This quote brings up the 4 Brahmavihara's for me - Buddhist virtues, or divine abodes, ways of living. They're qualities of loving kindness, or more simply, friendliness, compassion, empathetic joy, and equanimity.
I was introduced to the 4 Brahmavihara's at a retreat with Sharon Salzberg, a world renowned teacher and author. Sharon also played a critical role in bringing meditation and mindfulness practices to the West and into mainstream culture since 1974. She's the real deal.
Each of the 4 brahmavihara's are worth marinating in on their own. And I think it's worth taking a moment to unpack empathetic joy. This is the genuine wish that others experience joy, in contrast to envy or jealousy, when they do. In a world where people are chronically comparing and chasing after, imagine what it truly feels like to offer a quality of empathetic joy. And receive it.
So how can we grow these heart prints...?
It starts with quality of attention. Our presence. How we're showing up in life. Consider how what you project lands with someone, whether it's intentional or not. Does the other person feel fully seen, heard, and understood? Reflect on a time you were made to feel this way. What about the experience made it feel like a "keeper"?
I remember hearing that the purest form of love you can offer someone is your full attention.
And underneath attention is intention.
In a recent restorative yoga class, I offered students the opportunity to try this on through a guided meditation as we moved through restorative postures. You can do something similar by simply sitting or lying down comfortably (I often enjoy legs up the wall.) Wherever you may find yourself, open to strengthening the qualities of a present, awake heart. Simply breathe these qualities into your depths.
Whatever comes up in your awareness, offer it 6 words: Let Be, Let Go, Let In.
Let be - be with whatever is in your awareness, without trying to change anything. It might be sounds, sights, smells, touches, thoughts, or beliefs. If it helps, imagine you're observing this "mind stuff" from the back seat of a movie theater.
Let go of any thoughts, beliefs, or anything that doesn't serve you.
Let in, bringing to the foreground a beneficial experience, and staying with it, say for 20-30 seconds (3-5 breaths), and helping it last. Give it full permission to grown inside you. Really let it fill you up, and become a part of your being.
For an extended practice, I love Rick Hanson's approach of Taking in the Good. It effectively encourages a shift from knowing something to having a felt sense of it. For example, moving from the recognition that someone smiled at you to having it warm your heart.
Here are some ways to open to this experience. Feel free to use an experience you're already having, or create one. It's all the same to the brain, body, mind:
* Pick a current experience, like a sensation. Then form an idea about it, e.g., "That looks good." Notice the difference between an idea and an experience.
* Or create an experience by bringing to mind a being, either someone like a good friend, mentor, or a pet, that loves and cares for you unconditionally. What qualities make this experience so?
* If it feels ok for you, bring awareness to your body. Open, with a sense of receiving goodness.
* Be mildly active in your mind, considering aspects of the goodness that tag it as a beneficial emotion, attitude, or sensation in your body.
* If you experience any obstacles, including mind wandering, simply notice and accept it, without any judgement, and gently escort your attention back to the goodness.
* Offer an attitude of kindness and friendliness toward yourself, maybe an inner voice saying, "It's ok, green light, this is real, it's ok to take it all in." Let yourself fully receive this goodness.
* If you created an experience, imagine that the being you brought to mind in the beginning is about to experience what you just did. What would be a natural response? What would you wish for them?
Rest in this goodness as long as you like and continue to explore what it's like to keep opening, sensing and receiving this goodness. With practice and time, you'll shift fleeting mental states into lasting neural traits. And leave inspiring heart prints along the way!
For a deeper dive into Taking in the Good, join my Workshop June 23rd from 4-7 PM at