Like a caring mother holding and guarding the life of her only child, hold yourself and all beings, with a boundless heart of loving-kindness, as your beloved children. ~ Gautama Buddha
A Few Words on Loving-Kindness Meditation
Loving-kindness is a meditation technique that allows a person to generate altruistic love. This practice focuses on establishing feelings of generosity, kindness, compassion, and empathy towards all kinds of other living beings.The heart liberation of loving kindness leads to the escape from ill will.
Love is not just a feeling, it is a combination of feelings and those feelings appear to be friendliness (metta), compassion (karuna), appreciative joy (mudita) and equanimity (upekkha). These four feelings are called “Divine Eternal”, maybe because, as they say, anyone who is able to maintain any one of them for even a brief moment, has dwelled for that moment in the Kingdom of the Highest Gods.
This passage bellow, spoken by the Buddha, reveals the fate of one who dwells in true love:
“He finds gratification in that (Love), finds it desirable and looks to it for his well-being; steady and resolute thereon, he abides much in it, and if he dies without losing it, he reappears among the gods of a High Divinity’s retinue.
Now the gods of a High Divinity’s retinue have a lifespan of one aeon. An ordinary person stays there for his lifespan; but after he has used up the whole lifespan enjoyed by those gods, he leaves it all, and according to what his past deeds may have been (karma), he may go down even to hell, or to an animal womb, or in the ghost realm.
But one who has given ear to the Perfect One stays there (in that heaven) for his lifespan, and after he has used up the whole lifespan enjoyed by those gods, he eventually attains complete extinction of lust, hate, and delusion in that same kind of heavenly existence.
It is this, that distinguishes, that differentiates, the wise hearer who is ennobled, from the unwise ordinary man, when that is to say, there is a destination for reappearance (after death, but an enlightened one has made an end of birth).”
Now, I would love to write about 5000 more words just on this quote above, but I believe it would be better for everyone to read it and comprehend it from their own perspective.
Therefore, let’s now start diving towards the “How to Practice Loving-Kindness Meditation” part…
The Actual Loving-Kindness Meditation Practice
Before starting your loving-kindness session, you might want to take a look at some Meditation Postures and find out which one to adopt for your own practice.
Note: This practice is composed of two parts.
In the first part, we are trying to decrease the volume of our thoughts and cultivate a certain amount of concentration, which will be of great benefit during our practice, by focusing our attention to our breath in order for our mind to be more clear and susceptible to loving-kindness.
In the second part, we are trying to introduce and establish loving-kindness to our mind by repeating loving affirmations. An affirmation is a verbal formula repeated in meditation. You can repeat it inside your mind or out loud. For me, it works much better if I repeat it out loud. Try both ways for a while and discover which suits you the best.
Part 1 – Relaxing
- Begin by taking a few deep breaths. Inhale through your nose and slowly exhale through your mouth.
- Afterwards, let your breathing happen naturally and start counting it. Count non-verbally each inhalation and exhalation until you reach ten (inhalation-1, exhalation-2, inhalation-3, etc). When you reach ten, start over from one (exhalation-10, inhalation-1, exhalation-2). This practice induces a deeper state of calmness and relaxation. Repeat this cycle at least three times.
- When you are done counting your breaths, remain there for a minute, just existing, being aware of everything that takes place around and inside you.
Part 2 – Practicing Loving-Kindness
- Start by repeating five times the following phrase: “Just as I want happiness and to be free of suffering, just as I want to live, and fear pain so does every other living being”.
- Bring your attention to yourself and apply the following words: “May I be happy. May I be free of suffering and pain. May I be peaceful. May I be loved”. Then, visualize that you get engulfed by a warm white light of love, brighter than the sun.
- Imagine that an animal is sitting in front of you, your pet maybe or some kind of animal that you are fond of. You look at it and you speak these words: “May you be happy. May you be free of suffering and pain. May you be peaceful. May you be loved”. Then, visualize that you hug this animal and a warm white light of love, brighter than the sun, comes out of your heart and both you and the animal are getting engulfed by it.
- Bring to your mind a person that you love unconditionally, might be a sibling, your parents, a best friend, etc. You look at them and you speak these words: “May you be happy. May you be free of suffering and pain. May you be peaceful. May you be loved”. Then, visualize that you hug this person and a warm white light of love, brighter than the sun, comes out of your heart and engulfs you both.
- Bring to your mind a person that you have encountered who does not give rise to feelings of love or aversion, maybe it is someone that you just met and don’t know well yet. Visualize them before you and think: “Although I don’t know you well, may you be happy. May you be free of suffering and pain. May you be peaceful. May you be loved”. Then, visualize that you hug this person and a warm white light of love, brighter than the sun, comes out of your heart and engulfs you both.
- Think of someone in your life who you have difficulties with, an enemy or a person that hurt you in the past. Imagine that they are standing in front of you and you are saying to them: “Although we did have our differences, I wish you happiness. May you be free of suffering and pain. May you be peaceful. May you be loved”. Then, visualize that you hug this person and a warm white light of love, brighter than the sun, comes out of your heart and engulfs you both.
- Turn your attention to the people that exist in your surrounding area (your building or your neighborhood). Feel the warm white light from your heart expanding and touching everyone in the area while thinking: “May you be happy. May you be free of suffering and pain. May you be peaceful. May you be loved”. Start visualizing that this light of love, coming from your heart, keeps expanding until everything in this universe is immersed in it while repeating: “May you be happy. May you be free of suffering and pain. May you be peaceful. May you be loved”.
Note: It is highly recommended that the people who you visualize before you are the same sex as you, or don’t fit in your sexual preferences, because this may result in the rising of lust.
Hatred cannot coexist with loving-kindness and dissipates when coated with loving, kind, and compassionate thoughts. The love that you are going to experience by practicing loving-kindness is not the kind of love that rises through external factors. This love is a state of mind, and as long as you keep practicing, you are going to become more and more able to maintain this state of mind throughout your existence.
This love is and has always been dwelling inside you, but it got entombed beneath other, mainly negative emotions whilst living this troubling life. Loving kindness meditation helps us unearth this eternal love and the more we practice it, the more we bring it to the surface of our being and the more immersed we become in it.
Initially, it could feel difficult to offer unconditional love to others and even ourselves. For many, it might trigger feelings of shame, unworthiness, and pain. Although after a significant amount of loving-kindness sessions, strong and deep rooted feelings of love and compassion for ourselves and every other living being will be established.
Practicing loving kindness will not make any other feelings or emotions vanish. It will render us able to call upon loving-kindness in order to overpower any other emotions which take up residence into ourselves in the present moment, many of which can be anything, but loving!
I know that this is a cliche, but there is no greater power in the Universe than the power of love. When we are dwelling in love, we are emitting the strongest and highest possible frequency that one could possibly emit. If you could wrap every thought in love, if you could love everything and everyone during every moment uncondiotionally, your life would be transformed. The greater the love you feel and emit, the greater the power you are harnessing.
May you be happy. May you be free of suffering and pain. May you be peaceful. May you be loved!