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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Love and Compassion

"Love your neighbor as yourself."
~ Jesus (and countless others)

For the past six months or so in Saturday Morning Mindfulness that meets at our church we have been spending a portion of our time exploring love and compassion in our lives.

The exercise we do is pretty simple and straight forward.  While in a mindful awareness (simply sitting relaxed, still and silent) we remember a time when we felt unconditional love and acceptance in our lives.  This could be a long standing relationship with another person, the devotion from a pet, a fleeting encounter experienced in a smile or eye contact with a stranger, or even a moment in nature when we felt connected and accepted for who we are. In the exercise we call this remembered feeling our "benefactor."

After identifying our benefactor, whoever or whatever that may be, we imagine ourselves bathed in the light of our benefactor, and then that light resting and glowing deep within us.  We relax in that feeling of total, unconditional love and acceptance of who we are.

The next steps of the exercise invite us to share this light of unconditional love with others as we imagine and envision the light of love within us going out to someone else with no strings attached.  We imagine the same unconditional love and acceptance that rests and glows deep within us as also resting and glowing in others.

We do this first with someone close to us with whom we already have a loving relationship.  This is the easy part.  Then we identify a neutral relationship in our lives, perhaps a person we see regularly on the sidewalk, in a frequently used business, at the gym, or in our place of worship, and we extend our light of love to them.  Finally comes the difficult part which is to extend our light of love to someone with whom we have an adversarial relationship, someone who has harmed or hurt us, someone who we truly dislike.  In all cases we project the unconditional love and acceptance of our benefactor to others without the expectation of anything in return.

Finally we return to the light of love and acceptance within us and rest in it for a moment before ending the exercise.

I invite you to find a few minutes today or sometime soon and try this simple mindful practice of experiencing love and practicing compassion in your life.  The more you do it, the more you will begin to recognize and feel the love within you, as well as the countless opportunities to share that love with others, even people you don't know, and especially people with whom you are in conflict.

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Thanks to each of you and I look forward to many more weeks and years of sharing with you.       

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