Almost 20 years ago, three friends from a close-knit Sunday study group formed the first-ever Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy (& thanks to their love, I’m still the Guiding Teacher!). We were all long-time meditators and psychotherapists exploring the interface between our professional and spiritual lives.
The rest is history: hundreds of practitioners joined IMP conferences, symposia, retreats, thousands by now… And this week, gifted psychotherapist and beloved friend Chris Germer (a founding member of IMP) is joined by researcher Kristin Neff (co-founder of Horse Boy Foundation) at InsightLA for a Mindful Self-Compassion training.
To their great surprise, when they asked our group how many people had practiced lovingkindness meditation, almost everyone raised their hand! They teach this workshop all over the world, and this never happened before.
Why is it so important? Meditation, mindfulness practice is an intimate and sacred calling, just like psychotherapy can be. But all too often mindful awareness practice can devolve into a self-surveillance system. Do you sometimes find yourself ‘mindfully’ watching your every move like a self-conscious hawk? Is your mindful awareness frustratingly unsteady, always pulling at the mindfulness leash like a wild puppy?
What if when you practice, you kindly take your own hand and listen quietly to your own unfolding life? We can hold the unique causes and conditions of our lives with compassionate, trustworthy strength. What helps us be more caring when critical thoughts arise? How do you transform ungenerous, negative beliefs about your imperfect life — your imperfect parenting, relationships, art, work? It’s possible to train the heart to be more loving and free – it just takes practice. This is the beauty of practice; we can enjoy a more generous, forgiving approach to ourselves and all those whose lives we touch.
Image Credit: T. Goodman