Loving Kindness Meditation is a common type of meditation that is appropriate for beginners and seasoned meditators alike. It is so versatile.
You can add a brief loving kindness session at the beginning or end of your typical meditation time, or you can devote some time to the practice and do a more lengthy version of loving kindness meditation that can take up to half and hour or more if you are so inclined.
“Through love, thorns become roses…” -Rumi
I learned the practice of loving kindness meditation in one of my courses in college. It was a brief version, but impactful. However, I didn’t really have any earth shattering moments while doing the practice. When school was over, I sort of forgot all about it.
A while later, I was talking with a friend and marveling at what an amazing human being I was until I had to get out of bed in the morning and interact with other human beings.
On my own, I was amazing!
Putting my beliefs and ideals to work with actual people was causing me to really slip up during the day. I lost patience with my kids, I got sucked into carpool gossip at school, I took personal offense when someone tailgated me on the road, and I got so irritated when my students made the same mistakes over and over again.
My inability to deal with others in my life was stealing my joy!
Add a little LKM to your day
My friend suggested I add a little loving kindness into my meditation time. He said just a few minutes each session right at the beginning or right at the end might help. Actual studies have been done on the positive impact loving kindness meditation has on health and wellness. I thought I would give it a try, it might help.
Gradually, I started to feel myself open up to more love and compassion and less fear and judgement. My relationships blossomed. Those close to me took on a much deeper significance in my life. My irritation with others softened, loosened, and grew not into true love, but into a greater understanding of what we are all going through here on this planet.
Try Loving Kindness Meditation today
The steps in a loving kindness meditation are simple, but impactful. They differ slightly from teacher to teacher, but the basic idea is the same.
Here are the steps I use:
1. Send love to yourself.
This is a difficult thing for most people to do, and it’s tough for me as well. Send yourself some love. Tell yourself “I love you!” Mean it! Say it again. Wish yourself joy and freedom from suffering. You are worth it! You are lovable, lean into that and learn to believe it. You might need to hang out here for a few sessions until you start feeling this. Give it time. Loving yourself helps rid you of fear and judgement, and makes loving others more authentic.
2. Send love to those you love.
I have some great kids, some wonderful friends, a supportive family, and this chihuahua I adore. One at a time, I put them all at the forefront of my mind. I send each one love, joy, happiness, and freedom from suffering. I give them a huge mental hug and a kiss on the cheek, even the chihuahua. There is so much warmth that spreads from my heart all over my body in this step. I feel like I am glowing. You can pick one loved one per day if time is tight, or go all out and bless everyone if you feel like doing that.
3. Send love to an acquaintance.
This can be someone you see regularly but don’t know personally. I think of the produce manager at my grocery store or my mailman, or the super friendly trash collectors in my neighborhood who always honk and wave and smile. They are easy to send a big dose of love to. I wish them all peace and love and joy and freedom from suffering, no matter what that looks like for them.
4. Send love to a difficult person in your life.
After sending love to myself, this was most difficult. I had to picture those gossiping mothers in front of me, talking bad about everyone, and I had to love them? Those tailgaters, who aren’t really hurting me in any way, but they make me feel like I am such an annoyance to them. I needed to send them love? “Thank you for speeding past me this morning…I love you!” Tough stuff there. What about the lady my husband left us for…did I have to think of her? Did I have to wish her love? Okay, I tried it…and it worked! Not immediately, but eventually. And sometimes I slip up and think a mean thought about someone during the day. But I catch myself and I stop and send that person love. It doesn’t change them, but it changes me.
5. Send love to the world.
That’s a pretty tall order, but here’s how I did it. I first thought of my neighborhood and I sent love to everyone. Then I thought of my city. Then my state, my country, and then the world. I took my time. Sometimes I would really focus on people who I knew were suffering, people enslaved, people wrongly imprisoned regardless of circumstance, the oppressed, the oppressors, the haters and the hated. This one takes time, but over the weeks I began to see how we are all so connected, we are all made of the same stuff, we all want to be happy, we all need love. This changed me in ways I never expected.
Life changing, for sure!
So it seems pretty simple, right? Am I still amazing first thing in the morning, before I have to interact with anyone? You bet! Am I this awesome now with other actual human beings? No way! But that’s okay. Life is amazing and just keeps getting better and better. Once I understood the connection we all have, even the tailgaters who think I drive too slowly, I lost the judgement, I lost the fear, I found peace. I still get tripped up from time to time, but finding my way back to peace and compassion only takes a few minutes. I don’t waste my day being angry at someone. What a waste of time that would be.
What do you think about this approach to inner peace? Are you willing to give it a try?
If you would like to read more about loving kindness meditation, Sharon Salzberg is an expert on the topic and she has written a great book. Check it out and enjoy the journey!
Photo by Rowan Heuvel