Thursday, January 24, 2013

Breathing Love

On a day when the thermometer is barely able to reach five degrees outside, a very heart-warming meditation exercise has emerged inside.

I had heard about meditation practices that involve breathing love into your heart, or breathing in rhythm with your heart, but today for some reason I decided to experiment with it.

I sat there at the meditation table, candles burning. I had a very soft blanket covering my head to keep warm. I slipped my right hand into my nightshirt and placed it against my bare chest, right over my heart. I took my left hand and laid it over the right hand. Feeling the skin of my hand against the skin of my breast was very reassuring. Feeling my two hands covering my heart was also resassuring.

Feeling the steady beating of my heart brought a smile to my face and comfort to my mind.

I began to breathe in and out, in rhythm with my heartbeat:
breathe in, beat beat,
breathe out, beat beat,
breathe in, beat beat,
breathe out, beat beat.

As I inhaled, I imagined the love from my heart mixing with the air in my lungs and making a circle in my chest. Over and over again the love and air -- light, free and clear -- passed around and around my heart. This circular pattern felt so comforting, and so warm and energizing, as if I was reminding myself, or perhaps teaching myself in a new way, that it's OK, indeed, it's important, to feel a profound love for oneself. Sharon Salzberg reminds us of this principle in her lovingkindness -- or metta -- meditation. In that meditation practice, which ultimately involves sending lovingkindness to all beings everywhere, we start by sending lovingkindness to ourselves, saying:

May I be happy.
May I be healthy.
May I be filled with lovingkindness.
May I be free from suffering and fear.
May I live with ease.

In order to be loving towards others, we must first love ourselves. We must accept who we are, with all of our strengths and good traits, as well as our weaknesses. We must be comfortable in our own skin and hopefully, delight in our own company. What better way to remind ourselves of this than by engaging two of our most basic life functions:

heartbeat and

Those of you who already meditate might want to give this one a try. And for those of you who say you can't meditate because your mind wanders, you may find it easier to concentrate on your breathing when you focus on synchronizing your heart beat with the in and out of your breathing.

I would love to hear from anyone who tries this exercise. Please feel free to write with feedback to

Meanwhile, have a good day and stay warm!

May you be happy.
May you be healthy.
May you be filled with lovingkindness.
May you be free from suffering and fear.
May you live with ease.

May all beings be happy.
May all beings be healthy.
May all beings be filled with lovingkindness.
May all beings be free from suffering and fear.
May all beings live with ease.

Thanks once more to Sharon Salzberg for bringing me the gift of her lovingkindness meditation.

1 comment:

Baye said...

I've been reading and listening to a number of podcasts lately on various ways to improve my meditation practice. This seems a distillation of many ideas to their simplest form. Off to give it a try!