Most people I know want to meditate and yet we struggle with finding the time to meditate. There are so many reasons to meditate, and ways to meditate, but we still feel like it’s hard take the time to sit quietly in a room, alone, with eyes closed. Especially if you aren’t in the twilight of your life and have responsibilities, work, and kids. I have a bouncy 4 year old who is eager to transform whatever I am doing into her latest pretend game that we are dolphins.
What about an Easy Meditation Practice for Busy People?
It’s hard to find the time to meditate and to spend quality time with our family. I know it can seem selfish and downright unreasonable to find the time to take away from the flow of life to be with yourself. But I know that I want the profound heart-opening experience that I get from meditating. I bet you do too. So I have found ways to slip meditation and mindfulness into my life without having to take 20 minutes morning or night.
This meditation is easy to do in spare moments here and there. I have done this meditation eyes open, while sitting in traffic, standing in line, or waiting for my coffee to heat up in the microwave. Yes, its great if you can sit quietly and do this eyes closed with no distractions, but I have experienced peace and calmness by focusing my thoughts on this practice, even while my eyes were open and when I was in a transition moment.
Recently I wrote about habits of happiness and how creating a daily gratitude journal shifted my relationship with my husband. My second habit of happiness that I have incorporated into my life in the last few months is this metta meditation. Only perhaps once a week will I sit quietly and meditate eyes closed in the traditional way. More often, I will take one minute here and one minute there and do this compassion meditation. I sincerely believe that it has given more peace to my heart, ease to my days and caused me to relax the face clenching and brow furrowing that I used to spend a lot of time doing.
I am going to share this meditation practice has an amazing impact on my life and is very easy to incorporate into a busy life. Whether you are a beginner or have been meditating for a while, this is a practice you can use. And what I LOVE about it is, you can do this meditation eyes open or closed.
Today I’m offering up to you an exploration that not only allows you to go deeper with a gratitude practice to open your heart, but also can ease the crow’s feet and other wrinkles. Seriously, I know that personal growth or self development is not seen as a panacea for aging or anything, but have you ever noticed how after doing yoga or watching a good movie you look happier and younger. There’s a glow that emanates from you. That is one of the things I love about doing this type of personal growth work. I know that most people don’t do these types of activities for the anti-aging benefits, but I love this side benefit.
I want you to find a time to reflect with gratitude, even if you don’t write it down. I don’t want you to do this because I think that you need one more thing to do- Lord knows, you don’t! Perhaps the opposite will happen, that the more you experience gratitude, the easier it gets to let the things that you don’t need, that don’t serve you slip out of your life (fingers crossed that you let this happen!).
Loving-Kindness Meditation Practice
So you are going to explore a 4-fold compassion practice. It is also called metta meditation or loving-kindness meditation. If the word meditation scares you, don’t think of it as meditation- just think of it as a imagination exercise. If you can do this with your eyes closed, great. If not, eyes open are fine.
First, you will focus on feeling gratitude and appreciation for yourself. If you have a hard time noticing and appreciating yourself, you are welcome to swap #1 and #2. Take 1 minute to reflect on what you are good at, how you appreciate that you have cared for yourself today, and anything else that you can love/appreciate about yourself. You are welcome to use these traditional metta phrases that you repeat to yourself for this or use another phrase.
May I be free from inner and outer harm and danger. May I be safe and protected.
May I be free of mental suffering or distress.
May I be happy.
Now I want you to focus on someone you care about immensely. (remember you can swap #2 with #1 if you need to, but just make sure to come back to yourself at some point and spend time appreciating you. Spend 1 minute thinking of all the things that you love about him or her and that you are grateful for. If you can bring in your senses of touch, smell, sight, really imagine and experience this. You may also send them the well wishes from the phrases above.
You can use the statements above, but replace I with you.
May you be free from inner and outer harm and danger. May you be safe and protected.
May you be free of mental suffering or distress.
May you be happy.
If you feel resentment or resistance to sending someone compassion, don’t worry about it.
If it doesn’t come easily, it is ok to simply let go of your feelings and reflect on another statement or person. The key with this, as with any type of heart-based meditation or practice, is to not experience judgment towards yourself. Notice and acknowledge the feeling and move on to the next thought.
Here is where we take it to the next level ;) Think of something that you have a slight distaste or dislike for. We are not looking for something that you have lots of angry or disappointed emotion towards. This could be someone who has recently bothered you- a rude checkout clerk at a store for example, or your annoying aunt who always makes stupid remarks to your comments. Think of this slightly troublesome person and mentally tell them that you forgive them. Feel yourself forgiving them for being the person that they are. It is OK that you rub them the wrong way or vice versa. But take a moment to simply express forgiveness towards them and express that you appreciate that they exist. If you can think of qualities in them to appreciate, spend a moment visualizing those qualities and sending them gratitude.
If you choose to make this practice a regular part of your life, over time you can send gratitude to more difficult people in step #3. In the original metta practice that a yoga teacher or Buddhist monk would lead you through, you actually chose some you feel neutrally towards in step 3 and then someone you actively dislike in step #4. I won’t lie, I rarely get to the step #4 person. I think its partly because there’s not that many people that I actively dislike, so it doesn’t seem that pressing to me. Also partly because I find that #4 is something that’s easier to work up to, rather than just dive into. I don’t do metta every day, or even every week, but when I do, I generally do it one and then keep it up for a few days. It is essential not to start with s
omeone who infuriates you, but rather someone who bothers you just a little bit. But over time, you can exercise this muscle of gratitude, paired with forgiveness. This practice not only gives you the benefit of gratitude practice of feeling happier, having new perspectives, and taking things lightly, it also seems to make your face brighter and stress level lower.
Well, I hope that you have a time to try out this practice. Remember its part beauty tip, part self growth work, part making the world a better place work.
However far you take this practice, whether it is step one all the way through step 4, you are setting into motion numerous health and mental benefits for yourself. I raise my glass to you for taking the time to love yourself and send love to others in the world. Thank you!
When was the last time you spent 5 minutes thinking about what is so great about yourself? How about what is so great about your kid, best friend, partner, etc? I encourage you to take 1 or 5 minutes today and in one of the pauses of your day, stop the constant flow of mental chatter and instead focus on feeling love, compassion, and gratitude towards one of the four categories of people.
Try it out and see what’s all the fuss about a Compassion Practice.
Have a great (grateful) day!