May I Meet This, Too, With Kindness
It goes without saying that much of what happens in our inner and outer lives is out of our control. But we can learn to respond to it with kindness, both to ourselves and to others.
Particularly if you meditate, you may have noticed the surprising imprints of things that happen every day: the residue that those nagging emails from your boss leave in your mind; the restlessness stemming from the laundry list of items you need to do; the anxiety over the number in your bank account; or a general discontent from all the things that maybe aren’t going exactly how you want them to.
As meditators, we can see directly that these imprints aren’t necessarily the problem. In meditation, we get to know the rotating guests of emotions quite well. But we also see that we can decide what to do with them. Habitually, of course, when we encounter an unpleasant feeling, we try to make it go away, or avoid it, or simply wish it weren’t there.
But it is possible instead to make peace with these undesired guests by meeting them with kindness. Doing so can be an internal truce that lets the incredible alchemy of the heart unfold in our daily lives.
For instance, suppose your inner critic is judging you for something you said or did. By developing the capacity to meet your thoughts with kindness, what once led to shame and that pit of tightness in your chest might now be met with a kinder, warmer nod of acknowledgment as you become aware of your self-talk’s tone. You might reply, “Ah, anxiety, fear, meanness, self-deprecation —here you are again, my dear old friends.”
This kind, well-meaning approach toward our hearts and minds helps us move in the life directions we want to be going in while being more accepting and compassionate about our setbacks, failures, and habits of self-sabotage. The moment I began to welcome my unwanted guests with kindness—sending lovingkindness toward each thought, feeling, and corner of sadness in my heart—is when I felt the first taste of real healing in my life.
How might this work in practice? One method I learned from my teacher, Diana Winston, is elegantly simple. In your usual meditation, simply add a few words to each time you notice your attention wandering: May I meet this too with kindness.
Whatever comes up, repeat this phrase of loving-kindness toward your thoughts, feelings, or sensations. Do it as many times as you need to, then guide your attention back to the anchor of the breath once again.
Try this practice for the duration of your meditation. See if you can notice how it feels to meet yourself with kindness instead of judgment or reaction. Perhaps, after you meditate, continue this reflection in a journal. How does it feel when I meet myself with kindness instead of judgment or reaction? Let any answers flow onto the page.
And then, as you move through the day, try repeating the same phrase – “may I meet this, too, with kindness” – whenever you notice you are being hard on yourself, judgmental toward yourself, or unkind in any way. Often, learning to meet yourself with kindness can feel like the medicine your heart and inner life yearns for, especially if you’re used to meeting yourself with all kinds of judgment and past conditioning.
Finally, see if you can extend this intention toward anything that happens in your day, or to anyone you encounter, especially when things aren’t going the way you would like them to. Lean into the intention to meet all that is here with kindness.
Meeting what is present with kindness teaches us the profound lesson of letting go into our human experience, even into the unwanted stuff. It is ultimately a practice of radical inclusion toward ourselves, toward other people, and toward the challenging experiences of life. It keeps us from fighting our unwanted thoughts, memories, idiosyncrasies, and experiences, and gives them the room to be here. This simple spaciousness is the doorway into the heart.
Amanda Gilbert is a Trained Mindfulness Facilitator with UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center and InsightLA . She is also trainied in Mindfulness-based Eating Awareness Instructor and Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction. Amanda is the author of Kindness Now: A 28-Day Guide to Living with Authenticity, Intention, and Compassion.