Love Thy Neighbor

The Golden Rule

Love thy Neighbor

The Golden Rule and variations on that theme have been in effect since ancient times, from Babylon and Egypt to Greece and China.  It’s written about in the Bible, the Torah, and is found in Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Jainism.

The Golden Rule and the Love thy Neighbor commandment instruct us to do unto others as we would have them to unto us. Or love the other as we love ourselves.

Often when we look at these tenets we see them as instructive in ways to treat the other. Being kind and generous to others is rewarded.  It’s even said in the yoga tradition that the path of service, or karma yoga, can lead to enlightenment. I don’t doubt that, but why is it that flight attendants have to remind us to put our own oxygen mask on in an emergency before we help others, could it be we forget to take care of ourselves in the name of service?

Let’s look at this rule or commandment more closely.  We often overlook the basis of the rule or commandment – which refers to how we’d like to be treated, or even how we treat ourselves.  Love thy neighbor as thyself.   Putting this practice into effect has to start with loving ourselves. How do you love yourself? Sometimes when people come to learn to meditate we take a look at how they treat themselves. Every one of us has thoughts in meditation or sometimes drift off in a daydream, but there are some students that are so hard on themselves when this happens – getting angry or frustrated with themselves – a habit they’ve fallen into as a way to make themselves do it right. Some people simply believe they can’t do it at all, or that there is something inherently wrong with them. Of course they can meditate, I remind them. I’ve never yet met someone who can’t.

I suggest that they practice being sweet to themselves, in and out of meditation. And by sweet, I don’t mean buying a new outfit or an ice cream, I mean actually being kind to yourself, and paying attention to yourself. Maybe you’ve forgotten your own inner loveliness. You are wise, you are kind, you are aware, and you know what is good for you on a very basic level. Being unkind to ourselves can simply be an old habit. It might come up that someone stays in a relationship that isn’t nourishing, or they say nasty things to themselves when they look in the mirror, or don’t take good care of their body, or don’t listen to their own inner wisdom. What if we treated our neighbor based on the ways that we sometimes treat (or loved) ourselves? We’d ignore them, say nasty things about them, or not care about them in some way. You see how that goes?

How we treat ourselves can inform everything we say or do. We have to become aware of it first, we each have to expand our awareness. I’ve written about really listening to yourself, discovering your intuition, asking yourself what you really want, living in tune with nature, beginning your meditation practice, and remembering to be grateful. But it all comes down to loving one’s self – which is often more difficult than it sounds. It takes practice.

There is a Buddhist meditation practice known as Loving Kindness (You don’t have to be Buddhist to do it.) It has the immediate benefit of sweetening and changing old habituated negative patterns of mind. In this simple practice, one begins with truly experiencing love for themselves, and from there, one meditates on kindness to others.

It goes like this:

  • Sit down and relax your body. Give yourself three slow, deep breaths through your nose and then let your breath return to a natural rhythm.
  • Bring your attention to your heart center, gently place your hand there if you like.
  • Take some time to cultivate a warm and gentle feeling for yourself.
  • Silently say some sweet things to yourself, with a sense of sincerity, kindness and warmth (see some examples below.)
  • Notice how your heart and mind respond. There is no need to hurry.
  • Experience your heart slowly fill with the warmth and bliss of your own loving intention.
  • After you give yourself the attention, you can then have the same intention for all beings to be well and free from suffering.
  • Keep your eyes closed for a few minutes and enjoy for a few moments your state of being.
  • Take three breaths through your nose, deeper than normal, and come back to yourself and the environment you are sitting in.

Here are some intentions I use, choose one that resonates with you, or come up with your own:

  • May I be filled with loving kindness. May I be peaceful and at ease. May I be free from suffering.
  • I am safe. I am cared for. I am loved and all is well.
  • May I become an intimate, kind, and friendly force for myself and all of life.
  • May I be completely present in my own life.
  • May I know and experience the Divine fully.
  • I accept myself exactly as I am and exactly as I am not.
  • May I remember the universal kindness which surrounds me at every moment.
  • There is no one on earth who is more deserving of my love than me.
  • May I be on my own side and not betray myself.

The more I practice Loving Kindness, the more I learn to know myself as a person capable of warmth, of sweetness, of love and a peaceful response to life. I trust myself more and have more to give. Each act of kindness to others then becomes an act of gentleness to myself and to my own spirit.

© 2011 All Rights Reserved. Sarah McLean, Sedona Meditation Training Co. www.SedonaMeditation.com

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The Five Essentials for Successful Meditation

An excerpt from the Introduction of Soul-Centered: Transform Your Life in 8 Weeks with Meditation 

Before you begin your 8-week journey to becoming soul-centered, there are five basic keys to success in meditation that I want to address. These are: (1) it’s okay to have thoughts during meditation, (2) don’t try too hard, (3) let go of expectations, (4) be kind to yourself, and (5) stick with it. And it’s important to know this: The way you meditate and treat yourself in meditation is the way you treat yourself as you live your life.

1. It’s Okay to Have Thoughts

If you’re thinking, I probably can’t do this program because I have too many thoughts, then you are not alone. Perhaps you’ve already tried to meditate for a few minutes once or twice, and it “didn’t work.” You sat down, closed your eyes, and tried to clear your mind but couldn’t. Then you gave up.

Students in my classes often tell me, “I can’t stop thinking.” My reply is, “That’s right, you can’t stop the thoughts.” I explain that you can’t stop thoughts by thinking about not thinking, because the nature of the mind is to think, like the nature of your eyes are to see. If you try to stop thinking, your effort will make you frustrated and possibly give you a headache.

You don’t need to completely stop thinking during meditation. Instead, the meditation practices you will learn in this program naturally settle your mind and body, making it easier to experience the subtler levels of your thoughts and impulses. Sometimes the thought process even stops for a moment or two, and before another thought or sensation arises, you’ll have experienced the silence that is always present, underlying the thoughts, the silence of your soul. This stillness of mind is not created by you stopping your thoughts. Instead, it is a natural process that is always available to be experienced—it is merely revealed through meditating.

2. Don’t Try Too Hard

I once taught meditation to a heart surgeon and his wife on New Year’s Day (he had called and set up an appointment at 9 a.m., wanting to start the year off right). After they learned to meditate he asked how he could “get good at it.” I responded by asking him how he got to be “good” at surgery.Practice, right? Well, it’s the same with meditation.

At first, you may try to do it “right.” But you soon find that overly working at it, trying too hard, forcing it, or concentrating only creates more thoughts and bad habits. You can’t try to do anything without the mind getting involved.  Instead of expending mental effort or trying to have a certain experience, you’ll learn to refocus your attention, gently. Contrary to what so many believe, you don’t get good at meditation by trying hard to do it. Instead, the practice requires ease and effortlessness.

With meditation, your mind and body will settle down naturally, and as with any natural process, too much effort can ruin the process. For example, trying to go to sleep, even if you’re tired, can make you miserable. Trying to come up with a new idea and force through a creative block is the same way—it rarely works. Trying to meditate is similar, because meditation is an effortless pursuit. The only effort you put in is the effort to set aside the time and space for your regular practice. Some of us are in the habit of having to be doing something in order to feel a sense of satisfaction, and that includes “doing” meditation, trying hard at it. Instead, meditation is trains you to get comfortable “being”, being yourself without effort.

3. Let Go of Expectations

You may have preconceived notions of what is supposed to be going on during meditation and how you should feel or what you should experience. Many of us have seen pictures of the monks in robes or yogis sitting cross-legged, some have heard  stories about the wild experiences some meditators have, but I love to teach those who have no expectations about meditation. First timers come and sit with me for 15-20 minutes and then report that they felt great and that it was easy. I attribute this to “beginner’s mind,” an attitude you’ll learn more about in Week Three.

During meditation, you’ll have all kinds of experiences—some you like better than others, and some you’ll want to repeat in your next meditation. It’s important to treat each meditation as innocently as the first time you learned, and expect nothing. Let go of expectations or wanting your meditation to go a certain way. The body and mind are intelligent and will naturally do what they need to do to eliminate stress and to create a nourishing effect.

I’m often asked, How will I know I’m doing it right? My answer is that when you approach meditation without expectations, without trying “too hard” or attempting to control your experience, and with a sense of ease and welcome for whatever experiences arise, then you are doing it right. Instead of judging your meditations as good or bad based on the experiences you have in meditation, you’ll see if it’s working another way. Ultimately, most people notice they are doing it right because they notice changes in their lives: they’re happier, more relaxed, less stressed, more creative, more perceptive, and more appreciative of their lives.

4. Be Kind to Yourself

An essential key to meditating correctly is to be kind to yourself. This is one of the most important things I have learned through my years of practicing and teaching meditation.. While it should go without saying, I still say it because many people have learned to be tough on themselves. Being tough on yourself does not help change your behavior; it’s simply a bad habit. Instead, be gentle towards yourself as you commit to transforming your life. Don’t get down on yourself in meditation if your mind wanders, or you get bored, or the experiences you have in meditation don’t fulfill your expectations. Be nice to yourself when you are not meditating too. Don’t compare your experience to others’. All is well.

5. Stick with It

Finally, meditation only works if you stick with it and don’t give up. During your meditation period your mind may wander, you may feel restless, you’ll have a brilliant idea, or you think of something you simply must do (like check your email or write something down) and you may want to give up. But don’t. Simply begin again and return your awareness to the focus of your meditation. Have the discipline to do the practices and stick with the entire meditation period you committed to each day, whether it’s five minutes or half an hour, even if you’re antsy or bored.

By staying with the practice, you will create a new relationship with your mind. As you let the thoughts and impulses come and go, without taking action, you change your reactivity to a thought, and become the witness to your mental activity. This will lead you to a deeper understanding of how your mind works. Often when you feel a fidgety or feel frustrated in meditation, it’s an indication that you’re releasing a lot of stress. If you stick with the practice, the stress will dissipate and you’ll experience a “meditator’s high”. Don’t quit before the bliss! Don’t quit the program either. Stay with it each day for eight weeks. Meditating every day will give you the benefits, but not meditating won’t. Even if you don’t think anything is happening in meditation, science shows dramatic changes in the minds and bodies of consistent meditators. And you’ll soon believe it once you see the benefits for yourself..

***

Now is a good time to ask yourself: What is my intentionHow do I want to live my life? How do I want my life to transform? If you don’t discover the answers right away, be patient, eventually the answers will come. Each meditation you engage in will reveal, or be inherently inspired by, your sincere intention.

Read on, visit http://www.Soul-Centered.com for more excerpts!

© 2011 All Rights Reserved. Sarah McLean, Sedona Meditation Training Co. www.SedonaMeditation.com

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