Give the gift of loving-kindness this Valentine’s Day

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I hate cards. It’s okay getting them, but I don’t like buying them. It seems so impersonal and as a writer, I feel like it’s just lazy.

The comedian Jim Gaffigan has a bit where he shops for a card: “I guess that is something I’d say. I guess I’ll sign here.” And then he hands the card to his loved one: “See what that other person wrote about how I feel about you.”

See, seems kind of dumb.

Maybe I’m too focused on the giving of the card and not what the most important part is: the shopping for the card. In those moments of shoebox greetings and Hallmark hell, you stop and think about someone you care about. Of course, it might not be someone you care about at all and just a social hoop you have to jump through. And in that case you’ll make the process as quick as possible, and not take the time, as you would for someone you really care for,  to think about what this person really means to you. Now, that’s a gift.

So often I don’t sit down with loved ones and express how thankful I am for them, how much hope and love I have for them. I don’t actually take the time to let those thoughts and feelings breathe. And maybe I would if I took the time to buy more cards.

Or there is another way.

Buddhists practice Loving-Kindness meditation where you focus positive thoughts on a particular person – say, a friend, a family member, or an uncle who drank too much at your birthday party and made a fool of himself.

The positive thoughts don’t magically make your uncle less of a doofus, but do impact the way you feel about your uncle. Good thoughts push out the bad. Or good thoughts simply increase your love and compassion for a fellow human being.

When I researched Where Am I Giving? I spent some time meditating and researching meditation. It’s often referred to as a “practice.” Something that can’t quite be perfected like other intimidating pursuits such as medicine and law. Overall, I find the word meditation to be intimidating. But it doesn’t have to be.

The monk who talked to me after my six-hours of mediation in Burma told me that you can always meditate. While you are sitting in traffic. While you are walking. While you are at the dentist. It’s the simple act of observing and noticing your thoughts. And you can focus those thoughts on an object, a breath, a step, or another person. You can practice even if you aren’t sitting on a cushion in an incensed-filled room with monks. In fact, you could take 90-seconds and do it right now as you are reading this at your desk or…on the toilet.

Simply close your eyes and think about someone, on this Valentine’s Day, you love: your wishes for their health and happiness, their dreams and joys.

It only takes 90-seconds. Less than the time it takes to shop for a card written by a stranger who doesn’t love either of you.

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If you want to explore loving-kindness meditation more fully, this is a good place to start.

 
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