Start Practicing Loving Kindness Meditation Now!

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The loving kindness meditation is one of the most popular meditation techniques around, and for good reason. Those who practice loving-kindness meditation regularly are able to increase their capacity for forgiveness, connection to others, self-acceptance, and more. And the stress relief aspects of this meditation are strong as well. Not bad for a technique that's easy to practice and can make you feel happier in minutes!

The basic point of the loving kindness meditation is to focus benevolent and loving energy toward oneself and toward others. The benefits of the loving kindness meditation are clear: practitioners experience all the regular benefits of meditation, which are numerous and far-reaching, as well as the warm feelings of, well, loving kindness, which brings its own benefits. The following is a simple and effective loving kindness meditation technique to try.

Here's How:

  1. Carve out some quiet time for yourself (even a few minutes will work) and sit comfortably. Close your eyes, relax your muscles, and take a few deep breaths. (See this article on deep breathing for more specific instructions on this.)
  2. Imagine yourself experiencing complete physical and emotional wellness and inner peace. Imagine feeling perfect love for yourself, thanking yourself for all that you are, knowing that you are just right, just as you are. Focus on this feeling of inner peace, and visualize that you are breathing out tension and breathing in feelings of love.
  1. Repeat 3 or 4 positive, reassuring phrases to yourself.  There are several that work, but I like and recommend the following:
    1. May I be happy.
    2. May I be safe.
    3. May I be healthy, peaceful, and strong.
    4. May I give and receive appreciation today.
  2. Bask in that feeling for a few moments. If your attention drifts to something else, gently redirect it back to these feelings of loving kindness. Let these feelings envelop you.
  1. You can choose to either stay with this focus for the duration of your meditation or begin to shift your focus to loved ones in your life. Begin with someone who you are very close to--either a spouse, a child, a parent, or a best friend.  Feel your gratitude and love for them. Stay with that feeling. You may want to repeat the following phrases or similar ones that bring about feelings of loving kindness within you:
    1. May you be happy.
    2. May you be safe.
    3. May you be healthy, peaceful, and strong.
    4. May you give and receive appreciation today.
  2. Once you've held these feelings toward that person, bring other important people from your life into your awareness, one by one, and envision them with perfect wellness and inner peace. Then branch out to other friends and family, then neighbors and acquaintances, even other groups of people around the world.  You can extend these feelings of loving kindness to to people in other countries around the globe and focus on a feeling of connection and compassion. You can also Include those with whom you are in conflict (a "frenemy" or someone toward whom you feel resentment or anger) can help you to reach a place of forgiveness or greater peace.  
  1. When your meditation is complete (which is whenever you decide), open your eyes and remember that you can revisit that wonderful feeling throughout the day. Memorize how the loving kindness meditation feels, and revisit this feeling with just a few deep breaths and a shift in focus throughout the day.

Tips:

  1. First, practice this meditation with yourself as the subject, and move on to those who are easy for you to envelop with loving kindness. Directing the loving kindness meditation toward difficult people in your life brings real benefits in forgiveness and letting go of rumination, but it may take more practice.
  2. You may want to set a timer if you're concerned about spending too much time in meditation, especially at first.
  3. This meditation can be practiced in many different ways. This is just a suggestion. You may come up with your own loving kindness meditation technique that works particularly well for you--simply be sure to focus your attention in a way that promotes feelings of loving kindness.

Sources:

Fredrickson BL, Cohn MA, Coffey KA, Pek J, Finkel SM. Open hearts build lives: positive emotions, induced through loving-kindness meditation, build consequential personal resources. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, November 2008.

Hutcherson CA, Seppala EM, Gross JJ. Loving-kindness meditation increases social connectedness. Emotion, October 2008.

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