The winter holiday season is supposed to be about cheerful things – like loving your neighbor and sending compassion to those less fortunate. This can be easy to do when things are going well. But what happens when you are feeling the pain of grief, when you are missing someone you love very much, and all around you are reminders to feel “cheerful,” but that is the exact opposite of how you feel? If you try to force yourself to feel good, it will more than likely backfire and make you feel worse. A more skillful approach is the mindful one: open your heart to your suffering and invite in compassion – rather than forcing yourself to feel something that is untrue.
The ancient Buddhist practice of metta meditation offers a formal way to practice compassion and loving-kindness. You begin with yourself, and then send well wishes to other beings in The following order:
- Teacher or Spiritual Leader
- Neutral Person
- Difficult Person
- All Sentient Beings
The goal is not to fake it to make it, but rather to recognize the “Buddha nature” or goodness in all beings. As you scan the list, you may wonder how you are going to send loving-kindness to a difficult person in your life. The skillful instruction is to not start with your worst enemy but instead choose someone with whom you feel you can connect with compassionately. I don’t want to give away all the instructions in this article, rather I hope you will try it for yourself in the free download offered below.
Mindfulness & Grief, which will be released in March 2014, has a whole chapter dedicated to Compassion and Forgiveness. This preview meditation will give you insight into how the practice of metta meditation can help reduce the suffering of grief through the holidays and beyond.