if I stopped worrying about my mindlessness and concentration? What if I didn’t worry about what I was supposed to do? What if…
… meditation was simply time to be kind to myself?
What if I was just kind to whatever came up? It was a relief to let go of doing it wrong, and feeling a time for kindness.
- Kindness at my breath
- Kindness at feeling dizzy
- Kindness at distractions
- Kindness at thinking I’m a crappy meditator
- Kindness at hearing sounds
- Kindness at stress about stress
- Kindness about a long undone to-do list
- Kindness at fears of doing well
- Kindness about what I was wearing
- Kindness at feeling calm or feeling anxious
That was a powerful meditation in the car, and it changed the following days and nights as well.
Rest into who you really are.
I’m a worrywort. And I worry that I worry too much – which of course doesn’t help.
But what has helped is surrounding my worry with kindness, Okay, sweetpea, you’re worried again. That de-escalated my anxiety by simply stopping the worry that I was worried.
A foundation of kindness helped me present to Microsoft yesterday. (It’s recorded if you know anyone who works there who might be interested.) I was kind about my nervousness and self-critic instead of letting it take over my sense of self. I could be more there and share from the heart.
Because kindness is contagious, I’ve been kinder to others. Though to be honest, it hasn’t yet made me kinder when technology messes up….
Kindness helped me sleep.
Last week I stayed in a motel that had seen better days. The first night there, I couldn’t settle down, and then berated myself about reserving a overly frugal motel, which led to worries if I should have made the trip, if I brought enough cool clothes for the Texas heat, and on and on.
That was not putting me to sleep. So I explored whether kindness would help me rest.
I placed my hand on my slab of distress at my stomach. No need to fix – I couldn’t right then anyway – just feeling and acknowledging the anxiety. There, there, tummy, I know this is tough.
That time for kindness made a big difference. As I accepted myself and my anxiety, I realized the motel was tolerable, despite the groaning microwave and wobbly hooks. Good enough would work, so I could let go, rest, and sleep.
Find your path to self-kindness.
Pay a little kind attention to yourself right now.
- Nothing you need to change or do, just feel the watercolor wash of self-compassion.
- Take a kind breath.
- Set a time – 5 minutes to an hour or a whole day – to create a gentle foundation of kindness.
Kindness as a meditation:
- However you choose to meditate – sit, stand, walk, or even dance – notice it through the eyes of kindness.
- Touch into your body’s senses, with kindness. Hear sounds and silences appear and disappear. Feel gravity kindly holding you to the earth. See with soft eyes. Take another kind breath.
- If you’d like, settle on a home base. That could be your breathing, sounds coming and going, sensations in your hands. A home base is a good viewpoint to notice what else (inevitably) comes up.
- As thoughts arise and distractions happen, kindly notice your mind. There you are, planning tomorrow’s dinner or thinking of your work project….
- As emotions arise, attend to thoughts and body tension with kindness. Yep, there’s anxiety again.
- Notice what happens until it naturally fades, then notice what arises next. Or return to your home base until something else arises. It doesn’t matter. It’s just a time to be kind to yourself.
Who are you when you’re kind?
When stop fighting the natural stress of being human – especially in this unbalanced culture – you have new avenues to tap into you more authentic self. Your authentic imperfect self, because that’s also the natural part of being human.
Kindness to your imperfections, trauma, outdated beliefs, pain… they allow you to be more whole. To remember you already are whole.
When you feel that wholeness, you can let go into rest. You chose to align with who you are, instead of who you should be or wish you were. The wash of kindness can make the tough paths more gentle.
If you’d like some support in learning to be kind and resting into who you really are, let me know. I’d be glad to talk and create a path for you to get there.