Our world can be a heartbreaking place. Even within our own families there are deep challenges, let alone things we hear about in the news, the refugee crisis, injustice, climate change, war, and so much more. I often want to turn away from difficult news to protect myself from feeling it all. I feel angry, maybe because it’s somehow safer than feeling the pain. I want to cut myself off from 'those people' who are doing bad things, demonizing them rather than feeling my heart connect with their hearts.
I’m not saying that we need to be okay with everything people do, we don't. But we can be present with each person as a human being, recognizing the imperfect expression of their divinity just as we recognize that within ourselves.
When we pull into the rational mind and bypass the vulnerable and sensitive response to tragic things happening around us, we grow numb. And when we are numb to one part of our experience, we are numb to it all, there's no way to stay selectively open. So the only thing to do is to practice getting close and listening to the sad, irrational, needy, angry parts of ourselves. Of the world. Of our kids. We just need to slow down, listen, and feel.
To build your ability to open your heart, consider trying loving kindness practice.
Sit and breathe, following the breath and resting a hand on your belly or heart. Notice where you are and simply be present with yourself without judging, rushing, or bypassing. Remember some wonderful things about yourself, some of your most loving and kind moments, and watch the memories like movies in your mind to remember your best nature.
And then say these words to yourself, slowly and imagining each one as you say it:
May I be filled with loving kindness (picture what you look like, what you are doing),
May I be healthy and strong (imagine how you look, where you are, who you are with),
May I be calm and peaceful (again, picture it),
May I be happy (smile).
Repeat this a few times. And then consider a person you love, picture them, and send these words to them a few times. Notice how you feel.
When you're ready, consider a person you're having a hard time with and send these words to them several times. Again, notice how you feel.
I'm a mom, wife, daughter, friend, and teacher who has long struggled with the desire to be the perfect person I imagine that I should be. Practicing mindfulness helps me find peace with my imperfect journey--being with myself as I truly am, loving my family as they are, and showing up for a messy world with openness and compassion.