The Heart Center Meditation is a lovely practice I first encountered when I was doing an Integrative Medicine fellowship through the University of Arizona. Ann Marie Chiasson, M.D., an integrative physician and energy healer, taught this meditation of repeating four mantras. It struck me deeply at the time, so much so that I wear a Navajo ring with four different colored gemstones to signify the four parts of the meditation. I feel that these four qualities define the healer.
The Buddha taught that practicing the Four Heavenly Abodes or Sublime Attitudes leads to liberation of the heart, which is love. Also known as the Brahma Viharas (in the original Pali language of the Buddha), they are lovingkindness (metta), sympathetic joy (mudita), equanimity (upekkha) and compassion (karuna).
Dr. Chiasson modified these slightly to be unconditional love, healing presence, inner harmony and compassion. She teaches the meditation by recommending that you place your left hand over your heart, and then place your right hand over it with your thumb tips touching. Close your eyes and repeat the four attitudes silently, one with each breath. Compassion is first invited into your heart. She describes this as limitless and oceanic compassion. With the next breath inner harmony is invited. This is balance within leading to balanced action. Next is healing presence, which is the desire for healing in the self and in others. She defines this as love in action. Last is unconditional love, which is reverence, awe or love while seeing things as they are.
This all sounds so simple, but repeating this meditation for five minutes daily can lead to a more open heart.
I learned a beautiful loving kindness, or metta, meditation at the retreat I recently attended. Metta meditations are a way to extend feelings of warmth and well-being toward yourself and others. Traditionally the phrases are repeated silently and invoke kind feelings first toward yourself and then toward others. An example would begin: May I be safe. May I be well. May I be happy. May I dwell in peace. Next these words would be repeated toward a friend or loved one, then a neutral person, a difficult person and lastly toward all beings. This may sound mechanical, but over time generalized goodwill and loving feelings are the result.
My retreat-mate from the Zen community taught us all a metta set to song that her community sings. It is truly lovely. The words are sung to Amazing Grace.
May I be filled with loving kindness.
May I be well.
May I be peaceful and at ease.
May I be happy.
May you be filled with loving kindness.
May you be well.
May you be peaceful and at ease.
May you be happy.
May we be filled with loving kindness.
May we be well.
May we be peaceful and at ease.
May we be happy.
May all be filled with loving kindness.
May all be well.
May all be peaceful and at ease.
May all be happy.
I’ve always loved the joyful uplifting melody of Amazing Grace, but the lyrics never resonated with me. Now I have new words that truly fit for me. There seems no better way to say a loving kindness meditation than set to song.
Dr. Heather's musings about medicine, mindfulness and life.
Heather Krantz, M.D.
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