Loving-kindness meditation is a modern practice that derives from an ancient Buddhist tradition.
Loving-kindness meditation is a modern practice that derives from an ancient Buddhist tradition. For over 2,500 years, the Buddha has preached loving-kindness and compassion in order to help people find happiness. He taught that these qualities are essential for peace of mind and a sense of well-being.
The practice is also known as Metta, which means “loving-kindness” in Pali (a language of ancient Buddhist texts). It refers to the sincere wish for true happiness for yourself and others.
The practice can help you discover more joy, peace, and love in your life.
Loving-kindness meditation is said to help you cultivate feelings of joy, peace and love.
- Transform negative emotions
- Promote positive ones, such as joy, peace, and love
- Help you cope with difficult situations in a more positive way
- Make you feel more compassion and kindness towards yourself and others
- Make you feel connected to others and the world around you
- Make you feel more relaxed and happy
You don’t need the guidance of a teacher to try it, but it can be helpful if you want to deepen your understanding of the practice.
You’re a busy person, and you might not have time to sit down and learn loving-kindness meditation from a teacher. That’s no problem! There are lots of ways to get started. With the help of these resources below, you can start practicing loving-kindness meditation right now.
It’s advised that you meditate in a quiet space, sitting or lying down.
To meditate, we recommend you find a quiet space where you can sit or lie down comfortably. Once you’ve taken your spot, relax your body and make sure you won’t be disturbed for the next few minutes.
If possible, close your eyes. Use a timer to tell you when the meditation is over; this will let you focus on what’s happening without worrying about how much time has passed. Let your hands rest on your lap or at your sides.
You may feel more relaxed if you attach a soothing image to the word “kindness,” such as a rainbow arching over a field of flowers or soft-focus puppies frolicking in a meadow of grass and sunshine
You can begin by offering loving-kindness to yourself, and then extend it to others in your life.
You can begin by offering loving-kindness to yourself, and then extend it to others in your life. First, focus on yourself, then on someone you love very much. Then move on to someone you have a good relationship with but don’t necessarily feel warm and fuzzy towards (a neighbor or coworker).
Finally, you might send loving-kindness toward someone who is challenging for you and see what happens! Along the way, say a phrase like “May I be happy” or “May I be at peace” in your mind.
This method is a good starting point because it helps you cultivate a deeper sense of self-love before moving into extending compassion to others.
Think of a warm, happy memory.
Now, try to bring your mind back to a happy memory in your life, whether it be one of you laughing with friends or family members. Bring in as much detail as you can; details such as what you were wearing or the sounds and smells around you will help make this experience even more vivid.
Try to take yourself back and feel the emotions that came with that memory, like joy or contentment. You may also want to think of an old memory with a loved one who’s passed away and hold that memory close to your heart if it feels right for you at this time.
Now think about the smile on their face during this memory. Visualize their smile glowing brighter, radiating love and warmth towards yourself until it fills your whole body and surrounds you in love and comfort.
As you are doing this exercise, please remember all the people who have smiled at you throughout your life: relatives, friends, teachers…those who’ve spread happiness in small ways by simply being there for us when we needed them most.
Repeat the following phrases to yourself:
May you be happy
May your heart remain open
May you awaken to the light of your own true nature
May I be happy
May I be happy?
- I repeat, “May I be happy” and feel into the words.
- If it makes sense to me, I acknowledge the feeling of happiness by saying, “Yes.”
- I focus my attention on my breath or a mantra (such as So Hum) for several rounds.
May I be peaceful.
- I repeat, “May I be peaceful” and feel into the words. If it makes sense to me, I acknowledge the feeling of peace by saying, “Yes.”
- I focus my attention on my breath or a mantra for several rounds. May I be healthy -I repeat, “May I be healthy” and feel into the words. If it makes sense to me, I acknowledge physical well-being by saying, “Yes.” -I focus my attention on my breath or a mantra for several rounds.
May I be peaceful
- Remain focused on the phrases.
- Let your thoughts come and go.
- Don’t judge yourself if your mind wanders.
- Just bring your attention back to the phrases.
- Don’t worry about whether you’re doing it right—just keep doing it for as long as you can.
May I be healthy
Now you’re ready to give the practice a try. It’s best to start with yourself, so begin by repeating words of lovingkindness to yourself:
- May I be safe and protected from harm
- May I be happy and peaceful
- May I be healthy in mind, body, and spirit
- May I feel love and kindness towards myself
May I live with ease
The second phase of loving-kindness meditation is the “may I” stage. Here you begin to add phrases to your meditation, such as “may I be free of suffering” or “may I be peaceful.” Similar phrases like, “may I be happy, may I be healthy and may I live with ease” are also commonly used in loving-kindness meditation.
You can repeat these phrases in any order you choose while continuing to focus on the person or image you are sending the love toward. As before, if negative thoughts come up during this practice, acknowledge them and let them go.
Think of someone you love, who loves you. Repeat the phrases again.
Next, think of a loved one. Perhaps someone who loves you and whom you love in return. Maybe this is a parent, sibling, or friend. As with the others on your list, think of them as they are now—alive and breathing.
See if you can imagine their face as clearly as possible, whether in your mind’s eye or by looking at an image of them. Feel the tenderness and warmth that arises inside when you take a moment to be present with their image.
When your lover comes into focus for you, repeat the phrases again: May this person be happy. May this person be healthy and strong. May this person live with ease.
You may notice some differences just from changing the people involved in your meditation! Perhaps it’s easier to feel warm and loving towards those who love us back—you may even find yourself smiling more easily when thinking about them.
That’s great! This is a good way to practice loving-kindness towards ourselves: Starting out by recalling those we hold dear is a good way to build confidence in our ability to extend compassion both inwardly and outwardly.
Think of someone you care about but who doesn’t know that you care. Repeat the phrases again.
We often take the people we care about for granted. We assume they already know how we feel about them and so it’s not necessary to tell them. So now think of someone you care about but who doesn’t know that you care. Repeat the phrases again, thinking of this person. You can even think of someone you’ve never met before, such as a celebrity or public figure with whom you share some connection or interest.
Think of an enemy or a difficult person in your life. Repeat the phrases again, perhaps imagining that they are happy and well. Or simply say, “May (s)he be happy, peaceful, and healthy.” It’s okay if you have trouble doing this–you can just repeat, “May (s)he be happy.” If that’s too hard, then just repeat “May (s)he be safe from harm.”
You can now do the same process with other people.
For example, think of a person you find difficult and repeat the phrases.
Think of a person you can’t forgive.
Think of a person you are jealous of.
Think of a person you are angry with.
Think of a person you are envious of or annoyed by.
As with yourself, you don’t need to feel loving-kindness toward that person; all that’s necessary is having an intention to want them to be happy and peaceful and healthy, regardless if they’ve done something wrong to hurt or harm others, or themselves in some way.
Finally, expand your loving kindness out to all sentient beings everywhere–including people you don’t even know, animals, and plants.
Imagine that everyone is happy, safe from harm, and full of well-being. Repeat the phrases again. Takeaway: Loving-kindness meditation is a simple yet powerful practice for strengthening compassion for yourself and for others.
You may experience challenges when offering loving-kindness to yourself or others in your life.
As you continue to offer loving-kindness, you may find yourself experiencing negative emotions. This is perfectly normal and can be a very powerful opportunity for growth.
If you find yourself feeling envious or jealous, use the loving-kindness phrases to send loving-kindness to those you envy or feel jealousy towards. If they have something (be it material items, social status, etc.) that you wish you had, wish them well in their continued enjoyment of these things.
If someone has hurt or mistreated you in the past, use the loving-kindness phrases to wish them freedom from pain and suffering. Offer them forgiveness for the way they’ve treated you; not for their sake necessarily but for your own mental health and well-being. Holding on to anger and bitterness can eat away at our internal happiness; choosing instead to forgive can set us free and allow us to experience true peace of mind.
Loving-kindness takes time and commitment, but it’s worth it.
I started meditating on loving-kindness about 7 years ago, and my practice continues to evolve. I used to try to practice for at least 20 minutes a day, but now that I’ve been doing it for so long, I feel the benefits even from shorter amounts of time (2-3 minutes). My goal is to be kinder than I was yesterday, so I make sure to practice every single day.
In the beginning of my practice, sometimes it felt like nothing was happening. But after years of meditation, little by little, I became more patient and compassionate with myself and others.
The power of this meditation didn’t hit me until one day when someone deeply offended me. At that moment, instead of getting angry or defensive as I normally would have done in the past, I suddenly felt understanding and compassion toward them.
It was a huge shift in how I experienced other people’s actions. It has helped me in many areas of my life since then—I’m less judgmental of myself and others because loving-kindness meditation allows me to see beyond surface appearances into what’s really going on underneath our words and actions: fear or insecurity or pain or stress or confusion or sadness.
This is where we find compassion for ourselves and others.
This meditation practice can help you connect with yourself and others through feelings of love.
Loving-kindness meditation has been around for thousands of years, with origins in Buddhism and Hinduism. It’s a form of metta, which is a word from the Pali language thought to mean love, kindness, and friendliness.
Practicing loving-kindness can enhance your well-being by shifting your perspective on life so that you don’t take things personally. It can help awaken the heart and connect you with yourself and others through feelings of love.
To begin, start by closing your eyes if it feels right for you to do so. You may also want to start in a seated position that feels supportive for you and your body.