A Lovingkindness Project for Schools to Combat Bullying

I have been practicing  lovingkindness meditation for several months now, so when I read an article in my local newspaper about an anti-bullying program that tries to promote kindness and compassion, I started to wonder if introducing lovingkindness meditation into our schools would help combat bullying.

The Star Ledger article was about 18 year old Ashley Craig and the non-profit foundation she started, Students Against Being Bullied (SABB), which focuses on setting up “dedicated texting lines in the school to allow bystanders to anonymously report incidents and victims to seek help, safe rooms with staff to provide refuge for students before classes begin, and monthly programs to promote community, kindness and compassion.”  I was impressed with Ashley Craig’s passion, determination, inventiveness, and commitment and encourage everybody to check out the foundation’s website (http:studentsagainstbeingbullied.org).

As I reflected on the foundation’s goal of promoting community and kindness, it occurred to me that introducing daily lovingkindness meditation  could potentially accomplish even more than monthly programs.  So I played around with the idea in my mind and came up with a way for schools to institute lovingkindness meditation as a community practice.  First I modified the traditional lovingkindness meditation so the words were particularly relevant to a student population. Then I came up with some ideas of how to implement a year-long lovingkindness project in the schools.

Lovingkindness Meditation for Schools

Start with three full breaths.  Breathe in through your nose, imagining you are smelling a flower. Breathe out through your mouth, imagining you are blowing out the candles on a birthday cake. Try to make the out-breaths last as long as possible.

Recite the following out loud:

May I be safe
May I be peaceful
May I be free from suffering
May I be filled with lovingkindness
May I be happy

May my family and friends be safe
May my family and friends be peaceful
May my family and friends be free from suffering
May my family and friends be filled with lovingkindness
May my family and friends be happy

May my classmates be safe
May my classmates be peaceful
May my classmates be free from suffering
May my classmates be filled with lovingkindness
May my classmates be happy

May my teachers be safe
May my teachers be peaceful
May my teachers be free from suffering
May my teachers be filled with lovingkindness
May my teachers be happy

May the entire school be safe
May the entire school be peaceful
May the entire school be free from suffering
May the entire school be filled with lovingkindness
May the entire school be happy

May all people be safe
May all people be peaceful
May all people be free from suffering
May all people be filled with lovingkindness
May all people be happy

Suggested Plan to Implement the Lovingkindness Project in Your School

1. Have a teacher meeting and a parent meeting to introduce the Lovingkindness Project
2. Have an assembly for all students introducing the Lovingkindness Project.
3. For younger grades, have teachers follow up with discussion of what it means to be safe, peaceful, free from suffering, etc.
4. In older grades have teachers lead discussion of the difficulty of having good wishes for people who have harmed you and encourage students to try to include everyone. For those who are unable to include those who have harmed them, encourage them to try to say a separate phrase “May those who have hurt me be filled with lovingkindness”.
5. Say it over the loudspeaker every morning at the same time
6. Have teachers model participation for students
7. After one month ask students to make a pledge to do it every day, including weekends, vacations, sick-days, etc. for the entire year
8. Ask teachers and parents to take the same pledge. Teachers would replace “classmates” and ‘teachers” with  “students” and “fellow teachers” in their meditation and parents would change their meditation to include  “my child(ren)’s classmates” and “my child(ren)’s teachers.”
9. Continue doing it over the loudspeaker daily
10. After 3 months (or right before thanksgiving) have group discussions about the impact
11. At the end of the year have an essay contest about lovingkindness

Please share this idea on social media and suggest it to schools you are involved with. Together we can make a difference!

Note: If you have any suggestions that could further enhance this project, I would love to hear from you.  Please share your ideas on my trauma blog, From Where I Stand.  Since this post is cross-posted on both blogs, I disabled comments here so all comments will be in one location.

The Greatest Love of All

The greatest love of all
     Is happening to me
I found the greatest love of all
     Inside of me
                                                  The greatest love of all
                                                       Is easy to achieve
                                                  Learning to love yourself
                                                       It is the greatest love of all

The song, The Greatest Love of All, has a lot of meaning for me.   I resonate with its lyrics on a deep level.  And I love to sing.  Singing is one way I express myself.  I have fond memories of belting out the words of this song, with great feeling, with a close friend. It was a very empowering experience.

Singing can also be a form of meditation for me.  I choose a song that speaks to me and sing it mindfully, several times in a row, while reflecting on its meaning and how it impacts me and my life.  On several occasions, I have meditated on this particular song.  One thing that I have reflected about is that learning to love myself was not “easy to achieve.”  It was a journey that involved many years of therapy and other growth work. But once I reached that destination, I discovered how powerful self-love can be.

I’m not saying that I am perfect at it.   I still have occasional doubts.  During the Real Happiness Meditation Challenge  this month, I discovered that these moments of doubt are more easily overcome with regular meditation practice.  I came to appreciate that mindfulness of emotions, letting go of emotions and thoughts, lovingkindness meditation, and shifting the balance to more frequent mindful noting of the  positive, were a powerful combination of practices that have already helped me to strengthen my self-awareness, self-compassion, self-acceptance, self-regulation, and self-love.

It has been two months since I began to develop my daily meditation habit. Now, even when I falter for a day or two, I easily get back on track.  It no longer feels like an effort to meditate daily. It feels like a part of me.

Balancing Mindfulness of Emotions with Lovingkindness

It is the 17th day of the Real Happiness 28-Day Meditation Challenge. For the past two weeks, I have been working on mindfulness of emotions at night.  I have mostly been using a guided meditation by Sharon Salzberg that encourages noticing what emotions arise while initially focusing on the breath, which can be found on the CD in Real Happiness and on the Workman Publishing website: http://www.workman.com/realhappinessebook/.  I have also tried Ron Siegel’s Stepping into Sadness and Stepping into Fear meditations, which can be found in his book, The Mindfulness Solution and on the website for the book: http://www.mindfulness-solution.com/DownloadMeditations.html.  These two meditations helped me to fully experience difficult emotions.

Sharon Salzberg, Jack Kornfield and Tara Brach all talk about a four step process of becoming mindful of emotions that can be remembered with the acronym RAIN – recognition, acceptance, investigation and non-identification.  Achieving balance involves noticing, accepting and exploring our emotions, while being careful not to identify with them. We strive neither to avoid nor to cling to our emotions, but to be mindful of them in the moment and notice how they come and go, like waves in the ocean.

I noticed some lingering sadness about a couple of losses that I experienced over the past couple of years and focusing on it during meditation helped me to fully experience the sadness and move past it.  Then one night I realized I was delaying meditating because of unacknowledged fear.   Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  I think it would be more accurate to say, “The only thing we have to fear is the fear of fear.”  It is the fear of fear that causes us to avoid it and try to block it from our minds.  When we face our fear, it becomes more manageable.

Once I acknowledged the fear, I was able to face it. And once I faced it, I was able to overcome it.  During my meditation I went from noticing anxiety, rising doubt, a little fear, some regret and then hopefulness that I could overcome this obstacle.  And once I started feeling hopeful, the fear faded away.  Avoiding the fear made it seem insurmountable.  Facing the fear made it quite tolerable and fostered a sense of hopefulness that helped me to overcome it.

I have been practicing lovingkindness meditation in the morning, focusing on wishes for myself, specific family members, friends and clients, as well as a general wish for all beings everywhere. I have found that this helps me to have a positive attitude, even in challenging circumstances.

May I be safe, May I be healthy, May I be free from suffering, May I be peaceful, May I be balanced, May I be happy.

May you be safe, May you be healthy, May you be free from suffering, May you be peaceful, May you be balanced, May you be happy.

May all beings be safe, May all beings be healthy, May all beings be free from suffering, May all beings be peaceful, May all beings be balanced, May all beings be happy.

I decided it was time to shift the balance even further, by actively fostering positive emotions during my nighttime meditation. I started listening to Sarah McLean’s soul-centered guided meditations and plan to try more of them, as they have already had a powerful impact in a short time.  Ocean Visualization & Self-Love Affirmations; Gratitude Meditation & Appreciating Your Life;  Transcendence & Loving Yourself; I am Aware – The Intention to Awaken…  These and many more of Sarah McLean’s meditations can be found on the Winter Feast for the Soul website: http://winterfeastforthesoul.com/index2.php?dest=meditations_mclean.

I intend to continue working on balancing negative and positive emotions in meditation and in life.  How do you work on achieving this balance?