Practice Loving Kindness Meditation
Loving kindness meditation also is called compassion or metta meditation. Try loving kindness meditation after you’ve had some experience with the body scan and sitting meditation.
This meditation is quite different compared to the other mindfulness exercises because it’s about deliberately bringing images to mind and cultivating the positive emotion of well-wishing or compassion, both to yourself and others.
Some people love this meditation while others find it too challenging. Give it a go and if you find it difficult, stick with the sitting and body scan practices and come back to this one in a few months or so.
You can get cosy for this meditation! Find a nice, warm, comfortable place to sit. Wrap yourself in a blanket. As with the other meditations, switch off your gadgets to ensure that you won’t be disturbed for 20 minutes or so. You don’t have to sit in an upright position for this one if you don’t want to.
You could prepare for this meditation by doing something kind and relaxing for yourself, like having a bath or getting a massage. Alternatively, you could go for a casual, mindful walk around the block to get you into a focused state of mind.
Loving kindness meditation is made up of seven stages:
Mindful breathing with gratitude.
Begin by feeling your natural breathing with a sense of affection. Feel thankful that you’re breathing, nourishing your body with lovely oxygen!
Well-wishing towards someone you find it easy to show affection to.
Choose someone with whom you have a simple, unconditionally loving relationship. Perhaps an aunt or uncle, your son or daughter, a spiritual or wise person that you respect or even your pet. (Don’t choose your partner because that can be quite a complex relationship.)
Visualize the person and, in your mind, say to yourself several times, slowly and thoughtfully: ‘May you be well, may you be happy, may you be healthy, may you be free from suffering.’
Say it with kindness and affection.
Well-wishing towards yourself.
Now transfer that same sense of well-wishing to yourself. Some people find this challenging, with difficult emotions arising. If you experience this, continue to explore the effect or leave this step out for now. You don’t need to fight or struggle.
Visualize yourself and wish yourself a sense of wellbeing. Say to yourself, several times: ‘May I be well, may I be happy, may I be healthy, may I be free from suffering.’
Feel the words coming out of your heart area if you can. Feel as if you’re absorbing any pleasant feelings that arise.
Well-wishing towards someone neutral.
Now think of someone to whom you have neither particularly positive nor negative feelings. Perhaps a ticket seller at the railway station, the assistant at your local shop or someone you often see on the bus. As before, say ‘May he/she be well, may he/she be happy, may he/she be healthy, may he/she be free from suffering.’
Visualize the person and wish them well, as best you can.
Well-wishing towards someone difficult.
Uh oh. This step is often tricky. Think of someone who you don’t particularly like; perhaps someone who irritates or annoys you. Essentially someone with whom you have a difficult relationship but who you’re willing to work with today.
Say ‘May he/she be well, may he/she be happy, may he/she be healthy, may he/she be free from suffering.’
Notice what emotions arise for you as you do this. Remember, you’re not condoning any inconsiderate behavior, you’re just wishing them a sense of wellbeing rather than holding a grudge against them. The meditation makes no difference to the difficult person, but you may feel a weight coming off your shoulders as you let go of a sense of frustration with them.
Well-wishing for all four of you together.
Imagine yourself, your loved one, your neutral person and your difficult person all together. See if you can wish everyone a sense of wellbeing together, in equal measure. After all, you’re all living beings, seeking happiness in your own different ways.
Well-wishing to everyone on the planet.
In this final stage, zoom out to the planet as a whole. Think about all the human beings in all the different countries around the world. All the families and friends. All the children and elderly people. Think of all the animals. All the creatures in the oceans, lakes and rivers. Wish them all wellness.
Use the words: ‘May we all be well, may we all be happy, may we all be healthy. May we all be free from suffering.’
If the sentences provided here don’t resonate with you, choose your own words. The words aren’t that important. What’s important is your intention of well-wishing in each stage.
You don’t have to do all the stages in this meditation. Pick and choose whichever stages you feel comfortable with — you’re in control and can decide.