In traditional mindfulness practice, there is a meditation called Lovingkindness. During lovingkindness practice, the practitioner extends good wishes to a variety of people. This generally begins with the self: “May I be safe. May I be happy. May I be healthy. May I live with ease.” The good wishes are then extended to a loved one, an acquaintance (or stranger), a difficult person, and then to all beings everywhere: “May you be safe. May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you live with ease.”
There is a prayer-like quality to this meditation. We are requesting good things for the world, cultivating care for others and including ourselves in this circle of care. As Christians practicing mindfulness, we can consciously request these good things in the presence of our loving God, knowing that he cares deeply for us and all others in the world.
I struggle with the wording of the lovingkindness practice. It feels unChristian to pray for these particular things - to be safe, happy, healthy, and living with ease. And yet when I look at the requests being made, I am challenged to ask whether these things are truly unChristian or whether I have simply encountered a cultural difference in the words being used. Do Christians not regularly pray for safety? (“Lord, please keep Aunt Jo safe as she travels home to Missouri today.”) For happiness? (“Lord, Bill is struggling so deeply right now - please restore his joy.”) For health? (“Lord, we pray against this cancer in your name, knowing that you heal.”) For ease? (“Lord, this pain is so intense - please bring relief.”)
I sometimes use an alternate Blessing meditation that instead holds people in the loving presence of God while offering this prayer: "May I (you) know God’s love. May I (you) know God’s rest. May I (you) know God’s peace.” This is also a beautiful practice. Receiving and extending blessing is deeply life-giving. But I wonder at my discomfort at the traditional lovingkindness practice. I wonder if this is just one of the ways that my faith-related cultural norms -- my usual American, evangelical ways of doing things -- get in the way of me seeking God’s face wherever, in whatever cultural context, he may be found. This is not a knock on American evangelical culture. Simply a reminder that God shows up in every culture. I don't want to get tripped up by unfamiliar language -- I want eyes to see Him everywhere I go.
So I pray for you today: May you be safe. May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you live with ease. Amen.
1/19/2018 10:23:36 am
We are so easily tripped up by language in today's world. This was a particularly useful blog to me. Thank you.
2/14/2018 12:26:34 am
I'm a pastor and counseling student at Dallas Theological Seminary and we just spoke on the topic of self-compassion (Kristin Kneff & Chris Germer). I too felt odd repeating these words. Especially, "May you be happy, and live with ease". The conflict is knowing the will of Christ before His return may not bring ease ( i know my life has been far that). However, I do believe that His future promise of a return does bring forth the truth and reality of "may we be happy, have peace... and so forth". I did find this exercise in self compassion to really help me become in touch with myself in all my ways and in need of the Lord more and more while being lenient with myself. Thank you for writing on this.
Marit from Norway
3/2/2018 03:16:46 am
Thank you for sharing your way of practicing lovingkindness meditation. As a Christian, I've also been struggeling with the wording. I find your alternative meditation "May I know God's love" etc. very useful. May God continue to bless you!
11/17/2020 11:10:54 am
I repeat the blessing
7/3/2021 08:04:32 am
I used this as my blessing as well. I also have asked for God's blessing in helping me to see that I am loved, worthy, God's child...a wonderful time of blessing to remember God's truths about who I am in Him.💖
6/12/2022 12:50:58 pm
I am doing the Breathe for Change training (https://www.breatheforchange.com/) and encountered this meditation today. I found myself praying for each person to experience ease in their relationship with Jesus, which is something I absolutely want to send out into the world. You could totally shift the others too: may you feel safe in the love of Christ, may you experience the joy of your salvation, may you be filled with power through the Holy Spirit, and may you experience ease in your relationship with Jesus.
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I am Irene Kraegel. I am licensed as a clinical psychologist and teach mindfulness on a faith-based university campus. I practice mindfulness because it opens me up to God (a.k.a. brings joy). I am writing here in hopes of sharing some of my experiences and thoughts related to the practice of mindfulness in the life of a Christian. Thanks for reading!
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