Alone In Her Presence: Heart Leads the Way – The Practice of Loving Kindness

Alone In Her Presence: Heart Leads the Way – The Practice of Loving Kindness February 11, 2015

I have been reflecting a lot on what it means to love. I confess that as Valentine’s day approaches, I find myself leaning into the place where I think of myself as a failure. Especially when I look back at my failed attempts at romance, I wonder:  what sadist came up with a holiday celebrating romance? There is a certain inclination to wallow in self pity, eat chocolate, and listen to the “all alone on a Sunday morning” anthems of love lost. I know I’ve been there; right now is one of those times actually. And, as I watch the end of yet another failed attempt of romance, I wonder why we have this expectation of what it means to love, be loved, and love another?

Image via Erick DuPree
Image via Erick DuPree

The universe has an odd way of inviting me to question deeper. As I sat down to write today, the tea bag in my cup of tea offered this wisdom, Let your heart speak to other’s hearts. And I thought to myself, what might it look like if Valentine’s Day were re-framed? What if, instead of romantic love and the pursuit of it, we instead focused our hearts on loving the self as an entry point to knowing the heart? What does your heart say to you, and how does it lead the way?

Giving yourself permission to let the heart lead the way doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, it is so easy–one of the easiest invitations–and it starts with saying these magic words called a metta sutra.

May I be filled with loving kindness.
May I be well.
May I be peaceful and at ease.
May I be happy.

Even if at first you don’t know if you believe them, these words invite the feeling of love that already exists in your life. These words are the dedication of energies to love yourself, heal your pain, and welcome the possibility to live more fully. It’s a simple yet profound practice that will cultivate your heart to speak to other hearts. Loving kindness is the practice of inviting the heart, and it is essential to our health and happiness. Self-love is having the courage to make a deliberate decision to make a special place for yourself in your own heart … just as you are–right this second–flaws, fears, and all.

To cultivate the metta, start with oneself. The Buddha said, “You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”

To begin the metta practice, dig deeply to find your deepest wishes. Take your time to find your own words in your own language to express two or three or four of these deep wishes. From that intention of the heart, recite:

May I be filled with loving kindness.
May I be well.
May I be peaceful and at ease.
May I be happy.

Connect to the meaning, repeat the words slowly, and invite a gentle rhythm with your breath. Breath to heart, heart to mind, and mind to body, for at least five to ten minutes. Just start where you are.

Thich Nhat Han says, “Loving oneself is the foundation for loving another person.”  Knowing love, and being open to love that is boundless, is hard. In a culture that seeks defined beginnings and concrete endings, being in relationship takes work. Really all we can do is manifest the love that is within, heart to heart. That is where I find the practice, even when I cry in my pillow. When we dedicate the merit of love, first to ourselves, we set in motion the current of a heart that leads the way. The capacity for love is the greatness thing that makes human-kind unique. We have the potential to be virtuous and to live that virtue of love.

As Valentine’s Day approaches, I come into the practice of self-love, in the presence all all that is divine.

With that in mind, I invite you to lean into Valentine’s Day with a little more compassion for the self. Loving-kindness is a simple practice and one that can transform the way you experience the heart. As your heart’s capacity for it grows, you’ll find a great fullness of being, discover a warm kinship with all beings, and reveal the radiant heart within. When the heart leads the way, all is love, and love attracts more love.

What happens when you try this meditation? Please share in the comments.

Alone In Her Presence is published on alternate Wednesdays! Subscribe via RSS or e-mail.

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