For some people, it’s easy to bring hatred, anger, and contempt into their relationships with others, but what if it was just as easy to create love, compassion, and kindness towards others? The practice of loving-kindness can help one to bring sweetness to their relationships that may not have previously available while forging a healthy connection with yourself.
Loving-kindness is the English translation of the Pali term Metta. The Dalai Lama states that loving-kindness is “the wish that all sentient beings may be happy.” Loving-kindness meditation is a form of mindfulness-based meditation that focuses on caring and connection with others while incorporating nonjudgmental awareness of the present moment.
At its root, Loving-kindness meditation is about unconditional, inclusive love. There are no conditions, and it’s not restricted to friends and family. It’s meant for all sentient beings, with no expectation of anything in return.
Loving-kindness often begins with thoughts of acceptance and satisfaction with oneself and then is directed out towards others. By connecting with ourselves first in a capacity of love and celebration of self, allows us to recognize the true essential nature of others, which then permits us to forge a sense of connection with others.
Like most meditations, loving-kindness meditation begins in a seated position with eyes closed and a focus on the breath. As one sits feeling grounded and present, attention is directed to the heart. I like to place my hand on my heart to help facilitate a kind and caring attention to myself.
Traditionally, loving-kindness meditation begins with kindness toward the self with four traditional phrases that are repeated:
May I be happy
May I be healthy
May I live with ease
May I be peaceful
As we sit and contemplate the caring feelings that are generated, we then expand these phrases towards others. First, to someone we love, then a benefactor, then neutral people, difficult people, and finally the entire universe.
May you be happy
May you be healthy
May you live with ease
May you be peaceful
When repeating the phrases, you can change the word “I” to the category or person you are focused on (e.g., May all beings be happy, or May Mother be healthy). As you practice, you will notice that you will be able to access feelings of kindness, compassion, and acceptance of self and others.
For some of us, it can be challenging to direct feelings of loving-kindness and tenderness towards ourselves. If you find this is your experience, begin with people you love or a pet. As you practice, take your time and be gentle with yourself. Perhaps offer yourself kind thoughts around the meditation; for example, May I be kind, curious, and open towards loving-kindness.
Many people may find using traditional phrases to be robotic or awkward. In this case, I encourage you to write your own phrases. Feel into what is authentic and helps you to generate feelings of loving-kindness towards yourself and others. Write two to four phrases that you feel connected to and help support you in your meditation.
If you are writing your own phrases, make them authentic and straightforward. They should be general in nature and evoke goodwill toward the self and others. Examples of needs might be for health, growth, freedom, integrity, or safety. Having the ability to create your own loving-kindness phrases can be a gift for yourself.
The benefits of practicing loving-kindness can be enormous and include a feeling of greater well-being, while increasing emotional intelligence, lowering blood pressure and reducing bias towards others.