Why Mindfulness Alone Can Only Get Us So Far…
Back in early 2017, I had ongoing fantasies about living in a bubble. A bubble where all I would do is meditate, read spiritual books, and contemplate on the meaning of Life. Deep stuff, I know.
I had begun to seriously commit myself to mindfulness meditation and I was loving each moment of it. It felt like I was on a cloud when I was meditating. As a bonus, I also liked the version of me that was showing up during my practice. I was kinder, calmer and so much more patient. However, as soon as I went off into the real world, my old habits would return.
Thanks to my practice of open awareness, I was able to notice when my irritation arose and when I became short-tempered or impatient with my loved ones. However, I didn’t know what to do with these observations.
At the time, the only way I knew how to process this information was that I needed more meditation to “fix” myself. Or maybe if I meditated a little longer each day, people wouldn’t irritate me so much…
Instinctively, I could sense that I was on the wrong path. My practice felt incomplete. But I didn’t know why.
What was missing, I asked?
Luckily, I didn’t have to wait too long for the Universe to respond to my question. (Thank you, Universe!) My well-timed answer came to me while I was attending a Wanderlust yoga festival.
Bring your meditation to your relationships
My first light bulb moment occurred when a teacher jokingly said “You can’t be a yogi on your mat and be a total jerk off your mat.” The philosophy of yoga, he elaborated, can be learned in your individual practice but ultimately, you must apply the teachings to your relationships.
As I allowed this to sink in, it became clear to me that I needed to bring my meditation to my interactions. I had to find a way to act like my loving self on and off my meditation cushion. After all, what good is a 10-day silent retreat if I continue to roll my eyes with disdain and impatience when people don’t behave in the way I expect? I still couldn’t figure out what would solve my conundrum, but I trusted the Universe would guide me.
Loving kindness meditation
The second lesson I received was a re-introduction to the Loving Kindness meditation practice. The latter is a Buddhist tradition meant to develop compassion within our hearts for ourselves and others. We typically begin by wishing ourselves happiness and freedom from suffering. These prayers are then extended to our loved ones, people with whom we have neutral relationships and finally to those who irritate or have hurt us.
Until that moment, I’ve only sporadically practiced this form of meditation and never focused much on it. In addition, extending kindness and compassion to those who hurt me was difficult, so I dropped it. Mindfulness was easier for me.
However, in that moment at Wanderlust, it became clear to me that Loving Kindness and its lesson of compassion was the missing element to my practice. Until then, I haven’t realized how isolated and separated I had become by solely focusing on my inner-mind and experience.
Until then, I haven’t realized how isolated and separated I had become by solely focusing on my inner-mind and experience.
Mindfulness + compassion
As valuable as its lessons are, mindfulness on its own can only get us so far. Like the two wings of an eagle, we need both mindfulness and compassion to truly soar.
Meditation is often seen as a solo practice. Indeed, meditating in solitude allows us to sharpen our focus, develop clarity and notice our thought patterns through mindfulness practice. However, it is our connection with others that harness our sense of compassion and ultimately, our spirituality. It takes a team to reach enlightenment!
When we remember that everyone we meet is our teacher, it is easier to recognize the value each interaction brings. It is with others that we develop a sense of love, patience, compassion and belonging. It is when we get hurt in our relationships that our triggers and unconscious wounds are revealed. Only then can we see what needs to be healed within.
No matter how much we meditate or pray, we still need others to dismantle the walls of our isolation and remind us of our belonging. -Tara Brach
How compassion has changed my practice
The more I practice Loving Kindness meditation, the easier it is for me to reconcile my “meditating” self with my “interacting with others” self.
When I lose my temper, mindfulness allows me to recognize the angry stories I’ve made up in my head, while compassion enables me to forgive myself for choosing wrongly. As I forgive myself, it becomes easier for me to apologize to others for my poor behavior.
If I feel hurt by someone, mindfulness allows me to process my feelings, while compassion makes it less difficult to see that this person is hurting too.
When I practice compassion, I can expand my awareness beyond my own experience and be mindful of the other person’s experience.
Without a doubt, including compassion to my mindfulness practice has changed the way I approach my spiritual journey. It is no longer a path of solitude. Yes, I still enjoy my moments alone where I get to explore my thoughts and settle my mind. However, I have learned so much more about patience and love from being with others. Therefore, I invite you to practice a Loving Kindness meditation everyday (see below for a guided meditation). I sincerely believe this practice, along with mindfulness, will help us bring our best selves to our relationships.
If you’ve never done a Loving Kindness meditation before, you’re in luck! I’ve recorded this 25-minute guided meditation for you to sample, and start feeling connected to others. Happy introspection!
I hope this article was helpful to you. If you know someone who could benefit from a Loving Kindness meditation, please share this article with them! For more articles on mindfulness, I invite you to read the other articles I’ve shared on UpliftedLife.com (click here to view) or visit my website TheSoulHugger.com.