The gift of compassion for the Christmas ‘Blues'

The closing out of the year can bring the chance for peaceful reflection and renewal – for many it can also be a time of challenging family dynamics and for some, loneliness.

Perhaps even a mix of the two. Moments of joy and other moments of loneliness, anxiety or even sadness.

Taking a note from the powerful campaign to promote mental health awareness it is worth reinforcing that ‘its ok to not be ok’.  In the spirit of self-compassion this is perhaps a gentle invitation to remove the expectation that your Christmas and New Year season is supposed to be any certain way – To do otherwise could be to ensure you just keep waking up with an expectation hangover!

To help all of our working parent clients this blog entry seeks to sharpen the focus on personal and societal wellbeing through the gift of a simple Metta meditation. The practice of Metta meditation is a simple support to other awareness practices and takes the form of an everyday mindfulness practice that we all can do. The idea is to speak aloud specific words and phrases evoking a "boundless warm-hearted feeling." The strength of this feeling is not limited to or by family, religion, or social class.  

In this instance Metta is an attitude of recognising that everyone can feel good or feel bad, and that all, given the choice, will choose the former over the latter. It is a recognition of the most basic solidarity that we have with others, this sharing of a common aspiration to find fulfillment and escape suffering. Metta is empathy, the basis for compassion.  

The practice begins with self and gradually extends the wish for well-being happiness to all beings – especially prescient at this time of the year.

The following is a basic set of instructions freely given.

Brief Instructions for Loving-Kindness Meditation

To practice a loving-kindness meditation, sit in a comfortable and relaxed manner. Take two or three deep breaths with slow, long and complete exhalations. Let go of any concerns or preoccupations. For a few minutes, feel or imagine the breath moving through the center of your chest - in the area of your heart.

Metta is first practiced toward oneself, since we often have difficulty loving others without first being warm to ourselves. Sitting quietly, mentally repeat, slowly and steadily, the following or similar phrases:

May I be happy. May I be well. May I be safe. May I be peaceful and at ease.

While you say these phrases, allow yourself to sink into the intentions they express. A loving-kindness meditation consists primarily of connecting to the intention of wishing ourselves or others happiness. However, if feelings of warmth, friendliness, or love arise in the body or mind, notice them, acknowledge and accept them, allowing them to grow as you repeat the phrases. As an aid to the meditation, you might hold an image of yourself in your mind's eye. This helps reinforce the intentions expressed in the phrases.

After a period of directing loving-kindness toward yourself, bring to mind a friend or someone in your life who has deeply cared for you. Then slowly repeat phrases of loving-kindness toward them:

May you be happy. May you be well. May you be safe. May you be peaceful and at ease.

As you say these phrases, again sink into their intention or heartfelt meaning. And, if any feelings of kindness arise, connect the feelings with the phrases so that the feelings may become stronger as you repeat the words.

As you continue the meditation, you can bring to mind other friends, neighbours, acquaintances, strangers, animals, and finally people with whom you have any form of difficulty. You can either use the same phrases, repeating them again and again, or make up phrases that better represent the kindness you feel toward these beings.

May you all be well, May you all be happy, May you all rest easy this Christmas in peace.

Sometimes during this meditation, seemingly opposite feelings such as anger, grief, or sadness may arise. Take these to be signs that your heart is softening, revealing what is held there, whether positive or negative of positive. You can either shift to a broader mindfulness practice or you can—with whatever patience, acceptance, and kindness you can muster for such feelings—direct loving-kindness toward them. Above all, remember that there is no need to judge yourself for having these feelings.

Rob Bravo, Head of Wellbeing, Talking Talent