Welcome back to Restorative Grief with Mandy Capehart. You are listening to Episode 30 titled Values In Action with Lovingkindness. Today we are going to explore what it looks like to put our values into action. This episode can stand on its own but it is acting as a Part 2 for episode 28. If you really want to know what in the world I’m talking about, I strongly recommend going back and listening to episode 28 first. It’s not long, although it is somewhat dense. Even with few words, I have a lot to say. Nonetheless, we are going to explore the act of lovingkindness toward our values and ourselves and find out if lovingkindness is a technique that can move the needle for us in our grief. It won’t work for everyone and that’s OK. But we’ll never know if we don’t try.
As a quick recap, identifying our values is simply the act of noticing what means the most to us right now, in this season of life. What kind of people do we want to become? What characteristics do we notice in those who inspire us? How are we going to find our way back to a sense of wholeness and comfort in our own lives if we don’t know what comfort means for us anymore?
If you are suddenly overwhelmed by those questions, then you can do a few things. You can borrow one of my values for the rest of this episode and just try it on as I walk through some examples. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find that my value works really well for your current season, too. Or you can choose to go back and do the work of episode 28 and uncover the values you hold dear. Or you can just pick one at random and let this conversation be a quick, first time listen. Acquaint yourself with the ideas here and return when you’re ready to implement them for yourself.
So what is lovingkindness, and what does it have to do with grief work and our core values?
I’ve offered lovingkindness to clients in every stage of life – both as a technique for their healing and as an extension of my own pursuit of wholeness. Lovingkindness sounds simple – by defining a concept does not mean we understand the value it carries. Lovingkindness as a concept or act is the tenderness or consideration we demonstrate toward others. I think it’s somewhat reasonable to assume we know how to direct lovingkindness toward others – to position ourselves with a softer approach, especially when they are grieving.
But the practice of lovingkindness was never intended simply for others. This is where we make the active choice to turn it inward as well. Our core values are the characteristics in ourselves that we find the most important. We admire those characteristics in others, and strive to live by them, too. But when our hearts are broken and healing, not only do our values get pushed aside, but we often harden toward others and the world as well.
Lovingkindness is the invitation we need to soften. To return to the tenderhearted versions of ourselves – that maybe we haven’t seen since we were a child. We’ve talked on this show about disenfranchised and ambiguous grief. They’re both sources of loss in our lives that we may have overlooked, and they often come early. In response, because we didn’t necessarily know how to handle what we carried, we coped instead. We push our pain to the edges and survived, often misunderstanding loss and ourselves in the process. As we start to extend that consideration toward our own loss, we will likely find those moments in our story that created misalignment. This is why lovingkindness is so powerful when combined with our core values in grief work. If we can intentionally turn back toward ourselves, without judgement, our values move from becoming a guideline and instead, become the byproduct of a curious, compassionate, and considerate life.
So I want you to take a moment and choose one of your core values. This practice takes time to cultivate, but over time can become effortless. This act of turning toward yourself, others, and the world at large is retraining your brain. When your grief wants center stage, the practice of lovingkindness gently directs your attention toward your values – that which makes you so much more “you.”
Our values define how we treat ourselves and find alignment in our whole self – our mind, heart, body, and spirit. Lovingkindness is an accessible meditation that reminds us we are interwoven to the people and world around us – we are connected, and can improve our connections by repositioning our hearts toward self, others, and our sense of spirituality in the world.
So wherever you are listening, find a quiet place to sit comfortably and bring yourself to mind. You do not have to be physically still, or even able to close your eyes although that can help when you are first starting out. Now pay attention to the part of you that hurts. Is it your mind, and the unending griefy thoughts? Is it your heart, and the emotional upheaval that keeps interrupting your day? Maybe your body is physically exhausted; drained from the weight of moving. Or maybe your spirit is weary, disconnected, and discouraged. Which part that needs the most lovingkindness today? It may be all four, and that makes perfect sense! But let’s pick one to focus on for the moment. I’m going to choose my mind. My thoughts race with bargaining and wishes for a Genie who will decide to raise the dead. It’s all chaotic and gets out of hand faster than I can blink.
When I consider my core value of grace, and the impact it can have on my mind, I want to approach my thoughts with tenderness and consideration. No judgement or condemnation. Just the allowance for my pain in a way that recognizes it as valid. Lovingkindness is a repetition of generosity toward the pain.
So to begin offering grace to my griefy mind, I would say something like, “May my mind be free of chaos; may my thoughts be filled with peace. May my life be free of suffering.” My breathing through this process is normal, and I can repeat the phrases as many times as I would like. For the skeptics among us, it is beneficial to check in with yourself before starting this practice. Pay attention to any tension or unbelief you’re experiencing as you begin, and check in again after the practice. Make a note of any improvements so that you can remind your skeptical self that practices like this really can move the needle toward restoration.
The second part of lovingkindness is turning our attention toward another party. Perhaps you are holding someone hostage in your thoughts, blaming them as a source of your grief. Whether or not they are truly to blame, your thoughts toward them are causing you immeasurable harm and elongating your active grieving process. So when you are in a place to offer them lovingkindness, bring them to mind and repeat the statements. “May their mind be free of chaos; may their thoughts be filled with peace. May their life be free of suffering.”
To be fair, this is really difficult. It’s reasonable to start with a friend. To send your consideration toward a person you find supportive or helpful in your grief process. It doesn’t not always need to be the source of your pain. But in this moment, as I apply my core value of grace toward my thoughts of myself, others, and the world, it makes a lot of sense for me to pursue a sense of forgiveness in my own practice.
And finally, extend your meditation toward the world. The misunderstandings of your grief, and the thoughts of frustration toward a world that just doesn’t understand. “May all living beings be free of chaos; may all living beings be filled with peace. May all living beings be free of suffering.” This is our healing, aiming globally and at the collective consciousness about grief and the lack of grief literacy that continues to cause harm.
The more time you spend investing in this small act, the more you are retraining your neural pathways to think differently, feel differently, and to inspire different actions in the world. You are actively rebuilding areas of your brain that are used to doing the same old thing that causes the same old outcomes that no longer serve you. It’s absolutely a game changer, and the more time you invest in understanding your core values and how your life is in misalignment around those values, the closer you will come to experiencing an ongoing sense of healing.
Thank you for listening to episode 30 of Restorative Grief. This is a high level, 10,000 foot flyover of a complex concept, and yet I feel so strongly that this practice can restore so many of our broken hearts. Lovingkindness and other meditative practices are easily dismissed by grievers but we must learn how to return to ourselves. Being present is painful and scary but it’s truly the place we can find the sense of belonging that we lose when we carry loss. As you set your mind and heart toward this practice, may you be encouraged by a quickening in your spirit and a peace that floods your body. May you have happiness. May you have well-being. May you experience restoration.
If this is your first time listening to the podcast, thank you. I hope you return to earlier episodes for some groundwork about all this grief talk and value work. Please take a moment to subscribe to the show, leave a review, and consider sharing this episode with someone that knows and demonstrates their understanding of your story. That might be just the right person to practice your lovingkindness toward as you begin.
And one last thing – Remember, the only solution for grief is to do the work of grieving. Thanks for listening. I’ll see you next week.
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