Loving Kindness

Loving Kindness embraces the qualities of acceptance, generosity, friendliness, and the warmth we long to receive from others.  It describes an unconditional warmth and care that we are able to extend to all those who are a part of our lives – those we cherish and love, those we are indifferent to, those we feel most separate from, and our own selves.  Cultivating loving kindness, we discover that the walls of mistrust and fear that can so painfully separate us from others can also begin to crumble.  In developing our own capacities for fearlessness, tenderness and benevolence, our lives are lived with greater ease and connectedness.  The small gestures of love we receive from others nurture and heal us, while the gestures and words of love and kindness we are able to offer to others bring depth and intimacy to all of our relationships.  Loving kindness awakens and gladdens our hearts.

We all know the power that ill-will, anger and fear have to damage and scar our lives and our world.  Individuals, communities and nations are divided by mistrust fear and rage. Our whole world cries out for greater generosity tenderness and love.  Its divisions and conflicts will not be healed by yet more formulas, prescriptions and strategies, but through a radical change in each of our hearts.

We share with all living beings the longing to be happy and free from pain and fear.  We share with all living beings the yearnings to be accepted, loved and cared for.  In the face of anger our tendency is to withdraw, close down, to disconnect from the person before us.  Gripped by the rage or hurt present in our own hearts, we are prone to strike out, to harm another or exile them from our lives.  The division, mistrust and alienation that follow scar our lives and relationships.  Our own anger and fear will lead us to commit countless acts that are born of unconsciousness and reactivity and lead to sorrow and alienation.

Loving kindness meditation teaches us how to find a refuge of calm openness within our own hearts.  It is a refuge that protects us from fear anger and turmoil.  With loving kindness meditation, we learn to remember honour and cultivate the capacity each of us has to touch our work with warmth and friendliness.  We nurture a sanctuary of balance and strength within ourselves that allows us to turn towards pain and adversity and heal divisions.

In loving kindness meditation, we cultivate, again and again, the intention to embrace all moments with generosity and warmth.  Yet loving kindness is not sentimentality, or even capacity for intimacy and understanding.  Loving kindness meditation is a practice of happiness.

 

Loving kindness for oneself

Traditionally, loving kindness meditation begins with ourselves. We learn to offer an unconditional warmth, acceptance, and tenderness to our own bodies, minds, and hearts.  Many people find it easier to extend love and care to others, than to receive it or to offer that same generosity of heart to themselves. Historical feelings of worthlessness or inadequacy at times make us feel we are undeserving of love and tenderness.  Loving kindness meditation can heal those historical wounds that impair our capacity to offer to ourselves the boundless generosity, acceptance, and tenderness that make our hearts sing.

In learning to extend loving kindness to ourselves we discover the freedom of heart, born of letting go of the painful judgements, expectations and demands. Cultivating loving kindness for ourselves is also the training ground for leaning the lessons of patience, attentiveness, tolerance and warmth that we would wish to pervade all of our relationships.

Classically, loving kindness is developed through establishing our attention in a few simple phrases that embody the intentions for our happiness and well-being we treasure.  The phrases remind us of the possibility of making our inner home a place of fearlessness, warmth, and balance instead of one of confusion or ill will.  The practice is not a mechanical repetition of empty words, but a genuine offering of kindness and love in each moment.

Loving kindness meditation can be developed in a dedicated posture and time ; it can also be cultivated in all the moments and circumstances of our lives that ask for healing and connectedness and invite us to nurture a loving heart.

Guided Meditation Loving Kindness for Oneself

Find a position that is relaxed and comfortable.  You can develop this practice in any posture, though you may find that sitting upright helps you to be more alert and attentive. Let your eyes close and take some moments to consciously relax your body, softening any areas of holding or tension. For a few minutes focus a gentle alert attentiveness to your breathing, letting your mind and body calm with each exhalation. Bring your attention to rest in the centre of your chest, in the area of your heart. Silently repeat the simple phrases of loving kindness, sensing the meaning of each one.

“May I be healthy and safe”

“May I be happy”

“May I be peaceful”

Let each phrase rest gently in your heart and mind taking care not to hurry the words, simply offering to yourself your heartfelt wishes for your well-being and happiness. Expand your attention to be aware of your body, sensing all the pain and well-being your body can experience in this live. Youth ageing health, illness, birth, and death are held within all of our bodies. Holding your body in your awareness, continue to rest your attention in the phrases:

“May I be healthy and safe”

“May I be happy”

“May I be peaceful”

 

Expand your awareness to sense the life of your mind with the spectrum of experiences it can undergo – confusion, calm, agitation, serenity, contentedness spaciousness, busyness, and stillness. With loving kindness befriending your mind, gently repeat the phrases:

“May I be healthy and safe”

“May I be happy”

“May I be peaceful”

 

Expand your awareness further to embrace the life of your heart, sensing all the joy and sorrow that can live in our hearts.  Anger love, fear, trust, anxiety and happiness touch all of our lives.  We can learn to befriend them all without exception we can learn to embrace the word of our emotions without fear.

Continue to rest your attention in the phrases.

It is not unusual in this practice for buried feelings of confusion pain or anger to arise. Do not try to banish them, simply touch them with the intention to welcome them accept them and befriend them.

Stay with the phrases for as long as you wish. If they become an empty repetition of words, let them go for a few moments and reflect upon what it is that brings meaning, richness and depth to your life, and upon all the qualities of heart; you long to bring to fruition.  Then, on the foundation of that reflection, return your attention to rest in the area of your heart and begin once more to offer the phrases of intention to yourself.

When you are ready, open your eyes and come out of your meditation.