A Way To Release Self-Rejection and Shame

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If you need help letting go of self-rejection and shaming thoughts or feelings, consider trying The Loving-kindness Meditation.

This technique has been used for about 2,600 years which suggests it must be effective. It was also the subject of a research study that indicates the meditation promotes a sense of well-being.

Traditionally, the loving-kindness meditation is done while seated and involves silently repeating four short positive phrases in rhythm with the breath. The four phrases are:

  • May I be filled with loving-kindness.
  • May I be well in body and mind.
  • May I be peaceful and at ease.
  • May I be happy.

The Science Behind The Tradition

In 2008, researchers at The University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill were curious about the loving-kindness meditation’s effectiveness for relieving depression. Of 139 study participants, half of them were randomly chosen to practice the meditation. The remaining participants did not meditate.

Participants who engaged in the meditation, over time, reported experiencing more positive emotions, and an increase in sense of purpose, social connection, and mindfulness (present moment awareness). These factors were shown to correlate with a reduction of depressive symptoms and a greater experience of overall happiness.

The Loving-kindness Meditation

It may take a few practices to become comfortable with this meditation; just do the best you can each time.

  1. Settle into a comfortable position. For a minute or two, focus on the in and out flow of your breath to relax the body and calm the mind.
  2. For another minute or more, sense the movement of your breath in your heart area and invite your heart to open (no judgements, just an invitation).
  3. Think of someone who accepts you and wishes you well. This can be a friend, teacher, mentor, or a loving pet. Sense this being looking at you with eyes full of appreciation and sincere wishes for your happiness. For a couple minutes, open your heart to their love. (If you sense your heart closing, continue breathing, and gently re-invite it to open.)
  4. Next, imagine an image of yourself—from the past or present—sitting across from you. Notice details of the image and then invite that image into the loving energy of your heart. Hold and connect with your self-image there. (If you experience tension or contraction, breath into your heart, and gently remind it of the invitation to open.)
  5. Now, repeat the four phrases of the mediation in harmony with your breathing. Say the phrases silently and sincerely, over and over. You may choose to repeat one as you inhale, or one on each exhale, or use any other rhythm that is comfortable for you.
  6. Continue repeating the phrases for as long as you wish. To end the session, discontinue the phrases and let your attention rest on your breath for a minute. Then, refocus for a few moments on your surroundings before going about your day.

As you become comfortable doing the meditation feel free to alter the phrases, or substitute positive phrases of your own.

Source: Emmons, Henry, M.D. The Chemistry of Joy Workbook, New Harbinger Publications, 2012.

 
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