Lovingkindness Meditation

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I have a favorite meditation, one that I do almost every morning. It’s called Lovingkindness, or Metta meditation, and it has the power to create a more peaceful world.

Lovingkindness is a practice rich in compassion, both for oneself and for others. Some studies show that this particular meditation technique can help reduce anxiety and anger; and increases joy, gratitude, care and empathy. It helps open your heart to compassion for all people, those you agree with and those that are most difficult. For me, it’s a reminder that we all have so much more in common that we have differences.

Lovingkindness meditation works on the premise that we must first start with compassion for ourselves. Once we get there, we can expand our circle of compassion to encompass all beings. It’s also important to remember that, just like any meditation, there is no goal in Lovingkindness meditation. It’s all about the practice and not being attached to any outcome.

Lovingkindness is a Buddhist tradition, however it is practiced by meditators in all walks of life. I have my own phrases that I use in my practice and when I’m leading a Lovingkindness meditation, and there a many variations.

How to practice Lovingkindness Meditation

I want to share with you today, a very simple Lovingkindness meditation, although know that there are no set words you have to use. General speaking you are extending Lovingkindness to all, including yourself, your loved ones, acquaintances, difficult people and all beings. Once you’ve read the steps below, you’re ready to get started. So, set aside a bit of time, say 15 minutes in a quiet place, get comfortable and give it a try.

Take some time now to quiet your mind. Allow your eyes to gently close, become comfortable in your chair or cushion, both feet on the ground or sit cross-legged, your hands however is comfortable for you.

Be present in your breath. Notice the gentle rhythm of each cycle, inhale followed by exhale, one after the other, spending as much time as you need to get very familiar with it. Come back to your breath each time your awareness is pulled away by thoughts, sounds or sensations.

Leave all the tension and stress from the day behind you, become aware of your body, how it’s touching the surface you’re sitting on and release any tension. Open your heart and be ready to receive and give Lovingkindness.

Now, picture yourself in the most beautiful place on earth, the place you feel the most peace. It might be by the ocean or in the mountains, or in your favorite room. Be in that place right now. Look around you and see the beauty of this favorite place of yours. Notice the details using all of your senses. What’s the temperature? Do you hear any sounds, perhaps of water or wildlife? What colors are most vibrant? Can you feel a breeze or is the air calm?

In this space that exudes peace, allow yourself to open up and accept that peace. Wish yourself Lovingkindness by repeating these words silently:

May I be happy
May I be healthy
May I be free from worry
May I be peace
May I be love

Now you look around and see that you have been joined by your loved ones, both relatives and friends you are close with. Take all of this in, as you silently greet each of your loved ones and offer them Lovingkindness:

May you be happy
May you be healthy
May you be free from worry
May you be peace
May you be love

You are now joined by an acquaintance, someone you are familiar with, but don’t know well. It may be a clerk at your favorite store, a neighbor or anyone that works at a place your frequent regularly. Share these words of Lovingkindness with them:

May you be happy
May you be healthy
May you be free from worry
May you be peace
May you be love

This next part is often the most difficult, as you are joined by someone who you have a difficult time with, who really pushes your buttons. This may be someone you know well, a relative or even someone you have never met but you are familiar with. Understand that we are all connected, and that we have much in common. This may be difficult, and that’s ok. Don’t judge, just observe. No need to force something you don’t feel, especially if you’re feeling angry towards this person. Just see if you can see this person happy and silently recite the following::

To the best of my ability, I wish that you may be happy
To the best of my ability, I wish that you may be healthy
To the best of my ability, I wish that you may be free from worry
To the best of my ability, I wish that you may be peace
To the best of my ability, I wish that you may be love

As you look around you for one last time, you see you are joined by all living beings. There are people, and animals and plants and all types of sentient beings as far as the eye can see. You can feel the joys and sorrows that all beings experience and you are ready to share Lovingkindness with all of them:

May all be happy
May all be healthy
May all be free from worry
May all be peace
May all be love

And now, as we bring this practice to a close, thank yourself for sharing your lovingkindness with all of life and know that all will benefit.

Gently bring yourself back to space you’re in, the surface you’re sitting on and when you’re ready, open your eyes.

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