Recently, I had the pleasure of spending time at the Milwaukee Catholic Home (MCH). What a lovely place and yet even more lovely, the people who reside at MCH. We gathered on the third floor on a Friday afternoon to practice lovingkindness. LovingKindness is an ancient practice of offering kindness and good will to others and to oneself. One enters into this practice like others by finding a comfortable posture. This could be sitting, lying down or standing. On this day, we began by sitting and then we continued our practice by inviting a mentor or benefactor to arise in our hearts and minds. A mentor or benefactor is a being who has been there for us. It could be a person who has supported us. It could be a church member. A teacher. A friend. A stranger. It could even be a pet! Next, after we identify a mentor or benefactor, we quietly repeated four simple loving phrases to the mentor or benefactor. In effect, we are offering good will and wishes for this person. For example, my benefactor on this occasion was the secretary at the church where I grew up. Her name was Mrs. Murphy. Mrs. Murphy had this ability to always smile and listen. She was a person who always puts me at ease. She is long gone now. However, her kindness still resides in my heart to this day. At MCH, she was the first person to arise in my heart as we began our practice of lovingkindness. After identifying a mentor or benefactor, we offered four lovingkindness phrases: May you be safe and protected. May you be healthy and strong. May you be happy. May you be at ease.
Take a moment right now and allow a mentor or benefactor to arise in your heart and mind. It could be a teacher, a family member, a neighbor or may be a stranger? Offer the phrases of lovingkindness to this mentor or benefactor and say it like you really mean it: May you be safe and protected. May you be healthy and strong. May you be happy. May you be at ease.
Next, offer these phrases to yourself. (This is sometimes the most difficult one.) Go ahead and try. May I be safe and protected. May I be healthy and strong. May I be happy. May I be at ease.
Next, offer these phrases to your family, your partner, your neighborhood, your colleagues at work; offer them to our planet, our leaders and the people who challenge us. May all of you be safe and protected. May all of you be healthy and strong. May all of you be happy. May all of you be at ease.
After our practice, the community at the Milwaukee Catholic Home talked about their experiences of the lovingkindness practice. One resident commented that she accidently left her door open in her apartment and someone on her floor noticed this and knocked at her door simply to make sure she was all right. The resident spoke with tears in eyes. I suspect she was touched by one simple act of kindness. Someone cared. In a world of uncertainty, doesn’t one simple act of kindness go a long way? The practice of lovingkindness can invite us to recall such moments and actually to BE vessels of lovingkindness for each other. These moments are often not complex or demanding. They are often simple and ordinary, inviting us to greater connection and healing and loving.
Consider one act of kindness today. See what you notice. What do you feel in your body?
One more thing. if anyone wants to increase their happiness, visit and connect with our elders. There were many other stories shared at MCH that afternoon that moved everyone in the room. It inspired and touched everyone. Stories of thoughtfulness. Generosity. Wisdom. Humor. I don’t know about you but our world is in sore need of such stories and simple acts of kindness.