Right now, the world often appears upside down and split down the middle. A barrage of politicians tell us that we must land on one side of an issue or another. Upset and righteous ire can take on a self-perpetuating quality and this can harden the heart.

What is called for is a nurturing of the heart that will open us to greater love, kindness and compassion. Here is a short list of practices that I draw upon to help me to feel more loving and more at peace.

Loving-Kindness Meditation

This meditation is a very simple version of the practice. Make sure that you repeat the phrases a few times in each section before moving on.

Sitting quietly, eyes closed, say softly to yourself, “May I be safe. May I be happy. May I be well. May I have peace.”

Now, think of someone in your life who is a beloved friend. Holding that person’s image in mind and heart, say, “May you be safe. May you be happy. May you be well. May you have peace.”

Next, think of the neutral person – the teller at the bank, a waitress at the diner, the delivery guy. This is a person that you don’t really know, but you come into contact with regularly. Keep that individual in mind as you say, “May you be safe. May you be happy. May you be well. May you have peace.”

This next one is a little tricky because you will address this meditation to the difficult person. We all know a difficult person and if you think you don’t, well, you can always do this practice for your least favorite politician. Hold an image of the difficult person while you softly repeat, “May you be safe. May you be happy. May you be well. May you have peace.”

And finally, do the practice for all beings. Hold a sense of the world in your heart as you repeat, “May you be safe. May you be happy. May you be well. May you have peace.”

You will be so amazed at how heart opening this meditation can be. You can learn more about this practice by reading Sharon Salzberg’s book, Loving-Kindness, the Revolutionary Art of Happiness.

Keep a Prayer Journal

Many of us learned our very first spiritual practice in church. I grew up memorizing certain prayers, but my prayer life truly deepened when I began to keep a prayer journal. Writing down my prayers in a slow and thoughtful manner in a private journal, I could share the darkest corners of my heart, sufferings and fears, asking for help and guidance.

I wrote down the celebrations and the gratitudes of my life, too, and in committing all of these things to the page, I often felt like the light of the Creator was working in me to show me that the light does not judge but reveals to us healing and grace.

Lighting the Light of Intention

Aren’t we all a little fascinated by a single candle flame? A flame can represent an intention or focus. When my mother died, I lit a candle every morning for a year. I lit it in her name and would sit watching the flame while I drank my tea. Sometimes I would cry and other times I just sat.

When I do a meditation or prayer practice, I like to light a candle with the intention to be honest and sincere; to open myself to possibility; to have more love and gratitude in my heart. A candle flame represents the higher light to which I aspire. Just watching the flame can be calming.

Walking Gratitude

The natural world is a temple to creation. I walk every day in nature. Sometimes it is just around my neighborhood where I can appreciate the trees, the neatly kept gardens, the flourishing nests or the patches of snow. My favorite walking is in the woods that surround my little town.

While I walk, I think about what I am grateful for. I am grateful for strong legs to carry me through life. I am grateful for the reaching arms of old trees. I am grateful for my dog. I am grateful for children laughing. You get the idea.

Walk and enumerate those things for which you are grateful. A walk like this will change your mental atmosphere from a negative to a positive charge quicker than anything I know.

I do these practices not because I am oh-so-spiritual. I do these practices because I need help these days to stay positive and appreciative. When you do an exercise that keeps your heart open and your mind at peace, you are in a better position to care about those around you. And it is a way of acknowledging that we are never as alone as we think we are. We are all part of a great miracle that makes up our existence.

What activities help you to feel more positive? Have you tried any of these practices in your daily life? Which ones seem most intriguing to you? Please share with me in the comment section.

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