The Power of Loving Kindness Meditation: What is it and How to Practice?
The quality of loving kindness is the fertile ground on which an integrated spiritual life can grow. With a loving heart as the foundation, all our attempts, all encounters will unfold and flow more easily. Although loving kindness can arise naturally in many cases, it can also be cultivated.
The following meditation is a two-and-a-half thousand-year-old practice that uses the repetition of phrases, images and feelings to evoke loving kindness, to evoke friendliness directed at oneself and others. You can experiment with this practice to see if it is useful for you. It is best to start by repeating (the formula) over and over again for fifteen or twenty minutes once or twice a day in a quiet place - and continue the repetition for several months.
At first this meditation may feel something mechanical or awkward, it may even generate, as its opposite, feelings of irritation and anger. If this happens, it is especially important to be patient and kind to ourselves, allowing anything that arises to be received in a spirit of friendliness and acceptance. Loving kindness will develop in due course, even in the face of internal difficulties.
Love-kindness meditation, sometimes called "Metta" or "Maitri" meditation, is a tried and well known meditation practice used to develop our disposition and capacity for kindness. It is common to practice this approach by silently repeating a series of mantras to send others benevolence, kindness and warmth. In loving-kindness meditation, there are no expectations or obligations.
This is a form of meditation that allows one to practice forms of meditation through one of the four qualities of love, according to Buddhism:
Mudita: Appreciation and joy
Sharon Salzberg and Loving-Kindness Meditation
Salzberg is a well-known author and teacher of Buddhist meditation. In her essay Mindfulness and Loving-Kindness, she describes loving-kindness as a quality of warmth which gives awareness of the connection we all have. Loving-kindness recognises that everyone wants to be happy and that many people struggle with the question of how to achieve this.
Salzberg also teaches that when we fully incorporate mindfulness into our lives, it leads us to a greater understanding of love-kindness, reducing our habit of falling into easy but painful reactions such as aversion, delusion and achievement in the mind.
Tara Brach on Loving-Kindness Meditation
Tara Brach, psychologist and meditation teacher, has made a career out of spreading her knowledge of love-kindness meditation. With many years of experience teaching meditation, yoga and mindfulness practices, her publications on the benefits of love-kindness meditation are used by many renowned psychotherapists when they help their clients deal with depression, trauma, grief and loss.
How to Best Practice Loving-Kindness Meditation
Loving-kindness meditation can help you develop a greater sense of unconditional love. Loving the world, your life, the people around you and all the things that are happening in your life. This is very important. Because all that we send out into the world comes back to us with a torrent. This is where a happy and harmonious life begins.
Metta meditation is also a useful tool for overcoming fear towards people or situations.
There are different techniques for loving kindness meditation. I will share with you a technique that I have been using myself for a long time.
So, take a comfortable pose (always with a straight back), close your eyes and start relaxing every part of your body. When you are completely relaxed, focus your attention on the process of breathing. Observe your breathing for a while.
When you reach a state of complete relaxation, remember the feeling of the morning sun, gently - warming, not yet scorching hot. Imagine a picture of the sun shining not only on you, but giving warmth and light to everything - animate and inanimate, to all people, animals, plants around the world.
Then imagine yourself as this warm, warming sun, with rays of loving kindness extending in all directions. And begin to radiate this energy.
Imagine yourself smiling at yourself. Picture yourself as a small and beloved child, or feel yourself as a present person with a heart full of loving kindness. Or remember a time when you were happy. Sincerely wish yourself something good, feel that wish in your heart and then start radiating it.
Slowly and calmly repeat to yourself:
- May I be happy and prosperous,
- May my heart be filled with love,
- And my mind finds peace.
- May qualities like love, kindness, compassion, respect, joy, harmony and peace fill me.
- May qualities like anger, envy, resentment, anger, greed disappear from my life.
Say them in silence, to yourself and in full awareness:
- May you be safe.
- May you be in good health.
- May you be happy.
- May it be easy for you to live in this world.
Try to mentally connect with the emotional experience of these phrases by repeating them slowly. Remember that this is the person you really want to see happy.