Cultivating Loving-Kindness Through Meditation

Loving-Kindness meditation, also known as Metta, transforms feelings of isolation, resentment and anger into compassion, connection and love. This is a very simple but powerful practice that anyone can do.

Begin by offering loving-kindness to yourself. Visualize yourself experiencing perfect wellness and inner peace. Then, slowly expand your field of loving-kindness.

Focus on your breathing

When you settle into a comfortable position to practice (you can sit in a chair, or loosely cross legged on the floor), follow your natural breathing and pay attention to how it feels as it goes in and out. Your mind will naturally wander away from your breathing, but it’s important not to fight this but instead gently return it to the focus on the breath. Over time, it will become easier to stay with your breathing without letting your mind wander.

Once you have a steady flow of breath, bring to mind someone for whom you feel great feelings of love—you can begin with your own family members, friends, and pets, or anyone who has been a benefactor of your life in some way. Let your heart connect with these feelings of love for them, and slowly repeat to yourself phrases of loving-kindness like, “May you be happy, healthy, safe, and peaceful.” Then, as the flow of loving-kindness grows, move on to other people in your life, and then to our collective community.

This meditation is a powerful and gentle exercise that can help cultivate an inner sense of connection to others and to ourselves. It can help foster a more loving, compassionate, and connected world. We encourage you to take the time to try this practice, and to let us know how it works for you.

We have also created a Loving Kindness audio guided meditation that you can use for your daily meditation, here.

Find a quiet space to sit comfortably for 10-15 minutes, either in your home or at your favorite meditation spot. Then, close your eyes and relax your body. Breathe deeply and imagine a light that connects you with everyone you love, with yourself, and with all of the other beings in the universe. This light of loving-kindness surrounds you, enveloping you in warmth and love, so that all of your loved ones are radiantly happy and well. This is what you want for yourself, and this is what you want for your loved ones. Repeat the phrases of loving-kindness to yourself, and to each person you can think of—your family members, your friends, your neighbors, and so on.

Bring to mind a person for whom you have great feelings of love

Before focusing on others, begin by cultivating thoughts of loving-kindness for yourself. This is the foundation for all other compassion practices. Begin by sitting comfortably in a quiet place for ten minutes. Focus on your breath, letting your tension and stress melt away, and let feelings of love for yourself grow. If your attention wanders, gently bring it back to these feelings of love for yourself. Learn different positive affirmations for women to better have a spiritual connection with her.

Then, extend these feelings of love to a loved one. Whether it’s a friend, relative, or even someone that you have a difficult relationship with, offer them love and well-wishes in your mind. You might use phrases such as, “May you be safe and healthy” or “May you live with ease.”

It’s often a good idea to start with a neutral person so that your meditation doesn’t trigger aversion or anger. But if no neutral person comes to mind, start with a someone you have mild difficulties with and gradually work your way up to people who you feel intensely resent or hate. It’s important to remember that we all suffer and it’s our job to relieve that suffering.

Once you’ve generated feelings of loving-kindness for yourself and a loved one, continue to repeat the phrases and visualize a light connecting you heart to heart. You might also imagine the circle expanding to include all beings that need your care and love, whether they are living now or have lived in the past.

If you want, you can finish by imagining a white light that connects all beings around the globe and bathes them in love. If you’re comfortable with this, you might close your eyes and visualize this. Or, if you prefer to keep your eyes closed, simply recite the phrases again in your head. It’s a very relaxing practice, and you can do it anytime of the day. However, it is best to do this in a quiet, safe place that is free from distractions and physical discomfort. Then, you can take this energy of kindness with you throughout your life. Practicing this meditation on a daily basis will help you to grow more and more genuinely kind, and this will benefit yourself as well as those you encounter.

Repeat the phrases of loving-kindness to yourself

While a lot of loving-kindness meditations focus on our close friends and family, we can also open our heart to those we may not like or even hate. In fact, extending our field of loving-kindness to people we find difficult can help us become more able to cope with the challenges life presents and even to transform situations that are unavoidable.

We can practice this by starting with a person for whom we have great feelings of love, then gradually expanding the circle to include all beings. This can be done as a formal meditation, or we can simply include them in our thoughts and words, as though they were part of the loving-kindness field that surrounds us all.

Repeat the phrases of loving-kindness to yourself over and over again, sinking into their meaning. It’s okay if your mind wanders, but whenever it does, just bring the attention back to the phrase and to the feelings of loving-kindness that they generate.

As you practice, you may find that the feelings of loving-kindness become stronger. They may envelop you and warm your whole body. This is a sign that the meditation is working.

It’s not uncommon for this to happen in conjunction with the opposite of loving-kindness, such as anger or resentment. If this happens, just take a deep breath and allow those feelings to pass through you in an atmosphere of love and compassion.

Eventually, we can include everyone in our field of loving-kindness, including those who we don’t like or who have hurt us. This can be very challenging. It requires a willingness to let go of our defensiveness and our desire to control and change the world around us. It takes patience and compassion to extend our field of loving-kindness to those who cause stress and pain, and it can be very rewarding.

Loving-kindness meditation, or metta, is an ancient Buddhist practice that cultivates feelings of warmth and affection for oneself and others. Scientific studies have shown that long-term metta practice increases activation in brain areas associated with empathy and emotional regulation, such as the insula and anterior cingulate cortex, and decreases activity in the amygdala, which is the center of our anxious fight-or-flight response. It can even reduce the production of cortisol and other stress hormones, which helps to prevent or treat depression, anxiety and PTSD.

Expand your field of loving-kindness

Loving-kindness meditation (also known as metta bhavana) is a practice that cultivates love, kindness and compassion towards oneself and others. It is a powerful antidote to negative emotions such as fear, anger, hatred, jealousy and loneliness.

It is a type of mindfulness meditation that involves visualization, repetition, and focus. The first step is to find a comfortable seat, close your eyes, and focus on your breathing. After a few deep breaths, think about someone you love and send them well wishes of safety, health, happiness, and peace. This can be a friend, family member, coworker or anyone you have fond memories of. You can also expand your field of loving-kindness to include a neutral acquaintance like the mailman or barista, and gradually work up to more difficult people you may have interactions with. Finally, you can open your heart and mind to all beings, including animals and the Earth itself.

Some research suggests that loving-kindness meditation improves relationships, enhances empathy and compassion towards others, and provides a greater sense of connectedness. It also reduces feelings of depression, anxiety and stress, and has positive effects on your physical health by lowering levels of inflammation and enhancing cellular repair. In addition, it increases grey matter in brain areas related to emotion regulation and stress response.

Loving-kindness meditation can be challenging to do at first, especially if you haven’t done it before. It is common to feel a lack of compassion when you start, or to only be able to generate it for loved ones. This is normal; just keep practicing and be patient with yourself as you develop the ability to feel more love and compassion. In time, you will notice that the more you do this meditation, the more natural and effortless it becomes. Try committing to doing this meditation once or twice a day for ten minutes, and see how it affects you over time.