I’ve taken a while to decide where to start this story. Breaking with tradition I’m beginning in the middle when I went along to an introduction to meditation at Newcastle Buddhist Centre in 2001. I’d just broken up with my partner and had moved back to Tyneside. I was ready for some change in my life. I’d been intrigued by meditation for a while but it had always seemed like something ‘other people’ did. Finally getting through the door I was surprised how natural breath based meditation felt and how much sense mindfulness made. I LOVED meditation- well truthfully I loved breathing meditation, more about the challenges of kindness meditation later…. Once I found mindfulness I realised it had been there all along, particularly as an integral part of my yoga practice and other mindful movement practices I’d being doing for a while. I’d prepared well for meditation without knowing what I was doing. I recognised the term “mindfulness” as shorthand for experiences I valued very much and gave me a sense of connection: being outside in nature; cycling; making art; dancing; music; generally just having space to be.
Sounds great but…I was also spaced out, over-sensitive and ungrounded; not to mention judgmental and angry with the (many!) perpetrators of injustice. These were the aspects which became really uncomfortable when they met kindness meditation, there was no way I could embrace this practice and stay the same. I found the breathing meditation so wonderful it gave me confidence to stick with the kindness practice, especially those 2 very tricky stages kindness to self and kindness to people I find difficult. Over time I found a way to make kindness meditation my own, this is something we all need to do as it involves our imagination and some thinking about the world wider than our meditation cushion. Questions which helped me on my journey are: “Why am I so ready to be injured by others? Do I need to take that personally? And How can I extend the kindness I feel for others to myself and people who do harm?”
These practices have helped me weather some challenging times and become much more peaceful, happier and resilient. I’d like to think being kinder has helped me be part of making the world a better place. In spite of being opposed to any formal religion for most of my 20s, after a little while I stopped resisting the fact that Buddhism kept on making sense to me and decided that I would try it out. It’s still working for me and I continue to practice mindfulness as a Buddhist. Maybe it’s easiest to say “My religion is kindness.”
Look out for further installments in my mindfulness journey including but not limited to: going on retreat; mindful movement; being a parent! And working mindfully.