When we practice mindfulness, we can cultivate kindness within ourselves and develop an “unconditional friendliness” with ourselves and others and over time, with deep practice, our brain changes to a less reactive, more calm place. But did you know that you can jumpstart your brain with specific kindness and goodness practices that help you get there quicker?
These goodness practices come from traditional practices of mindfulness taught by the Buddha and they are designed to open our hearts so that we can cultivate a warmer practice, an ability to bring in positive feelings when we are needing them most. This is a skill that may be learned as a way to buoy you up in difficult moments of your life — or to bring in kindness to open your heart to your pain or the pain of others more easily and compassionately. Truly, loving kindness practices and other goodness practices can help you live from a more compassionate place — from a place of open heartedness, even in the face of fear, despair and grief.
The Self-Compassion research has shown that certain practices done regularly can change your brain permanently. This means, you stay more on a loving and less reactive channel and you can respond more compassionately to the situations that come to you in your life. The research also shows that you are more productive and less distracted than if you are critical or judging of yourself and your actions as a way of trying to do better. Being loving to yourself and bringing in kindness is what these practices can teach you.
Here’s the first practice: “Loving Kindness for Ourselves”
Wishing yourself well – Bringing in the goodness inside of you, naming it, feeling it as you say it slowly over and over inside to yourself. Just notice your breath and your heart and focus on the words and their meaning.
May I be happy
May I be peaceful
May I be healthy
May I live with ease
Sometimes it’s hard to feel our own goodness. If this is happening for you, try this practice first where you think of someone who loves you very much unconditionally (this can be a pet or a child). Think of this Loved One and feel their love for you coming in. As you allow their love to surround you and come into your heart, say these words:
May you be happy
May you be peaceful
May you be healthy
May you live with ease
Now come back to yourself and your loved one together: Create a circle of kindness for both of you.
May you and I be happy
May you and I be peaceful
May you and I be healthy
May you and I live with ease.
Over time, you will begin to bring these words of goodness into your own heart directly.
You can also create your own phrases that really work for you such as: May I feel my own kindness,
May I feel safe, May I feel joy, May I feel rested and happy, May I let go of worry, etc.
(Taken from MSC course from the Center for Mindfulness in San Diego, and other Insight Meditation Teachers)
There are other practices like these that help you focus on goodness and bring in positive feelings. Another one
you can try this month is a Gratitude Practice. Each morning focus on something you are grateful for. You can write or speak what that is to yourself or create a list in your journal and feel each one slowly as you name them.
I hope you can join one of my retreats or courses and learn more of these powerful self-compassion practices that help you change the channel and bring in more love and kindness to your life. They are no substitute for daily mindfulness practice – they just turn up the channel to warm your heart sooner.