|Loving Kindness Meditation
This meditation is slightly different from those we have practiced in the course thus far. It is a “friendliness” or compassion practice that involves developing a kinder, gentler attitude toward ourselves and others. This compassionate and friendly approach is an important aspect of mindfulness practice and can help support the other practices that we have done.
To begin, find a position that is comfortable for you, allowing your body to be completely at ease and beginning by just loosening any tension in your body. Allowing any tightness in your body to release, softening your belly, gently releasing any tension in your arms and shoulders, your face, relaxing your jaw. Maybe taking a moment to connect with your intention, your reason for being here and engaging in this practice.
Feeling your body against the floor or the chair. Feeling the solidity and stability of the ground beneath you, allowing your body to release into the chair or the ground, and feeling a sense of safety here in this moment, allowing the ground to support you.
Now bring to mind someone you know personally, or know of, who is easy to love and toward whom you naturally have feelings of friendliness and caring. This may be a friend, a child, a grandchild, grandparent, or even a pet. It is best not to pick someone with whom you’ve had conflict or to whom you are romantically involved, but rather just someone toward whom you feel an easy warmth and friendliness. Maybe someone who makes you naturally smile just by thinking about him or her.
If you’d like, imagine that this someone is sitting next to you, by your side, or in front of you. If you are unable to picture this person, just allow yourself to focus on the feeling, the sensations you may experience in the presence of this being. Take a few minutes to pay attention to how you feel, sensing where in your body you experience feelings of compassion and caring. This may be in the center of your chest, where your heart is, or in the belly or the face. Wherever you feel the experience of caring or kindness in your body, with each breath, allow this area to soften. If you have trouble sensing this or finding the area where these feelings might be centered, it’s okay. Just keep your focus on this general area of your heart and notice what, if anything, you can sense there throughout this exercise.
Now, if it feels comfortable to you, send this being well-wishes. We often use the following, repeating them quietly in our minds:
May you be safe and protected. May you find true happiness. May you be peaceful. May you live with ease. (Repeat slowly).
You can use these well-wishes or you can create your own, whatever feels most genuine for you. Continue to repeat them mentally. May you be safe and protected. May you find true happiness. May you be peaceful. May you live with ease. Or whatever well-wishes you have chosen.
The idea is not to make anything happen; we are simply sending well-wishes, the way you might wish someone a safe journey or a good day. If you find yourself having thoughts such as, “This isn’t working” or “This is silly,” just notice these thoughts and gently guide your attention back to the wishes. Similarly, if you find yourself feeling frustrated or irritated, just bring your attention to that experience, and remember that you can always bring your attention back to simply sensing the area where your heart is. Remind yourself that there is nothing in particular that you are supposed to feel when you do this practice. Just allow your experience to be your experience.
Now imagine that this person is sending the same well-wishes to you. May you be safe and protected. May you find true happiness. May you be peaceful. May you live with ease.
If it feels comfortable, you may shift your attention now from this person to yourself and send yourself the well-wishes – May I be safe and protected. May I find true happiness. May I be peaceful. May I live with ease – or whatever wishes you have chosen. And with each wish taking a moment to feel that wish in your body and heart. What does “safe” feel like? How does “happy” feel? So that you are able to connect with these wishes.
If it is easier, you may imagine yourself as a young child receiving these well-wishes. If you find yourself having judging thoughts or thinking about the exercise, just notice these thoughts and guide your attention back to the phrases. If you notice any resistance or anxiety, as best you can, allow that resistance to soften. See if you can have compassion for your experience, just as it is. Continue to experiment with this on your own a few more minutes.
Now send these wishes to the people in the room with you. May we be safe and protected. May we find true happiness. May we be peaceful. May we live with ease. Again, using whatever wishes feel most comfortable and meaningful to you. There is no need to force any particular feeling here – just simply extending wishes to yourself and the others here with you.
Take a moment to receive these wishes that the others in the room have sent to you.
Whenever you are ready, you may allow your eyes to open.
Slight adaptation, Bowen et. al, p. 153