What Is Loving-Kindness Meditation?
Loving-kindness meditation is a particular type of meditation that focuses on cultivating feelings of loving-kindness towards yourself and others. This popular meditation practice improves well-being through self-care. All the while, you are receiving the stress-reducing and brain-boosting effects of meditation.
Loving-kindness meditation carries many benefits, including increasing self-acceptance, strengthening bonds, increased positive emotions, and fostering forgiveness. It is sometimes called metta meditation and classified as a type of insight meditation as well as a type of guided meditation. Through consistent practice, you foster more compassion and loving-kindness for yourself and those around you.
This practice is not always easy because you are cultivating compassion for other people. Additionally, sometimes the most challenging person to have compassion for is yourself. The hard work will pay off with long-term benefits to your body and mind, not to mention stronger relationships.
Loving-Kindness Meditation Benefits
The practice of loving-kindness meditation holds many benefits. In addition to the benefits of traditional meditation and mindfulness practice, you will cultivate loving feelings towards others and yourself. This practice is hard work as we choose to open our hearts, exposing past wounds that can bring up painful memories.
Maybe the most important benefit is the addition of more positive emotions. A 2008 study found that loving-kindness meditation increased feelings of contentment, love, gratitude, joy, interest, pride, amusement, awe, and hope. Increasing these positive emotions increases overall life satisfaction and feeling of purpose.
Loving kindness meditation also increases your social connections. You stand to gain increases in compassion and empathy, all while decreasing negative bias towards others. It is not surprising that actively being kind helps you get along with others better.
New research suggests that loving-kindness meditation may even slow down aging and protect your genes. It is common knowledge that stress ravages the body. It makes sense then that an activity that decreases stress may also slow aging.
They were able to measure biological aging using the length of a section of DNA called telomeres. The length of one’s telomeres is a measure of biological aging in humans as they shorten with time. The study participants who partook in loving-kindness meditation showed less shortening of their telomeres than participants who did not meditate and those who participated in mindfulness meditation.
How to Practice Loving-Kindness Meditation
Like many meditation practices, there are many variations on how to practice. For starters, don’t get caught up in whether you are doing it right or wrong. The only wrong way to do it is to skip your daily practice. The most important thing is to bring to mind the intention to give loving-kindness to yourself and others.
First off, make sure you have the time to relax and meditate. For best results, think of this as a daily ritual. Perhaps give yourself this time at the beginning of the day. Give yourself time before you check email or social media as they will add busyness to your mind that you may find distracting at best. Worst case scenario, those distractions can ruin your meditation.
Second, sit comfortably with your spine erect. Take a deep breath. Close your eyes, relax, breathe out, and repeat. Imagine that you love yourself unconditionally. Imagine that you are breathing in feelings of warmth and love and breathing out feelings of tension.
Third, add some mantras into the practice. There are many variations of this, but here are some examples. Repeat the phrases: “May I be happy, may I be safe, may I be well, may I give thanks.”
Now it is time to shift the focus of your meditation to other people. Extend these intentions of loving kindness to those you will interact with today. Then grow it and extend this goodwill to all living beings around the world. Repeat the phrases: “May you be happy, may you be safe, may you be well, may you receive thanks.”
Play around with the script until the words feel right for you. It takes time to make a loving-kindness meditation script your own.
Recommended Readings To Deepen Your Meditation Practice
Bhante Gunaratana shares with us in great clarity and warmth how we can cultivate with loving-kindness meditation. We are shown how to live a joyous life in harmony with others. The bestselling author of Mindfulness in Plain English incorporates the benefits of living with loving-kindness.
One of America’s most prominent spiritual teachers, Sharon Salzberg, takes us on an inspiring journey in this book. She shows us how the practice of loving-kindness can help us discover happiness and a connection to others.
In this book, Pema Chödrön suggests that the best teacher for awakening loving-kindness is your very own life. Encouragement and inspiration for cultivating kindness exist in embracing the multitudes of emotions and opportunities we face everyday.
This lovely text is brought to us by world-renowned Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh. It will help you to shed anxieties and experience the joy of living in the present moment.