Loving Kindness Meditation –
Some less experienced meditators complain about how easily the mind’s wandering thoughts distract them from paying attention and deepening concentration. This is a very common problem in meditation practice, and not always just for novices. Here is a solution for you to try. In Loving Kindness Meditation, you focus attention on specific thoughts – internal, subvocal, self-statements like “May I be Safe.” Since the mind is the seat of thinking, and since thought, speech, and action are fundamental aspects of how you live your life – Buddhist or otherwise – loving and kind thoughts may help improve your meditation skills. In mindfulness traditions, thought is simply another aspect of processing sensory information – in fact one of the sensory processes. Thinking leads to consciousness; consciousness may improve or distract your meditation practice. Yes, Loving Kindness Meditation helps to improve the quality of your thoughts, speech and actions. In this practice we soon learn that wishing the best for others also enhances our own joy; it is soothing and comforting. When we open our soft hearts and wish safety, health, and happiness for others we engage in a basic bodhisattva action. More active loving kindness and compassion practices take us a step further into doing things that help other reduce suffering and enhance happiness. There are many compassion practices. Here we will focus only on Loving Kindness Meditation.
Loving Kindness Meditation follows a recommended sequence. There are, however, variations. Begin with yourself. For example: “May I be safe.” Then move your attention to a significant other: “May … be safe.” We can include a good friend, benefactor, or mentor. And then we do move to a neutral person, even a total stranger. You can add a difficult person, and when ready (to forgive) move on to an enemy. Do not include the enemy until you are ready to forgive that person for their harmful actions. You will see that once you do forgive them, they no longer hold power over your emotions and your suffering may end. At this point in the sequence it is helpful to add all beings everywhere. End your practice sequence by going back to yourself. Each change in the object of your good wishes includes all statements before moving to another person. For example: May I be safe. May I be Healthy, May I be happy. May I live with ease. Then you move to the next person. There are other variations in what you say to yourself. For example: May I experience safety and the causes of safety. May I experience good health and the causes of good health. May I experience happiness and the causes of happiness. May I be free from suffering and the causes of suffering. May I rest in great equanimity. At some point people who do regular loving kindness meditations may make up their own words.
These words would clarify what best meets what your needs are, and what you think other people may need.
I recommend that you use ritual as a norm in this practice. For example, light some incense, perhaps a candle, and ring a chime to begin and to end your practice.
1) Sit in a comfortable position, and relax yourself with a few deep, calm, slow breaths.
2) Begin with yourself. Select the phrases you want to say to yourself.
3) To enhance practice effects, as you say the words feel the associated emotions in your body. What does safety feel like? What does happiness feel like. Do your best to introject the power of associated emotions and sensations.
4) When you move to another person, as you say the words do your best to project outwardly the associated emotions of the words. Make an image of the recipient’s face, and send you words and emotions to them.
5) Continue through the sequences noted above.
6) End the sequence by going back to loving kindness for yourself.
I hope you enjoyed this practice.
Do it often – daily if possible. May you be successful in your loving kindness practices.
For more information refer to: Thondup, T. (2009). The Healing Power of Loving Kindness. Boston: Shambhala Publications. [CD]. Se also Chodron, P. (2009). Perfect Just as You Are. New York: Random House Audio. [CD]. And Salzburg, S. (1995). Loving – Kindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness. Boston: Shambhala Publications.
By Anthony R. Quintiliani, PhD., LADC
Author of Mindful Happiness
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