by Jaymie Meyer, NBC-HWC Loving Kindness Meditation
We live in stressful times, some of which is not of our own making. Devastating events like fires, hurricanes and earthquakes have the ability to impact so many lives, including those who find themselves displaced, those who know someone directly affected, and those who find themselves feeling empathy for the suffering of all.
But even when disasters strike, people have a way of coming together to help one another. Many people refuse to slide into the grips of suffering and instead work to rise from the ashes, perhaps a bit wiser and a bit kinder.
Surprisingly, many people eager to offer a helping hand to those in need struggle to show themselves the same level of kindness they’re willing to extend to others. Through the practice of loving kindness meditation, we can learn to show ourselves greater compassion and self-acceptance.
What is Loving Kindness Meditation?
Loving kindness meditation is a meditative practice that focuses on several key tenets: compassion for oneself and compassion for others. It is a method to relieve suffering through expressions of kindness and love, and an acknowledgment that all people, including us, deserve a feeling of well-being.
Most practitioners of loving kindness meditation use a set of invocations during the process that help to focus on universal needs like safety, happiness, health, and love. Often these expressions – called Metta – are first directed towards oneself, as this builds the foundation upon which you can grow.
1. Sharon Salzberg, a leading Buddhist meditation teacher, offers the following words one may choose to use:
May I live in safety.
May I be happy.
May I Be healthy.
May I live in ease.
May I be happy.
2. Jack Kornfield, another renowned Buddhist teacher in the area of loving kindness, offers:
May I be filled with loving kindness.
May I be safe from inner and outer dangers.
May I be well in my body and mind.
May I be at ease and happy.
3. Lastly, another prayer from the Buddhist tradition which I have found useful:
May I be free from fear.
May I be free from suffering.
May I be happy.
May I be filled with loving-kindness.
To practice, select one that resonates with you. After addressing yourself, you can then offer the intention for other people in your life or anyone who may be in need. You can simply change the word “I” to “you”. Finally, you might offer your intention to all.
Here’s an example, using the third Loving Kindness Meditation above.
May I be free from fear. May I be free from suffering.
May I be happy. May I be filled with loving kindness.
May you be free from fear. May you be free from suffering.
May you be happy. May you be filled with loving kindness.
May all people everywhere be free from fear and suffering.
May all people everywhere be happy and filled with loving kindness.
As with all meditation practices, these are best recited when you can sit in a quiet space in a comfortable position. Take a few deep breaths to help you center and relax, and then begin to silently repeat the words to yourself or speak them aloud if that feels useful. You may also silently repeat the Loving-Kindness practice anytime you are feeling overwhelmed, fearful or sad.
The Benefits of Loving Kindness Meditation
While all meditation has been shown to promote many aspects of health and wellness, loving kindness meditation goes a step further by teaching us to be more compassionate with ourselves and others. It also helps us to achieve a sense of peace while expressing our intention to aid (and acknowledge) those who are suffering.
The process is simple, but the effect can be profound. And it is easy to fit into our daily lives, letting us learn to be kinder to others and to ourselves.
Jaymie Meyer is the Founder of Resilience for Life and a Board-Certified Health and Wellness Coach. Her greatest passion comes from helping others realize the connection between mind, body and heart. Skillfully blending ancient wisdom with modern science, she supports clients in implementing useful, sustainable habits in the areas of stress reduction, weight loss and optimal sleep. She frequently presents the HeartMath Resilience Advantage workshop in San Francisco and NYC and offers 1:1 coaching online. More info: www.ResilienceForLife.com