Yesterday I spent most of the day in silence. Actually, that’s not a hardship for me, but being without the internet or my iPad usually is!
The day was part of a “Mindfulness’ Course, which I have been attending run by Tina Mogensen here in Doha. The course runs for 8 weeks, one night per week and then has the ‘day of silence’ at the over half way stage. The programme is based on the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D. is internationally known for his work as a scientist, writer, and meditation teacher engaged in bringing mindfulness into the mainstream of medicine and society. He is Professor of Medicine emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, where he was founding executive director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society, and founder (in 1979) and former director of its world-renowned Stress Reduction Clinic.
The benefits of the daily practice of Mindfulness are now well documented with measurable results in stress reduction. For me, my main objective in starting the programme was to find a framework which would help me rediscover the discipline of a daily practice of meditation.
For many years I have struggled with prayer and meditation, not just the struggle with the ‘monkey mind’ which leaps about takes thoughts off on meandering journeys, but also I’ve struggled with sticking to a daily routine. So in signing up to a 8 week course with other people attending, I hoped I would be more focused and motivated to do the homework!
I have to report it has been working really well. Most days I manage a 30 – 40 min meditation and have also found my way back to an earlier practice I adopted 15 years ago with Jack Black’s Mindstore System. Coincidentally, yesterday Mindstore launched its new online website and I am sure I will post more about this as the site develops.
Back to yesterday. As well as the meditations we had been introduced to over the past weeks, we were introduced to a meditation which was new to me (but is a core Buddhist Metta Meditation). This is known as ‘Loving Kindness’ Meditation.
The practice proceeds in a very structured and specific way. After directing ‘loving kindness’ to yourself and close loved ones, you move to a ‘neutral’ person. Someone you neither like nor dislike. Then you move to someone with whom you have had difficulty or conflict. To send loving kindness to difficult or threatening people is not to forget your own needs. It doesn’t require denial of your own pain, anger, or fear. Nor does doing this practice mean you’re excusing malicious or cruel behaviour. Rather you are engaging in a process of discovering and cultivating your inherent capacity for unconditional love.
Over the years there have been people and situations which have demanded my forgiveness. Sometimes all I have been able to do is say the words and hope that in the end I will come to believe them. But this practice was much more powerful for me. It is also a challenge! However, over the next days and weeks and hopefully months and years, I will incorporating the practice of sending loving kindness to people who have caused me pain in the past. I am hoping this will be a transformative experience for all involved.