What is Loving-Kindness Meditation?

Loving-kindness meditation is about cultivating compassion and love through mentally repeating a series of phrases. It’s a meditation of care, concern, tenderness and friendship that helps create a feeling of warmth for oneself and others.

The practice was originally called metta bhavana in the Pali language – metta meaning love {in a non-romantic sense}, friendliness or kindness, and bhavana meaning development or cultivation.

Loving-kindness is unconditional, inclusive love. There are no expectations of receiving anything in return. We begin by loving ourselves, because without this it’s difficult to extend love to others. Then we include those who are special to us and, ultimately, all living things. Gradually, blending visualisation and meditation phrases creates a lived experience, the feeling of loving-kindness.

What Are the Benefits?

A study published in 2008 showed a single, 10-minute loving-kindness meditation can lead to increased feelings of social connection and positivity towards strangers. Scientists also believe a more regular practice can have far reaching benefits, such as an increase in positive emotions and a greater capacity for empathy.

Loving-kindness meditation may be one of the most effective ways to increase compassion and being more compassionate is thought to improve health and overall wellbeing. The practice is also useful for reducing self-criticism and depressive symptoms.

A Simple Loving-Kindness Meditation for Beginners

  1. Find a comfortable posture. Meditation is best performed sitting upright, with the back comfortably supported. However, if you prefer, you can be seated with the legs crossed, kneeling on a cushion, or sitting upright in bed.
  2. Begin to focus around your solar plexus and chest area. This is called the ‘heart centre’. Breathe in and out from here, as if you’re breathing from the heart centre and as if all experience is happening from there.
  3. Become aware of yourself, focusing on feelings of peace, calm, kindness and tranquillity. Feel any areas of mental blockage, numbness, self-judgment, or self-hatred. Drop beneath these sensations to a place of self-compassion where you want strength, health and safety for yourself.
  4. Continuing to breathe in and out, use either these traditional phrases or ones you choose yourself. Say or think them several times. You may want to combine them with a mental image, like golden light flooding your body.
  • May I be free from inner and outer harm and danger. May I be safe and protected.
  • May I be free of mental suffering or distress.
  • May I be happy.
  • May I be free of physical pain and suffering.
  • May I be healthy and strong.
  • May I be able to live in this world happily, peacefully, joyfully, with ease.
  1. Next, direct these phrases towards a person who invites the feeling of pure unconditional loving-kindness, such as a parent or grandparent.
  2. Move to a person you consider a dear friend, repeating the phrases again and breathing in and out of your heart centre.
  3. Now move to a neutral person, someone for whom you feel neither strong like nor dislike. As you repeat the phrases, allow yourself to feel tenderness and loving care for them.
  4. Then, move to someone you have difficulty with or feel hostile towards. Repeat the phrases for this person. You may find it helpful to add ‘to the best of my ability, I wish that you be….’. If you begin to struggle, return to your first benefactor and let the loving kindness arise again before returning to this person.
  5. After the difficult person, radiate loving kindness out to all beings. Let the phrases spread through your whole body, mind, and heart.

Gradually relax out of the meditation and bring your practice to an end.

Have your tried this practice before? How did it make you feel? Discover more about meditation here.

Love the SOL team x

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