By Leanna Gilliam
No other emotion is honored, lamented, pined for, sung over and cried over more than love. Love is a feeling state that can be all-consuming like a raging fire, serene and still like a clear lake, thrilling like a roller coaster or constant like the sunrise and sunset.
However one might describe love, for me, feeling love can put me at a loss for words. Winnie the Pooh said it so well when Piglet asked “Pooh, how do you spell Love?” and Pooh says, “You don’t spell Love, Piglet, You feel it.”
In those moments when I hear my daughters laugh, when my dog greets me when I come home, when a dear friend gives me a hug, there is warmth in my heart space, a letting go in my shoulders, a softening in my belly. And more, so much more. I FEEL love.
Some of my friends and I talk about life before meditating and life after. One of the universal observations is that since we began meditating we feel more intensely. This is so brave!
We sit, we observe our breath, our body, our mind and our emotions. In doing so, we bear witness to our humanness with all of our frailties, fears, strengths and joys. We become familiar with the barriers to our hearts and the vulnerability and resilience underneath. When the armor comes off our tender hearts there is more than enough room there to feel all “The Feels.”
In my experience, the only way to remove the heart’s armor is to first look at it through the eyes of love and acceptance. What is the armor made of? Where did it come from? Are there layers? These inquiries and their answers can be life-long conversations and ones that are so worthy to engage.
A loving-kindness practice is a powerful form of meditation that can help dissolve the barriers to our hearts, and perhaps most importantly to feel love for ourselves.
Thich Nhat Hanh, one of the best known Zen teachers in the world who recently passed away, said this about loving-kindness. “The essence of loving-kindness is being able to offer happiness… So build a home inside by accepting yourself and learning to love and heal yourself. Learn how to practice mindfulness in such a way that you can create moments of happiness and joy for your own nourishment. Then you have something to offer the other person.”
He offers this Love Meditation as an adaptation of loving-kindness or metta meditation from the Visuddimagga (The Path of Purification) and printed in his book How to Love. I find the words of this version of loving-kindness to be especially poignant.
Sitting still, breathing naturally, bringing a quality of calm and stability into your body, repeat these phrases to yourself and for yourself first. Then bring the image of a loved one in your mind’s eye. Offer them these phrases by stating them with “May you..” , then offer the phrases to someone you don’t know well (a neutral person), then to someone who is difficult to get along with and then finally offer these phrases to all beings by stating them with “May all beings…”.
May I be peaceful, happy, light in body and spirit.
May I be safe and free from injury.
May I be free from anger, afflictions, fear and anxiety.
May I learn to look at myself with the eyes of understanding and love
May I be able to recognize and touch the seeds of joy and happiness in myself.
May I learn to identify and see the sources of anger, craving and delusion in myself.
May I know how to nourish the seeds of joy in myself every day.
May I be able to live fresh, solid and free.
May I be free from attachment and aversion, but not be indifferent.
Notice how you feel without judgment, just allow your experience to be as it is. As you cultivate a meditation and loving-kindness practice, the invitation is to turn towards your own heart, where words aren’t necessary, where love lives and where there is limitless permission to feel love for yourself and for others.