One day last week I woke up with a terrible thought and a dreadful feeling: Ugh, the pain and suffering of winter never ends. I can’t take this anymore! I stopped to ponder this thought: Wow, that was a terrible thought! I wonder if my very first thoughts affect the rest of my day?
How many mornings do you wake thinking terrible thoughts? Does it affect your entire day?
So, then I got to thinking. Those terrible thoughts don’t motivate me to get up and get going, but actually make me want to push the snooze button, or call in sick, or…cry. What if my very first thought was something much more hopeful, or supportive of whatever was to come that day?
So, you’re thinking—Lisa Brandi doesn’t have thoughts like that. She breathes happiness and song and skips through her day. Not quite. But I do have a lot of self-help skills (comes with being a social worker) and the awareness to change my thoughts (that I work at daily). You can do it too!
Let’s start with that first thought of the day. Yup, It’s time for an experiment. Try this…Put a pen or pencil and a notebook, journal, post-it, dry cleaner receipt, napkin, or whatever, next to your bed so that you can write down your first thought of the day. Now, just knowing you’re going to do this may skew the data. That’s OK, and may cultivate enough awareness to get you thinking differently without the writing. Read on anyway….
OK, now onto the Loving-Kindness part. You’ve written down your first thought. Ask yourself: Is it a positive, loving, kind, motivational, affirmative thought? (Examples: My body is incredible and healthy and will get me through the snow and ice outside with grace and flare. Or… I’m a lovable and loving individual who attracts the right kind of people to be my friends.) If these are indeed your thoughts, (wow, are they detailed!), wonderful, you’re on the right track. Continue to cultivate those kinds of thoughts every day, build on them, write them down, re-read them, think them every morning, BE them.
If your thoughts weren’t that positive, please don’t be down on yourself about it. Do something about it. In fact, do something about it now. Take your negative, terrible, depressing thought and re-write it. Don’t skip this part! If you can’t think of what to write, write this or something like it: This day holds great promise, love, friendship, and healing for me. Loving-kindness starts this day, within me and all around me.
Don’t quit now! You’re almost done. You’ve got to read it out loud. Now read it again and believe it, feel it loosen the muscles in your neck and face, let it transform you, ground you, become you.
What does that feel like? Is it a foreign thought or feeling? Does it make you want to cry? It’s OK if it does—crying lets go of some of the stress or hurt you carry. So many of us are used to the put-downs, negative, and hurtful thoughts that we think and tell ourselves, that it sounds strange to say something positive or loving.
The object of this experiment is to become aware of our automatic thoughts and actively replace them with kind and loving thoughts. The kinds of thoughts that can help us get through the day, to smile more, to be useful and productive, feel better, and help others feel better too.
Have you heard of “loving-kindness”? It has roots in many religious and spiritual traditions—Judaism, Catholicism, and Buddhism. It means essentially the same thing too—to love and express love for self and others with a kind and open heart. Loving-kindness is also a meditative practice to overcome anger, increase insight and awareness, and have healthier relationships—in our families, work-places, communities, and ultimately, our world (Venerable Sujiva, 1996-2012).
You’ve just read a blog filled with loving-kindness for my friends, family, colleagues, clients, readers of the blogosphere, surfers of the web, and everyone else on planet Earth. Check back for more practical thoughts on Loving-Kindness! This post is just the beginning of a series dedicated to cultivating loving-kindness through everyday experiences.
Lisa Brandi LCSW, Online, Phone, and Email Therapy
References:  Venerable Sujiva. (1996-2012). Metta bhavana–cultivation of loving-kindness. Retrieved from http://www.buddhanet.net/metta01.htm