Decluttering my Mind with…Meditation
“Life is a dance. Mindfulness is witnessing that dance.”
― Amit Ray
Embracing meditation has been one of the most wonderful decision as part my pursuit of Life-fullness.
I wanted to share a little bit more about my personaljourney here. There are manyapproaches, philosophies, gurus (yes, it is a cluttered space!) and some can sound and look a little too dogmatic or too far on the spectrum of "weirdness"…
Simply put, starting meditation is about finding an approach which works for you personally and feels authentic. Initially I was a littleuncomfortable sharing my meditation, practice, but found that friends and family were genuinely interested and respectful. A few people around me tried meditating. Some adopted it. I mentioned meditation in a couple of panels at conferences and this prompted conversations. A few people in the audience shared their own experiences and inspired me to try new approaches.
I like thinking about meditation as a practice which one can learn and perfect over time, a muscle one can train and develop according to personal values. Doing my research, I rapidly stumbled upon Loving Kindness Meditation (LKM)  and decided to try to use it as an "operant conditioning" technique to help me on my mindfulness adventure.
A bit of context on LKM. Loving-kindness, or Metta, as it is called in the Pali language (which is the language of most of the earlier Buddhist religion), means unconditional, inclusive love, a love with wisdom. Metta has no conditions attached; it does not depend on whether one “deserves” it or not; it is not restricted to friends and family; it extends out from personal categories to include all living beings. There are no expectations of anything in return.
In Metta, we begin with loving ourselves, then we include others who are special to us, and, ultimately, all living things. Gradually, both the visualization and the meditation phrases blend into the actual experience, the feeling of Loving-Kindness. There are full book shelves (virtual or real!) offering a variety of techniques and narratives to guide an LKM meditation. As with Buddhist inspired practices, it is flexible an adaptable and should feel genuine and right for you. I have picked a couple of guided videos which have helped me, a short simple one created by UNH Health Service, and a more detailed guided meditation process by Emma Seppala. Again, there are many more options readily available on the Web and it is fine to adapt or create a version that resonates with you.
After a few weeks of practicing "guided" LKM meditation for 5 to 10 minutes per day, I have found it easier to call upon some of my LKM visualisations at random moments of my day, moments of tension where I felt it would be helpful, moments of deliberate kindness activism where I have decided to just do it! I have been practicing simple meditation for the past couple of years so this has been more about adding one meditation technique to my basic tool kit rather than embracing a totally new practice.
Lastly, whilst I am well aware of the overall benefits of meditation, I have been encouraged to find a few scientific papers on the specific impacts of LKM practices. Most notably, a 2008 research paper entitled "Loving-kindness meditation increases social connectedness" demonstrated that just a few minutes of loving-kindness meditation increased feelings of social connection and positivity toward novel individuals. A 2011 article in the Clinical Psychology Review " Loving-Kindness meditation: potential for psychological interventions" also offers that KLM may enhance activation of brain areas which are involved in emotional processing and empathy. Although this journey is somehow self-centred, I am very interested to think about the broader potential for positive impact of KLM practice and interventions.
Overall, whether it is LKM meditation or other options, I like thesimplicity of meditation, a powerful & liberating tool which I now carry with me all the time, and that I can decide to action or invoke when I want it where I want it.
 "Loving-kindness meditation - Metta Institute." N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Jan. 2017.
 Holmes, Lindsay. "8 Ways Meditation Can Improve Your Life." The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, n.d. Web. 15 Jan. 2017.
 Hutcherson, Cendri A., Emma M. Seppala, and James J. Gross. "Loving-kindness meditation increases social connectedness." Emotion 8.5 (2008): 720-24. Web.
 Hofmann, Stefan G., Paul Grossman, and Devon E. Hinton. "Loving-kindness and compassion meditation: Potential for psychological interventions." Clinical Psychology Review 31.7 (2011): 1126-132. Web.