We could spend our lifetimes exploring the power and practice of love. It’s a feeling, a verb, an experience, a goal, a theme, and so much more.
Let’s Talk about Love
As you read this, I invite you to look around and notice. Perhaps you are glancing at a photo of a loved one you’ve lost, seeing the smiling faces of children on the playground, or hearing your partner snoring the night away. Each of these experiences is an opportunity to be in love. Some opportunities come with ease and grace.
Other situations, like being cut off on the drive home, walking into your teenager’s trashed room, or reading unkind comments left on your recent blog post, are also opportunities to be in love. Some opportunities are uncomfortable, easier to resist, and often require more effort to unravel.
To me, being in love means, actively loving, intentionally choosing to receive love, and believing in the power and process of love. This is a choice that I can make in any situation, no matter how easy or challenging I perceive the opportunity to be.
Notice what ideas come to your mind. What does being in love mean to you?
Today we will explore a practice and a mindset for stepping into love as a family.
It All Starts with Ourselves
The spectrum of feelings the scenes above elicit is the same spectrum of sensations we carry towards ourselves. Pause. You may want to reread that.
Notice the thoughts, feelings, and beleifs that arise as you consider this idea.
Next, I invite you to sit in quiet reflection for a few moments. Catalog all of the loving, kind, generous thoughts you’ve given YOU today. You may choose to do this with pen and paper or simply in your mind, as a meditation.
Next, consider all of the yuckier, muckier, critical, undesirable thoughts you’ve thought about yourself today. Do you best not to add a second layer of judgment on top of these thoughts, finding yourself disappointed in the tendency towards negative self-talk. You are human, and this is a process. The goal here is to establish awareness.
We can get in touch with love on a very deep level when we view our inner chatter as yet another powerful opportunity to love. When we meet each sensation, each thought with acceptance and compassion (to the best of our ability), we can fall more deeply in love with ourselves and with this human experience.
The Path to Being in Love
Loving-kindness meditations have been instrumental in helping me meet the range of human experiences with an open heart. Loving-kindness practices are affirmative phrases that intend and invoke love, happiness, safety, and ease for oneself and for others.
This practice can be done in seated meditation or used as we find ourselves melting into our keyboards at work, stuck in traffic, or zoning out at the kids’ soccer games. First, begin with yourself. Begin by saying or thinking phrases like “May I be peaceful,” “May I be filled with happiness and joy,” and “May I be free from harm and suffering.” As you speak or think these affirmations, it can be helpful to focus on your breath. Stay here, with yourself, as long as you need.
After you send yourself love, and depending on your capacity and energy in the moment, you can begin to extend this love outwards. Next, you may send loving kindness to friends, family, and loved ones. The phrases can be the same or similar to the ones you used in blessing yourself with love.
Next, you can extend love to those in your communities and neighborhoods, country, continent, and the world. This includes people you love with ease, as well as people or groups you feel more neutral towards. You can include plants and animals, too!
Finally, and again, only if and when you have the mental, emotional, and spiritual space in a given day, you can widen your circle, sending loving kindness towards people who you disagree with or may consider “enemies” or find yourself having a harder time loving. I invite you to be curious about how this part of the practice impacts you over time.
The Process of the Practice
Whether your unique loving-kindness practice focuses only on yourself or expands to people you are in conflict with, I invite you to notice the thoughts you had both before and after the practice. Observe any changes in your body and mind too.
Loving-kindness can be a slow growth process. You may find that falling in love with every aspect of yourself or others is a constant and neverending process. Furthermore, it’s okay and normal to have a greater capacity or connection some days, just as it is to feel challenged on other days. You will create muscle memory and orient yourself towards love every time you practice. Therefore, you can only ever move forward.
As you go deeper into this practice and explore how it can support your work as a parent, caregiver, friend, and so you, you may find yourself needing to reach out and connect with (and maybe even process with) others. I recommend starting by naming you your support system. This is a simple, yet powerful tool.
Finally, this practice is one that you can share with your entire family. The children, teens, and young adults in your life can use this practice as an anchor in the midst of their busy lives. I invite you to book a complimentary Discovery Call to learn more about how coaching can support your entire family.