The goal of mindfulness is not to change the bad to good but rather to accept the bad as an inherent part of a whole. “The notion toward difficulties that we need to fix them or get rid of them, I would say it’s unrealistic, or foolish,” he said. He encouraged confronting difficult thoughts, feelings, emotions, and sensations with an attitude of, “Yes, this too.”
One audience member, a therapist who helps counsel suicidal youth, praised the balanced view of pain and suffering that mindfulness offers. “It’s very powerful,” she said, “to remind people that we don’t have to whitewash the pain.”
Lovingkindness meditation, the other side of this two-sided coin, focuses on fostering warmth and compassion toward ourselves and others, and on cultivating a sense of interconnectedness with other living beings. In one approach, Kornfield had participants visualize a luminous figure of warmth and compassion — “It could be Jesus, the Virgin of Guadalupe, the Buddha, a dead grandmother, anyone,” he said — sharing the gift of encouragement.
Scott, from Lancaster, PA, said that his luminous figure was the Dalai Lama, who gave him a smooth stone in the shape of a heart. Scott is a cardiologist who hopes to encourage his patients to adopt meditative practices to help reduce stress.
“The brain thinks in symbols,” Kornfield proclaimed after giving participants the chance to describe the gifts they had imagined receiving. “These are gifts of our own wisdom.” This approach helps practitioners realize that they can offer lovingkindness to themselves; the luminous figure and the meditator are one and the same. “The wisdom you seek, you already carry within you,” he said.