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The secret to being a better person and improving your relationships

I’m going to let you in on a secret for how to be a better person. It’s easy, fast and has been scientifically proven to improve your relationship with yourself and others.

It’s called Mettā meditation.

I first came across Mettā, or Loving Kindness, meditation years ago when I was first studying Buddhist meditation. The first time I practiced it, I was blown away by the effect it had on me. My whole physiology changed. It’s a simple meditation where you send heart energy outwards, but sometimes the simplest things are the best. It has greatly changed how I view myself, my friends and family ones, and even strangers. Simply put, it has made me a happier, better person.

Mettā meditation is a simple, guided meditation that has profound effects when done on a regular basis. According to an ancient Buddhist texts, the Pali Canon, if you do Mettā meditation regularly, it has some pretty awesome side effects:

One sleeps easily, wakes easily, dreams no evil dreams. One is dear to human beings, dear to non-human beings. The devas protect one. Neither fire, poison, nor weapons can touch one. One’s mind gains concentration quickly. One’s complexion is bright. One dies unconfused and – if penetrating no higher – is headed for the Brahma worlds.

Now, I can’t really attest to the fact that “neither fire, poison, or weapons” can touch me after practicing this type of meditation, but I can tell you that my capacity for being open hearted and loving with myself and others has increased more than I could have imagined.

It’s really not hard to do. Here are instructions for a simple Mettā meditation practice. (I’ve recorded a more in depth version of this meditation that you can access for free ***here***, if you’d prefer to listen along as I guide you.)

  • Sit or lie down somewhere where you wont be disturbed for about 15 minutes.
  • Close your eyes and feel your heart filling with love and compassion.
  • Imagine this love and compassion as a light building in your heart. Give the light a color.
  • Imagine someone you love dearly standing in front of you. Send them the light from your heart while you send them the prayer:

May you find happiness and the causes of happiness

May you be free from suffering and the causes of suffering

  • Now imagine someone who is an acquaintance. You know there name and a little bit about them, but you don’t know much about the details of their life. Imagine them standing in front of you and send them the prayer:

May you find happiness and the causes of happiness

May you be free from suffering and the causes of suffering

  • Next, imagine a stranger. It could be someone in your town or halfway around the world. Bring a detailed image of them to your mind and say:

May you find happiness and the causes of happiness

May you be free from suffering and the causes of suffering

  • Finally, imagine someone who has hurt you or wronged you. That person also has had good days and bad, experienced love and loss, just like you. See if you can open your heart and tell them:

May you find happiness and the causes of happiness

May you be free from suffering and the causes of suffering

  • Now see your heart fill to capacity and beyond with love and the wish for all beings to be happy. Send this love from your heart to the world, see all the people on this planet striving to find happiness and avoid suffering. Send them your love.
  • Slowly open your eyes and notice how your heart is still filled with love and compassion.

This is a great meditation to do in the morning as it starts you out with such a good vibe for the day. There’s nothing better than going through your day shining your light on everyone you encounter and giving them the gift of love and compassion.

Xoxo

Megan

It’s the ME show. Staring ME!!

Hundreds of years ago, people mistakenly assumed that the sun and planets revolve around the earth. We now know that’s not the way it is, but it was easy to see why people thought that way — that’s what it looks like from our point of view here on earth.

However, humanity became very attached to that perceived importance as the center of the universe, so much so that when Galileo questioned it, he was convicted of heresy and spent the rest of his life under house arrest. (With no DoorDash to deliver Thai food, I might add. That was the true punishment.)

There’s a tendency for people to do the same thing. Just like when we look up at the sky it appears that the sun, moon and planets are revolving around earth, when we look out from the eyes in our heads and see the events happening around us, it appears that much of it revolves around us. And we become attached to that percieved importance in a very similar way. 

I often assume that what’s happening around me must involve ME, simply because that’s what it looks like from my point of view.

It’s the “Me Show” starring… ME!!

Each of us is starring in our own Me Show. Everything we see, feel, and experience is as the star of the show. As life unfolds around us, it’s easy to see what’s happening as a cause and effect of our own actions (or lack thereof). We notice how people act, or how events unfold, and because we are seeing it only through our own eyes, it’s easy to assume that it must be because of something we did.

Now, stop for a minute and think about the fact that everyone is starring in their own Me Show. Everyone thinks what’s happening in their world is mostly a cause and effect from their own actions.  So, everyone thinks that the world is a reflection of them, and their actions.

But we can’t all be the star of the show. It just doesn’t add up. 

When you react to someone or make a choice that impacts someone, how much of that is because of them and their actions and how much of it is because of how you feel and what you think the best course of action is? I would argue that most of what you feel and how you react is because of your own internal state: feelings, past experiences, trying to make something work out the way you’d like, etc. But, the person who is impacted is naturally going to assume that it has to do mostly with THEM and their actions. Why? Because they are staring in their own Me Show, too.

So, why does this all matter?

If you stop to realize that your coworker who just sent out a condescending email or your mom nagging you is acting out a dramatic arc of their Me Show, you see that it probably has little or nothing to do with you. This allows you to let it go.

That’s their drama, not yours.

You don’t have to be a supporting character on their Me Show. You can choose to let them play out that dramatic arc without you.

Reframe it for yourself – their actions are much more likely a statement about their own internal drama than anything to do with you.

So, take a deep breath, remember that we are all spiritual beings having a (messy) human experience, and send them a little love and compassion.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

3 Steps to Fail Successfully

I hate that sinking feeling in my stomach when I realize I’ve messed up. Or when I put something out there in the world and all I get in response is crickets.

Feelings of doubt and worthlessness creep in. “Uh oh”, I think, “That’s not good.”

I failed. I tried, put in my best effort (or maybe not even my best, maybe I even half-assed it) and it flopped. I’ve let myself down, I’ve let others down.

This isn’t a good feeling.

So, how do you get past that? How do you learn to fail and not let it get you down?

1. Acknowledge that it was your best effort.

“I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”  Maya Angelou

Many people miss he first part of this quote, I’ve seen it online as “When you know better, you do better” many times, but that’s actually missing the point. “I did then what I knew how to do…” That’s really saying that given the circumstances, your knowledge, your emotional state, your options at the time, you made the BEST effort you could given all of those contingencies. Notice that I didn’t say your best effort. Given the perfect circumstances, a lifetime of wisdom, and a feeling of complete calm and confidence, you could have undoubtedly rocked it. But this is real life. Perfection is an idea, not a reality and you are living in reality. So, don’t just look at the failure, look at what you were dealing with when you put in that effort and give yourself some slack. You were doing the best that you could do then. Now that you know better, you’ll do better.

2. Salvage the good parts and learn the lessons

A failure can make you feel like crap for a while, but you know there are some nuggets in there that worked and some that you can improve next time. Once you can forgive yourself and process your emotions around the failure, it’s time to take it apart and try to see which parts actually were successful (I promise that there are a least a few parts that were good!) and which parts need to be reworked. Forgive yourself AGAIN for doing the best you could in that moment. It’s okay that there were parts that worked and parts that didn’t. That’s how we learn, you try several times, keep what’s working, and revise the parts that didn’t work as well.

3. Be resilient

Lastly, and most importantly, try again. Studies have shown that the most consistent indicator of success is resilience, knowing how to try again after you made a mistake. Doing anything (especially something new) is a process, a learning experience. You’ll be less likely to make mistakes after many attempts, but that first few tries can be brutal. None of those people you’re comparing yourself to started out doing things as well as they do now. None. Of. Them. Most likely, you just aren’t aware of their first (and most likely crappy) attempts because of exactly that! They were crappy and unsuccessful. But I guarantee you that that’s where they started, just like you. So, yes! You are just like your mentors and biz crushes, because you start out doing now what you know how to do, and when you know better, you’ll do better.

Sometimes I’m the a-hole.

You know what? Sometimes I’m the a-hole.

I’ve been the one driving along, thinking of the things I need to get done, and I almost miss my exit. I realize this about two seconds before the exit has passed, so I look to my right and too quickly swerve into the tiny space between two cars. If it’s a good day, maybe I had time to use my turn signal.

Yup. I’m the a-hole. I just cut someone off. I’m sure the person in the car behind me is yelling a multitude of profanities my way (I would know for sure if I weren’t doing everything in my power to avoid making eye contact with them in my rear view mirror) and I probably deserve it.

We all make mistakes. I like to think of them as lessons. Or maybe “teachable moments.” In Cherie Scott’s Ten Rules for Being Human, she states that, “You are enrolled in a full-time informal school called “life”. Each day in this school you will have the opportunity to learn lessons. You may like the lessons or hate them, but you have designed them as part of your curriculum. Growth is a process of experimentation, a series of trials, errors, and occasional victories. The failed experiments are as much as a part of the process as the experiments that work.”

What’s the lesson in being an a-hole? It’s empathy. The next time someone cuts me off and almost causes an accident, my first reaction will be visceral and I’ll be scared and angry. But after a moment, I’ll remember that time a few weeks earlier when I was stressed, late, almost missed my exit, and I was the one who swerved into the exit lane at the last minute.

This is true for any situation where someone has made me angry. If I think back, there was most likely a time where I did something similar to someone else. It might have been because I was stressed, I wasn’t thinking of how my actions might adversely affect someone else, or because I was acting from a place of fear or self-doubt.

There have been many times when I’ve inadvertently made someone upset. At these times, I need to practice self-compassion and forgive myself for making a mistake. There have also been a few times when out of my own hurt or anger, I’ve done it on purpose. I’m not proud of that, but it’s mine and I own it. For those times, I forgive myself, too. In those moments, it’s harder to practice self-compassion, but it’s even more important. I’m human, I have feelings, and they’re not always puppies and moonbeams.

I try to learn from the times that I’m the a-hole. Rather than get angry the next time someone does something thoughtless or mean, I try to put myself in his or her shoes. Maybe they just got fired. Or dumped. Maybe they don’t have anyone on their life that can show them how to be kind and loving and so they just don’t know how. Maybe they are just human, doing the best they can, and we stepped into a sticky moment of one of their life lessons. Whatever the reason, I do my best to forgive them. Because there will be a time when I’m the a-hole and when I am, I want you to forgive me, too.

 

 

What experiences in your life have given you greater empathy? I’d love to know and share them here! Post your story in the comments below.