Purpose: This meditation uses words, images, and feelings to evoke lovingkindness and warm feelings toward oneself and others. With each recitation of the phrases, we express an intention, planting seeds of good will over and over in our heart. This meditation is designed to create openness and flow in all we do.
Set Up: Lovingkindness can be practiced anywhere you can close your eyes safely. You can use this meditation in traffic jams, in buses, and on airplanes. As you silently practice this meditation among people, you will come to feel a wonderful connection with them – the power of lovingkindness. It will calm your mind and keep you connected to your heart. This meditation can last fifteen to twenty minutes. It can be done daily as often as you prefer. You will begin the exercise with yourself because without loving yourself it is almost impossible to love others.
Preparation: Sit comfortably, let go of any preoccupations, relax your stomach muscles, relax your jaw and close your eyes. Begin by imagining breathing directly into your heart and out through your hands for three breaths.
As you continue gentle breathing, recite inwardly the following traditional phrases directed toward your own well-being:
- May I be filled with lovingkindness.
- May I be safe.
- May I be healthy.
- May I live with ease.
- May I be happy.
As you repeat these phrases, picture yourself as you are now, and hold that image in a heart of lovingkindness. Or perhaps you will find it easier to picture yourself as a young and beloved child. Adjust the words and images in any way you wish. Create the exact phrases that best open your heart of kindness. Repeat these phrases over and over again, letting the feelings permeate your body and mind. Be aware that this meditation may at times feel mechanical or awkward. It can also bring up feelings contrary to lovingkindness, feelings of irritation and anger. If this happens, it is especially important to be patient and kind toward yourself, allowing whatever arises to be received in a spirit of friendliness and kind affection. Practice this meditation for towards yourself until the sense of lovingkindness strengthens and you feel comfortable, natural and at ease doing it before continuing to direct towards others. The time required will vary for different practitioners.
PLEASE NOTE: Some people find lovingkindness for themselves so hard, they begin their practice with a benefactor (see below). This too is fine. The rule in lovingkindness practice is to follow the way that most easily opens your heart.
When you feel you have established some stronger sense of lovingkindness for yourself, you can then expand your meditation to include others. After completing the meditation for yourself for five minutes or so, choose a benefactor, someone in your life who has loved and truly cared for you, or young person whom you love fully. Picture this person and carefully recite the same phrases:
- May this one be filled with lovingkindness.
- May this one feel safe.
- May this one be healthy.
- May this one be at ease and happy.
Let the image and feelings you have for your benefactor support the meditation. Whether the image or feelings are clear or not does not matter. In meditation they will be subject to change. Simply continue to plant the seeds of loving wishes, repeating the phrases gently no matter what arises. Expressing gratitude to our supporters or feeling warmth towards children is a natural form of love.
When lovingkindness for your benefactors and/or children has developed, you can gradually begin to include other people in your meditation. Picturing each beloved person, recite inwardly the same phrases, evoking a sense of lovingkindness for each person in turn.
After this you can include others: Spend some time wishing well to a wider circle of friends. Then gradually extend your meditation to picture and include community members, neighbors, people everywhere, animals, all beings, the whole earth.
Finally, include the difficult people in your life, even your enemies, wishing that they too may be filled with lovingkindness and peace. This will take practice. But as your heart opens, first to loved ones and friends, you will find that in the end you won’t want to close it anymore.