As I thought about Lent, I realized that my idea of a Lenten practice has changed. For me, Lent is a time to practice embodying more of the qualities of Jesus. First, I believe that Jesus came to show that we have never been separated from God, that God loves us, and that nothing can separate us from that love. Second, I believe that Jesus shows us the way to reveal more of our true nature which is that we are made in the image of God. Our inherently good or God-like nature is covered over by wounds, self-protection, and even self-rejection. The powerful message of Jesus is that we can follow his path to becoming more fully human and more fully divine in this life!
With this in mind, I see Jesus healing wounds, forgiving his enemies, and expanding his arms to identify with the suffering of the world. How can I engage in the qualities that Jesus embodies?
I feel that the Buddhist Loving Kindness practice cultivates the quality of compassion that I need to be able to “include more and more and exclude less and less.” So, here is a Fresh Look at a Lenten Practice.
Journey to the Heart of Loving Kindness
Instructions to guide your journey:
1- Begin at the center with Day 1 and circle around the sheet until you end with Day 35.
2- The 7 Red Hearts are for you to practice Loving Kindness for yourself each day for 7 days.
3- The 7 Purple Hearts are for you to practice Loving Kindness for your Beloved for 7 days.
4- The 7 Yellow Hearts are for you to practice Loving Kindness for a Stranger for 7 days.
5- The 7 Green Hearts are for you to practice Loving Kindness for a Difficult person for 7 days.
6-The 3 Blue Hearts are for you to practice Loving Kindness for yourself, a Beloved, a Stranger, and a Difficult person for 7 days.
7-The 4 Pink Hearts are for you to extend Loving Kindness to all living beings for the final 4 days. You can extend this section to finish at Easter if you would like this to be a Lenten practice.
8-End your time by planning a Celebration!
What is Loving Kindness?
This practice comes from wisdom across multiple religious traditions about offering kindness to people who are not like you. Loving Kindness is the spirit of unconditional love. Loving Kindness gives birth to compassion, the joy we feel when others succeed, and a sense of peace even in difficult situations. Loving Kindness can be expressed in actions or in prayer and meditation. Simple Acts of Kindness can be performed in the spirit of Loving Kindness. In the spirit of Loving Kindness, we send love to ourselves, our Beloved, strangers and difficult people in equal amounts not because we expect change in them, but because we are open to seeing God/the Divine/Absolute Love/Light in them as we see it in ourselves.
As a Christian, I experience this practice as a foundational piece in understanding how to develop the ability to love my neighbor as I love myself and even to follow Jesus more intimately by loving my enemy.
How do I offer Loving Kindness each day?
(You will find an online guidance in the loving kindness meditation at ambermattinglylivefree.com, then click on @Yoga Sanctuary and scroll down. It is labelled Loving Kindness Meditation)
Sending Loving Kindness to someone can be as simple as closing your eyes and visualizing rays of the sun shining on them. Add your own creativity! The ideas listed below come from understanding that each person is unique in the way they show love and unique in their path to the Divine. Maybe you want to plan your 31 days out by picking a person for each day. Maybe you want to practice sensing who bubbles up as your person for the day. Ideas: Pray for one person that fits the category for the week or use the section of the online guided meditation that applies to that week. Journal, pray in color by drawing a prayer for a person each day, perform random acts of kindness, send an email, send a letter, give a small gift, bake something, take an extra minute to listen to someone, walk in nature expressing gratitude for all that you see, hear, smell and feel, or take pictures practicing seeing things in a new way.