Loving Kindness: Two Years and Going Strong*
If you go to @cmoon’s feed on Twitter, you’ll find a Tweet pinned to the top that reads, “I guess it’s a good thing when I #meditate more than I tweet.” And if you scroll down, you’ll find almost-daily invitations to join a loving kindness meditation, something along the lines of: “Just wrapped 20 minutes of meditating on loving kindness. Join me next time?”
Cristina Moon, the force behind @cmoon, joined the staff at Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute as the marketing manager in January 2017. And for exactly two years now, she’s set her intention almost solely on loving kindness meditations, a heart-opening, resilience-building, compassion-oriented practice that’s changed the way she connects with others, as well as how she generates motivation and confidence within herself.
Why are you doing this particular meditation? And what do you hope the outcome will be?
I’d been doing awareness of breathing meditation and concentration meditation for nine years, including on silent meditation retreats. While I felt like my mind had become really clear and focused as a result, I wanted to also spend time strengthening my heart. This included growing my capacity to be warm hearted toward others and also healing some of my own traumas and triggers.
When I decided to start a heart-centered meditation practice, I was starting a challenging business school program. I was intimidated by my peers, especially because I don’t come from a traditional business or even private sector background. I figured that offering myself kindness when I felt intimidated or overwhelmed from comparing myself to others would reduce my own insecurities and make me more resilient.
What are the benefits of repeating this same meditation?
Like doing reps with weights at the gym, sticking with loving kindness meditation has made my ability to turn on warmth for myself and others stronger and more flexible. It comes more easily and it’s more resilient now. I can even turn it on in challenging situations when I would have been triggered previously or while doing everyday activities, such as riding my bike or commuting to work.
Does anything evolve from previous sessions, or it is different every day?
I learned a few years ago not to expect that I can pick up from the last sitting or the last retreat. So yes, it’s different every day. My job is to be open to whatever comes up with the same beginner’s mind, curiosity and interest.
How do you determine the length of each day’s meditation?
Mostly, it depends on how much time I have. But sometimes, I’ll challenge myself and say, “I’ve had a stressful few weeks, and I haven’t had a long meditation sit. So could I sit for 45 minutes or an hour today?” And then I’ll sit longer. But usually, I sit for 20 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes before bed.
What’s your meditation background?
I first read Suzuki Roshi’s Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind when I was 13, then learned meditation from a Korean Zen monk in high school. I didn’t actually start practicing meditation seriously until I was 26, living in Washington, D.C., and going to meditation sits and dharma talks in Bethesda, Maryland. Then I attended a 10-day meditation retreat, did a few of more of those and started meditating regularly in a variety of places. In 2010, I met my teachers who live in San Rafael. I’ve been doing concentration practices, including awareness of breathing and these heart-centered practices, with them ever since. In 2012, I was also certified as a yoga teacher.
Can you offer any tips for this meditation?
Start with something simple, such as Chade Meng-Tan’s Just Like Me meditation. It’s a modern reframe of loving kindness where you find what you have in common with someone else and use that as a starting point to wish them well.
If you want to go deeper, Sharon Salzburg and Tara Brach have written and recorded a lot about radical self-compassion, compassion and loving kindness.
The most important thing to remember is not to be attached to outcomes or expectations. A lot of people start meditating by watching the breath and are disappointed that their minds don’t feel calmer right away. In fact, they often feel more restless at first because they realize just how busy their minds are. It’s the same way with heart-centered practices. At some point, it’s possible that the opposite of loving kindness will come up. But usually, if you stick with it, feel around the edges and have patient interest in what’s happening, that will pass. And that’s when you can really learn something about your own capacity for loving kindness and how to grow it.
What’s the history of loving kindness?
Loving kindness, or metta meditation, in the ancient Pali language from Nepal and India is one of four heart-centered practices that are described in Buddhist, Hindu and Jain teachings. The other practices cover compassion for suffering, joy for others’ good fortune and equanimity.
*This is the first blog in a series that shares the stories of SIYLI staff and their mindfulness practices.