I recently wrote about studies that show that the Buddhist practice of "lovingkindness" meditation can measurably improve your ability to feel connected to people you meet in the course of a day--creating many happy moments that will help keep you from feeling lonely, even if you don't have the perfect marriage or are missing someone.
A little bit helps. I've found that I can do this meditation while walking, or waiting at the doctor's office, or on the subway. The traditional way is to sit by yourself.
You begin by noticing your breath and slowing it down if you are agitated.
I've seen several variations on the following phrases and you may want to adjust the words for yourself.
You traditionally say the phrases inwardly.
May I be filled with lovingkindness.
May I be healthy in body and mind.
May I be safe from danger.
May I be truly happy and free.
As you repeat these phrases, picture yourself as you are now. Some people find it easier to feel kindness towards themselves if they imagine themselves as a child. You may feel awkward or empty or you may begin to be angry or despairing--with thoughts like "I'm not safe!" or "I'm not healthy!" Be patient and continue to wish yourself well.
Try this for twenty minutes as often as you can.
Once you feel this is going well--it may take several weeks--begin by praying for yourself for five to ten minutes and then picture someone who has been especially good to you and recite the same phrases, now...
May you be filled with lovingkindness.
May you be healthy in body and mind.
May you be safe from danger.
May you be truly happy and free.
Let the image and feelings you have for this person help you feel the meaning of the words.
Some people start by praying for a loving person before they pray for themselves.
Over time you can include other people, picturing each one and reciting the same phrases. Spend some time wishing well to a wider circle of friends. Then gradually extend to picture and include community members, neighbors, people everywhere, animals, all beings, the whole earth.
Finally, include the difficult people in your life.
I haven't used this prayer to think about the difficult people. I've found another prayer to be helpful when I was feeling especially anxious in relation to another person.
The prayer comes from a Hawaiian tradition called Ho'oponopono, a process for healing conflicts.
The four phrases are
I am sorry
Please forgive me
I love you
You can say them in any order. A common reaction is, "why should I apologize or ask for forgiveness if I'm not at fault?" Another reaction is "He's really to blame!" My own experience is that I feel bathed in acceptance and find more room to accept others. Often I think that I am forgiving myself for not always living up to my own expectations, that I have done myself wrong. Sometimes I became aware of ways I have hurt others that I didn't recognize before. But it's not necessary to focus on specific transgressions. This prayer always makes me much happier if I think nothing but the words.
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