By: Nina Smiley, Ph.D., Director of Mindfulness Programming, Mohonk Mountain House
Passionate love gets most of our attention, but there is also a love that the Greeks called agape—universal love, or loving kindness: a love that sees the connections in all of us. This is a higher love, which we can mindfully choose to tap into to work through stress, grief, relationship issues, and more. This love is lightness and energy, and it’s ongoing. It’s a perfect combination with mindfulness, which seeks to step back, breathe, and focus on the moment.
As I worked through the grief of my husband’s passing last year, I began to mindfully focus on the joy of the love that I had, rather than only experiencing the pain of the loss. I could choose to “change the channel”—away from the sadness channel, and toward the joyful channel—an empowering channel where the love was not defined by the loss, but instead by the history and positive memories, the ongoing feelings of love toward my husband and the larger universe. The pain of grief is a smaller part of a larger love. The anguish of loss is a focus point, but what surrounds it is the wonderful love that we had and that I will continue to cherish. By tapping into a larger love, I could show loving kindness towards others, which reinforced my approach of embracing this universal love.
This notion of changing the channel can be applied everywhere. With conflicts such as with a spouse or child, we can be frustrated in the moment, but we can still be grateful to have them in our lives. We can choose to pause, avoid saying things that are hurtful, and shift to compassion. Instead of a harsh judgment, we can express concern. Instead of letting anger motivate our words, we can change our approach and let caring be our guide.
To shift towards acting through mindfulness and love, begin by breathing gently and fully. Clear the mind. Remove your fears and expectations. Be present and truly listen without an agenda. You can better understand how the other person views things. You can have a conversation that is solution-based, not adversarial. Use a loving kindness meditation that I practice: “May I be happy. May I be peaceful. May I be free from suffering.” And then move outward: “May you be happy. May you be peaceful. May you be free from suffering.”
We can be open to changing the channel to compassion instead of anger, to listening instead of stressing, to reaching out instead of closing down. Through mindfulness and love, we can embrace a new approach.
Visit us during Mindfulness in Minutes and immerse yourself into the ancient art of nature, mindfulness, and self-awareness.