Otherwise known as metta meditation, loving kindness meditation is an essential form of spiritual practice. In a nutshell, it’s the practice of focusing love and kindness toward yourself and others, with single-minded concentration. It is from the Buddhist tradition, but you can practice it no matter what faith you practice or if you come from a secular perspective.
With lovingkindness meditation, your heart opens and you gain deeper insight into (no surprise here) love, kindness, forgiveness, seeing goodness in others, compassion, and peace of mind. You become more loving toward yourself and build a deeper connection with other others.
These are no small things. Make no mistake, it is wonderful to pursue a good career and to take care of your family’s material needs, but it is the way you treat others and the way you treat yourself that makes you a great human being.
In fact, loving kindness gives you great strength – the ability to overcome your own assumptions, the ability to stay centered, the ability to forgive, and the ability to see goodness where it is not always easily apparent.
On a personal front, it helped me be more accepting, loving, and optimistic with myself. It helped me build the strong foundation I needed to change careers, handle relationship conflicts, and overcome personal blocks that were holding me back.
It also continually helps on practical levels: to stop worrying when I’m anxious, to fall asleep when stress is keeping me up, to help me get centered when I’m over loaded.
So how do you do it?
There are a lot of approaches but I’ll share the practice that I first learned and which I still do today.
If possible, find a relatively quiet place. I say this with some reservation because it’s important to develop the ability to meditate no matter what’s going on around you. As long as you can close your eyes and notice your breath, you can meditate. This means pretty much anywhere will work. But a quiet location certainly makes it easier, so if you have one, go there.
Take a few moments to follow your breath, noticing the sensation of it entering and leaving your body. Contemplate the benefits of lovingkindness for a few moments.
Now you will begin to use a loving kindness mantra, directing it in this cycle:
- toward yourself
- toward a benefactor (or someone who has always been loving and kind to you, such as a mentor)
- toward a friend
- toward a neutral person (toward whom you have neither good nor bad feelings – this could be a stranger)
- toward an enemy (this is a Buddhist name for it, you can think of it as someone who irritates you or you have conflicts with)
Start by focusing your attention on yourself. Call to mind a sense of love and kindness. Direct that radiant, all-encompassing love toward yourself and repeat this mantra:
“May you be safe and protected.
May you be peaceful.
May you be fully at ease.”
This is a mantra that I was first introduced to at the Cambridge Insight Meditation Center, I believe by Maddy Klein. It’s not a direct quote from her as I adjusted somewhat to feel authentic to me. The credit is due to her, though.
Or you could try this mantra, which I am quoting from Sharon Salzberg’s book, Loving Kindness – the Revolutionary Art of Happiness. I highly recommend this book.
“May I be free from danger.
May I have mental happiness.
May I have physical happiness.”
May I have ease of well-being.”
It’s also okay to create your own mantra that falls along these lines.
Directing lovingkindness towards yourself may be one of the most difficult steps in the process. You may experience feelings of unworthiness, discomfort, or inability to believe in it. Sit through the experience, gain insights, and treat those thoughts and feelings with lovingkindness as well.
Now direct lovingkindness toward a benefactor, then the friend, and so on - using the same mantra. Continue through the rotation until you have reached the enemy or difficult person. It may be difficult at first to direct loving kindness toward an unpleasant person but here you will find yourself learning to be compassionate, learning to forgive, and learning to see good in others.
Congratulations, you’ve completed your first experience with lovingkindness meditation. Remember, the way we feel about others affects us more than it affects them. So you will liberate yourself by cultivating a loving and compassionate heart. May you enjoy the experience.
Feel free to contact me if you need any help. If you found this article helpful, please consider sharing it with others.
Marie Wetmore is a Life, Career, and Professional Development coach who works with clients in person or from anywhere in the world via phone or video Skype. To find out more, visit Lion’s Share Coaching or contact Marie. Sign up for Marie’s personal and professional development e-zine “Be A Lion” to have her insights and strategies delivered to your inbox.
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