How to Live a Radiant Life

Blog Post by Jeannie O’Neill, FLSM Education Director

Often I think of the word radiance and feel like it is one of those words that has become overused and misunderstood. I would see ads for radiant skin (buy this lotion!) or radiant smiles (buy this toothpaste!) but it never felt like they were correctly embodying the word. What I was searching for was a way to truly understand and connect to this concept. I felt drawn to radiance, almost as if the word itself was the key to youthful energy and vibrance.

As I began to dive into this word and various radiance practices I came across the Buddhist teachings about the four radiant abodes. I felt as if I had hit the jackpot. Not only was radiance a practice that could be embodied, there were FOUR different types of radiance. The research that followed led me to an amazing book by Jack Kornfield called A Wise Heart. I urge anyone who is interested in Buddhist Psychology to check it out! In the meantime, below is a relatively accessible set of practices, which can help anyone feel more radiance and vibrancy in their lives.

The Radiant Abodes (for self and others)

Loving kindness is the practice of Metta. It is used to actively cultivate the feeling of loving kindness towards all beings, beginning with yourself. Simply say the words to yourself whenever you would like to boost your loving kindness.

May I be happy

May I be healthy

May I be peaceful

May I be free from suffering

Compassion which is also known as Karuna. Karuna is seeing, truly witnessing, others suffering or your own and allowing space for it.

Sometimes when we believe we are feeling compassion, we want to take away the pain that is present. A wise heart knows that feeling pain is part of life. We can sit with it and allow it to pass. Pain is part of life, yet suffering, is optional. Suffering is caused when we believe that things ‘should’ be different than they are, or cling to our attachment of making the pain for us or others go away.

A karuna, or compassion meditation might take the words printed above and apply them to someone that has caused pain, or someone that is in pain. Try the metta meditation above but with it being offered to different people in your life in your daily practice to work on compassion.

Joy or more correctly, Sympathetic Joy is another abode known as mudita. For example we can tap into the joy of others and feel it for ourselves. You find mudita by feeling connected to the ways others find success in their lives. Here is a sympathetic joy, or mudita meditation.

I’m happy that you’re happy

May your happiness continue

May your happiness increase

May your good fortune shine

Equanimity, also known as upekkha, is the fourth of the radiant abodes. Equanimity can be defined as having a mental calmness, or an even temperament. Peace, equanimity, and balance can be consciously cultivated. With this in mind we can practice seeing the larger tapestry of life. We can discover that moments of fear or bravery, excitement or boredom, happiness or sadness are all fleeting and that there is a greater design for us all. A bigger picture is developed when we dip below the surface to find depth in all of our experiences.

Take a look at the question sets below and see if you can cultivate a truly radiant life!

Loving kindness: What comes to mind when you think of loving kindness? What is one specific example where you have practiced loving kindness?

Compassion: What are some ways that you see compassion in yourself? Who are you the most compassionate towards?

Joy: Your very being, your nature, is joy. How does this statement resonate with you? Can you feel joyful for other people’s happiness? When is one specific time in your life that you felt joy for no apparent ‘reason’?

Equanimity / Peace: Where are you when you are the most balanced, even and peaceful? Describe that place.