We tend to over-complicate it — looking for complex solutions to our suffering, heartaches, and worries. We can busy ourselves with looking for solutions outside of ourselves, when, really, we can turn inward to our own hearts and bring loving attention to what’s here.
Who has loved you “as you are”?
Have you ever been in the presence of someone who just “allows you to be”? Someone who just allows you to be, however you are, whatever you bring with you in that moment. Someone who holds space for you to be.
Think of a time when you have felt “seen” and “heard” by someone. Even if it was just for a moment or it was once. Recall this moment. Even if you have to IMAGINE how someone loving you so deeply like this.
How did it feel to be so regarded? To feel so “seen”?
Do you feel your nervous system settling right now in this moment as you recall that experience or even imagine it? Do you feel your shoulders relaxing, your breath softening, and maybe even a soft smile comes across your face?
Such loving presence is healing. Such space to be ourselves is nourishing.
This is what my Compassion Coaching and psychotherapy are all about. It is my deepest intention to create such a sacred space for you to be held and seen. Sometimes for some clients, it is a rarity to be held so compassionately and tears flow. And with most clients, I teach them lovingkindness meditation so they can gradually learn to offer themselves sacred space AND BE sacred space for others. There is a tremendous power in this sweet, heart-centered meditation and daily practice.
What Lovingkindness is:
Lovingkindness meditation is about abiding and resting in loving presence…and extending it to others. It’s about returning to a happiness that isn’t based on the ever-changing weather systems of our emotions, thoughts, sensations, or life circumstances. It’s about deconditioning ourselves from believing that we have to go searching for happiness and healing, and that it is found “outside” of ourselves. It’s a focused meditation practice where we feel the power of love. And we experience how love heals.
Benefits of lovingkindness meditation:
- calms the nervous system
- connects us — to our own hearts, our dear ones, strangers, those we have difficulty with, and all living beings. We see our commonality. We see how we all long to belong, to be loved.
- dispels anger and resentment.
- opens, softens and strengthens the heart.
How to Practice Lovingkindness Meditation:
Lovingkindness meditation is a simple, transformative practice with the potential for a profound shift in our nervous system, mood, and relationships…and, might I add: our world. Anyone can practice metta meditation – I teach it to my three and six year old children. It is a foundational meditation that classically is taught along with awareness meditations that develop compassion, sympathetic joy, and equinamity.
In lovingkindness meditation, we repeat phrases or “well-wishes” to different “groups” of people: ourselves, a benefactor, a dear one, neutral person, difficult person, and then all beings.
These are the phrases that have stuck with me over the years. They are easy to remember wherever we are:
May I be safe.
May I be happy.
May I be healthy.
May I live with ease.
We usually start with our own selves, then move into extending lovingkindness to: a dear one (traditionally a “benefactor”), friend (or “dear one”), someone you don’t know well – maybe you don’t know their name – but you may see them from time to time (bus driver, cashier), someone you have difficulty with, and then to every living being.
You can find two lovingkindness meditations in my shop:
The Self-Compassion Meditation. This is a lovely one to start with if you are needing to be fueled with some self-love. This 7-minute meditation is a beautiful way to feel renewed and allow yourself to receive.
The Lovingkindness Meditation (full meditation). This meditation guides you in getting grounded in a heart-centering way and then it leads you through the full practice of the lovingkindness meditation.
You can find all my meditations here:
Tips for Practicing Lovingkindess Meditation:
- Start with your own self. Repeat the phrases, sending yourself these well-wishes. Notice what arises within you.
- Then offer it to others. After we have practiced offering these well-wishes to ourselves, we then move on to extending these same well-wishes to others.
- Use the breath as an anchor. Let the breath gently guide you back when your attention wonders or when you are feeling a tough emotion.
- Be embodied. As you go about this meditation, notice how it FEELS IN THE BODY to offer yourself these blessings. Notice the sensations arising within you with gentleness and the quality of “allowing.”
- Notice thoughts, emotions, and sensations. You may also may notice what images or thoughts come to you. You may notice the “feeling tone” that arises within you. Do this with the qualities of radical acceptance, allowing and gentle curiosity.
- Practice equanimity. Even if you don’t feel anything, it’s okay. Allow what is presents itself to be here – boredom, anger, frustration, joy, openness.
- Bring in the qualities of nonjudgment. In doing so, the repetition of these well-wishes begins to break down the barriers within us, as Rumi says, that keep us from loving and experience love.
My Own Experience with Lovingkindness Meditation
I remember the first time I practiced lovingkindness meditation. I was living in Boston and attending graduate school at Boston College. I had a rigorous schedule with the demands of my studies, graduate assistantship, and practicum. It was a cold Saturday morning as we gathered with the Tibetan sangha I had grown fond of on the grounds of a Unitarian church in Cambridge. I arrived somewhat stressed and definitely tired with my mind calculating the amount of time I was taking away from studying. But I chose to sit and see what this metta thing was all about. I remember feeling my body beginning to settle and my heart beginning to lighten as I quietly repeated the new phrases of lovingkindness. We got to the “difficult person” and thought now I don’t know who I chose, I do remember tears beginning to fall down my cheeks as I saw how I had been holding onto resentment. I saw and felt the pain I was causing myself and others by holding and gripping this resentment. And as I continued to repeat the phrases, I felt my heart opening – gently, sweetly. I remember finishing the meditation with a profound sense of stillness.
Now many years later, I have practiced this meditation many times. And like any form of meditation, though there have been time of difficulty and feeling challenged, I have learned that as I sit, connect with my breath, and abide in awareness, things shift on their own. This practice has softened me and strengthened me. It has convinced me of the power of gentleness. It has been a constant companion to me when I am feeling down on myself or I begin to judge others. I have also taught this meditation to my children and I hope it is a practice they will carry with them into adulthood.
As We Practice
As we practice lovingkindness a meditation, we feel a sense of equanimity, “loving-acceptance” of what is, and a happiness that isn’t based on the weather systems within us of emotions, thoughts, and experiences. A sweetness organically arises.
The truth is that love heals. It’s really that simple. Yet we tend to overcomplicate it. But what really shifts suffering, what really heals, is love. Lovingkindness meditation opens that heart to such healing and love – for our own selves, our dear ones, and this world.
I believe that every time each one of us repeats these well-wishes, we are co-creating a more compassionate world.
Dear Readers, may you practice this meditation and experience the sweet fullness of love that is within you and our world. May such abundance of love flow from you as offering to others. Truly, this is how we transform our planet. Share in the comments how you are practicing lovingkindness meditation in your everyday life.