A postcard from Switzerland: Loving kindness
October 4, 2020
It has been a while since my last blog. How have you been? This week’s energy has been intense for many perhaps also amplified with the full moon. This is my first blog since I came back to Switzerland early September. While I was on Kaua’i, pretty much isolated from the rest of the world, I had more time to write the blogs.
It is a miracle that I could travel back here to the country I grew up and be in the company of my family and Swiss friends again. Although it has been a month now since Eunjung and I arrived back in Switzerland, when I wake up in the mornings, I still sometimes wonder if I am dreaming that I am actually here. And I am excited to be working on some new projects that are currently being developed in Switzerland.
For many months, it was unclear and uncertain when we would be able to leave from Kaua’i to visit our families in Switzerland and South Korea. After our family members and we went through a variety of challenges this year (I know that the majority of the people in the whole world have been facing difficulties and challenges on so many fronts during this extraordinary year of 2020), we feel such gratitude we had the fortune of traveling to another continent again.
As I reflect on our journey from Kaua’i to Switzerland during this unprecedented time of the pandemic, two words come to mind describing my experience in essence: loving kindness. Back on Kaua’i, during and after the lockdown due to Covid -19, Eunjung and I kept each other as the only company without much in-person interaction with others. Mostly we stayed at our place and only outings were either to nature (beaches or hiking trails) or markets for groceries.
During our long journey consisting of 3 flights and a train ride from Kaua’i to the Zurich airport and our quarantine location at my mother’s place in Switzerland, we felt a bit shocked by the fact that we were surrounded by, sometimes many, human beings. The two US airports we went through, Los Angeles and Chicago, were unusually quiet and much less crowded than usual, though.
From what I read in the news and also noticed in social media before we left, I got the impression that there was increasing division and separation consciousness among people instead of us becoming closer and kinder to each other after the isolated time of the lockdown, which I hoped for. Hence, during our long journey to Switzerland, I was positively surprised to experience how loving and kind most people were toward us and witness generally how nice people were in interacting with each other.
From airline and hotel staffs, flight attendants, even TSA people at the US airports, shop attendants to the border control agent at the Zurich airport, they were mostly very friendly and kind, which touched our hearts deeply. Eunjung and I were both concerned while planning our long flights not knowing how it would be, so we were very grateful that our travel experience turned out to be very positive.
One morning earlier this week, I recalled a dream where I repeatedly heard a familiar bell sound and chanting. Dreams tend to dissipate rapidly upon waking up. Our forgetfulness is generally attributed to neurochemical conditions in the brain that occur during REM sleep, a phase of sleep characterized by rapid eye movements and dreaming. If you wish to remember a dream, keep your body in the exact same position as when you woke up, since this will boost your memory.
Back to my dream that morning: I couldn’t recall the specifics of the dream no matter how hard I tried for a few minutes. However, as I kept my body position and relaxed into the present moment, I suddenly remembered that this enchanting bell sound and melody was from this video, which can be found on YouTube. (https://youtu.be/tCiXdduVHbI). In this beautiful video, Thich Nath Hanh, a well-known Buddhist preacher and spiritual leader, recites:
‘May the sound of this bell penetrate deep into the cosmos.
Even in the darkest spots, living beings are able to hear it clearly, so that all suffering in them cease.
Understanding come to their hearts and they transcend the path of sorrow and death.
The universal dharma door is already open, the sound of the rising tide is heard clearly.
The miracle happens. A beautiful child appears in the heart of a lotus flower.
One single drop of this compassionate water is enough to bring back the refreshing spring to our mountains and rivers.
Listening to the bell, I feel the afflictions in me begin to dissolve, my mind calm, my body relaxed.
A smile is born on my lips, following the sound of the bell, my breath brings me back to the safe island of mindfulness.
In the garden of my heart, the flowers of peace bloom beautifully.’
Although I had watched this video many times before, it was not until that morning after I had the dream that I paid such close attention to every word he recited. I find these words significant and relevant for these times we are in, as we move towards the end of 2020 with much uncertainty unlike ever before. Things seem to intensify drastically and almost every day we hear some surprising news and events that unfold.
I believe that one of the most important antidotes for these intense, chaotic times is Maitrī. Maitrī is a Sanskrit term and means benevolence, loving-kindness, friendliness, good will, sympathy, and active interest in others. The cultivation of benevolence is a popular form of Buddhist meditation. Compassion and universal loving-kindness can equally be found in Hinduism and Jainism. Loving kindness starts within us and takes time, and can best be practiced in 4 stages:
1) Begin with yourself, 2) continue with someone who has been kind to you, 3) continue with a neutral person and 4) finally work with someone with whom you experience challenges. Commit daily to some dedicated moments of appreciation, gratitude, and encouragement. Begin by finding phrases that reflect what you wish the most deeply for yourself. You can use ‘May I be happy, may I be peaceful, may I be liberated, may I be well.’ or something similar.
Keep repeating those phrases. First, it may feel mechanical, but it will prepare you for sending loving kindness to others too. Again, take a few deep breaths, relax the body, and now direct the qualities of loving kindness towards someone who is or has been kind to you. This could be someone for whom you feel gratitude and has been beneficial in some way on your life’s journey. ‘May you be happy, may you be peaceful, may you be liberated, may you be well.’
Next recall a neutral person you do not have a strong feeling of liking or disliking and observe how the feeling of loving kindness develops over the course of time. Now bring someone to your mind with whom you currently experience or had trouble, someone with whom there currently is or was tension, and remember that we all sometimes unintentionally create suffering. ‘May we be happy, may we be peaceful, may we be liberated, may we be well.’
Finally expand your awareness to all beings everywhere, without exclusion and distinction. If you feel guided, you can include animals and natural elements too. Sending loving kindness does not mean to approve negative actions either by us or others, however it expresses that we are willing to remain connected to the essence of who we and others truly are. ‘May everyone be happy, may everyone be peaceful, may everyone be liberated, may everyone be well.’
I believe that loving-kindness is greatly beneficial and essential to our well-being and the well-being of others, especially now when many of us go through challenges of various magnitude. Practicing loving-kindness is a process to experience life at a deeper level and bring connectedness in our personal and interpersonal relationships.
Studies suggest that these practices enhance brain activities related to emotional regulation, stress management, and immune functions, and that repeating kind words to ourselves infuse a deep sense of self-worth instantaneously.
Further, practicing loving kindness has a long-lasting impact on our mind and our body and kick-starts a ripple effect of positivity that is truly empowering and will bring harmony and peace in all our relationships. We are sharing this beautiful planet with everyone else while being on uniquely carved individual paths.
Once we commit to loving kindness, there is hardly any space left for self-criticism and self-harm nor criticism of others. The quality of positivity generated by practicing loving kindness transforms not only relationship with ourselves, but also with others and ultimately all lifeforms on this planet.
You can practice loving kindness as part of your regular meditation practice or start simply by sending well-wishes to others and having good intentions towards everyone you encounter in your daily life. Having been a receiving end of many of these kind gestures encountered during our journey to Switzerland made the whole travel experience much less stressful and gave us a renewed sense of hope for the coming times.
During these intense times, we sometimes can feel emotions such as frustration, sadness and anger which may appear too powerful to handle no matter how much we practice meditation and mindfulness. Regularly practicing this loving kindness exercise in our daily lives can help us to soften the impact of such emotions and transform our reactions to inner and outer triggering events.
The picture above was taken when I returned to the area of Blausee, located in the Bernese Oberland, again this week. While I walked around this splendid pool of water filled with pristine and magical energy, I reflected on loving kindness. When I saw a small red boat with a few people on it, I wished them well and spontaneously took this picture.
It was only later in the evening that I realized how beautiful the picture turned out, which almost looks like a postcard with the crystal-clear turquoise water as the background. My heart knew that the moment of feeling and sharing loving kindness put the extra magical energy to the picture.
I’d like to invite you to practice loving kindness this coming week and observe what magical transformation it may bring in your life no matter what the outer circumstance currently look like. You are welcome to share with me after this week how your loving kindness experiment went and of course you can continue with the practice as long as you wish.
With loving kindness,
Yves Nager is a renowned author, transformational healer, workshop facilitator, as well as a world-class mapper, orienteerer and explorer. His soul-lead path through life has taken him far and wide seeking out answers and healing through visiting a vast array of sacred sites and learning from many wisdom keepers and influential teachers across the world.
Yves’s mission in life is to be a purpose-driven guide offering his healing gifts in service to others in order to reconnect them their deepest passion and true happiness. His mission combined with a vast amount of training and experience allows him to act as a soul-guide facilitating clients back to their own purpose and a deeper connection to life.
He is also the author of Hawaiian Rebirth: Questions, Stories and Strategies to Guide You to Your Life’s Purpose and a co-author of the Amazon bestseller, Inspired by the Passion Test. He also contributed a chapter to the book Ilahinoor – Awakening the Divine Human by Kiara Windrider.
Yves is passionate about supporting people in transcending their limitations, creating new possibilities and transforming their challenges into freedom. Having overcome many life obstacles himself, he truly understands the power of forgiveness and gratitude and believes that when we focus on the heart’s desires and intentions, we can create miracles. Yves is dedicated to helping people discover their unique gifts and live a purposeful life with clarity, vitality, joy, love and abundance.