What is Loving-Kindness Meditation?

by Sadie on February 22, 2011

In these turbulent times of economic and social uncertainty, there is good reason for angst, feelings of insecurity and anxiety where fear can run dry our emotional well spring. Even if our lives are not affected directly we know someone who is suffering from the turmoil. A Loving-Kindness meditation is a practice that will mitigate the effects of such negativity and maintain a level of equanimity to help us in times of personal crisis and social despair.

“Loving-Kindness meditation according to one tradition of mindfulness is in the Pali language from the word ‘metta’, a loving and kind prayer that is directed at oneself, for one’s loved ones, for people one has difficulties with, and finally for everyone”. (from the book Emotional Alchemy by Tara Goleman-Bennet)

(The following excerpts are from Sharon Salzberg’s new book Real Happiness– )

“Lovingkindness is described as extending friendship to ourselves and others—not in the sense of liking everyone, or dispensing universal approval, but more as an inner knowing that our lives are all inextricably connected.”

“Lovingkindness is a power of the heart that honors this connection. When we practice it, we acknowledge that every one of us shares the same wish to be happy, and the same vulnerability to change and suffering.”

“In the movie Dan in Real Life, starring Steve Carell as a single dad, there’s a line that seems to sum up the nature of lovingkindness. One of the characters says, straight from the heart, “Love is not a feeling, it’s an ability.”

“Lovingkindness is a form of love that truly is an ability, and, as research scientists have shown, it can be learned. It is the ability to take some risks with our awareness—to look at ourselves and others with kindness instead of reflexive criticism; to include in our concern those to whom we normally pay no attention; to care for ourselves unconditionally instead of thinking, “I will love myself as long as I never make a mistake.” It is the ability to gather our attention and really listen to others, even those we’ve written off as not worth our time.”

How to Practice Loving-Kindness

From the book “Emotional Alchemy” (How the Mind can Heal the Heart) by Tara Bennet-Goleman there are two practices that are recommended. I have paraphrased some of her writings with mine.

Cultivate Equanimity and Compassion, the power of letting go, accepting things (people and circumstances) as they are. Using compassion or deep sympathy toward ourselves and others allows us to feel a sense of patience and acceptance. Intentionally focus on letting go by simply breathing in and out from where ever you feel the most physical or emotional response, quietly reflecting on being present with each breath. Using a positive phrase or prayer to direct your thoughts such as “I am loved”, “I am perfect in all ways”, “God is my source of Love”, “My life and loved ones are safe and perfect”, “Blessed am I by my Lord Jesus”, etc. Keep the prayer or phrase short and repeat it until you feel a sense a rhythm and peaceful state of mind.

Practice Loving-Kindness Meditations, intentionally use meditation, any specific amount of time of at least 5 minutes to direct your thoughts and phrases or prayers to yourself, to others, and/or specific groups, families, or causes and finally to all humanity. Using positive phrases or prayers such as “May I be blessed with peace and prosperity”, “May I be free of suffering, anger and resentment”, “God bless my family and keep them safe”, “God keep my family from harm, hurt or danger”, “May the world be free of all suffering”, “God save our Humanity”, etc. Spend these few minutes in quiet reflection in a private space without distractions and focus your thoughts on these mindful meditations.

You can also integrate equanimity practices with loving-kindness meditations, starting with the equanimity phrase, going to the loving-kindness meditations and ending with the equanimity prayers for others. These are powerful shifts in your daily energy emotional quotient. You will quickly notice how much more patient and accepting you are, have more positive energy and a more peaceful and satisfying life despite the circumstances in your life or in our world.

As a Catholic I use prayer and scripture to meditate and focus my intentions for equanimity and more compassion in my life. I believe that doubt and worry makes us anxious, cultivates negative mental habits and makes for an unhappy heart leading to lives of sadness, regret, and despair. You can stop these negative habits of the mind by shifting to these Loving-Kindness practices to manage your emotional well spring without attachment but with mindfulness intention of letting go and accepting things as they are.

Leave a Comment

Next post: