International Women’s Day Reflection & Love Meditation

Last week I celebrated International Women’s Day by considering all of the great women who work diligently each day to bring more love into their homes, communities, and the world at large: mothers, sisters, friends, teachers, activists, volunteers, authors, and more.

Women make up 73 percent of professionals in the nonprofit sector, 76 percent of public school teachers and 94 percent of nurses in the United States. Whether in our professional or personal life, we devote much of our attention to caring for others.

This fills me with gratitude and pride.  Yet, I remember Thich Nhat Hanh’s words:

“It’s clear that to love oneself is the foundation of the love of other people. Love is a practice. Love is truly a practice.”

Let’s take a few moments today to nurture ourselves, the way we would a beloved friend or family member. I offer you this guided meditation to connect with your internal wellspring of joy:

Choose a relaxing environment and a comfortable position, sitting in a chair, on a cushion, or on the floor. Ideally you will feel at ease and still alert.

Relax the muscles of your face: forehead, eyelids, jaw. Notice the stream of air – how it enters your body, travels through, and exits.

Relax your shoulders, sending your shoulder blades down your back. Let the tension you’re holding dissipate. You can facilitate this process by checking in with each muscle: contract, then release. When you have let go of physical tensions, you may begin to recognize your breath more deeply.

For the next minute or two, draw all of your attention to your inhale and exhale. Try your best not to control the breath and practice self-compassion. Everything is as it should be. There is no “wrong way” to meditate.  Smile to internal criticisms and distractions as they arise, and let them go. Alight on the breath delicately, like a butterfly on a flower.

To draw your mind to a place of peace and focus, you may silently say to yourself:

Breathing in, I know I am breathing in.
Breathing out, I know I am breathing out.

This may feel surprisingly simple at first, but after practicing for even a couple of minutes, you will start to notice an alignment, a calm. This exercise brings our body and mind to the present moment, where they can act in harmony with one another. Focusing on the breath frees us from worry, doubt, fear, speculation, and anxiety.

After consciously breathing for a few minutes, you may wish to use Thich Nhat Hanh’s self love meditation. Remain sitting and breathing and say silently to yourself:

May I be peaceful, happy and light in body and spirit.
May I be safe and free from injury.
May I be free from anger, afflictions, fear and anxiety.

Say this to yourself as many times as feels appropriate. You may wish to transition back to conscious breathing if you feel distracted or overwhelmed.

When you feel ready to end the practice, take two more breaths, fully aware. Slowly open your eyes and stretch your arms tall above you.

This kind of mind/body awareness is available to you anytime, anywhere and is a wonderful tool to promote internal peace.

Please, embrace your uniqueness in all its forms and care for yourself as you so thoughtfully care for those around you.

A lotus for you,