Loving Kindness Meditation
Loving kindness meditation can be the most difficult meditation practice for someone in mental health recovery.
But it can also be the most beneficial.
The reason for this is that what we are trying to get in touch with positive feelings and emotions – beginning with ourselves!
Obviously many of us can find this difficult.
Many of us may have low self view, low self esteem, and may suffer from severe anxiety or depression.
Though this can make it painful to engage with the practice, working with this practice can bring great rewards.
What is Loving Kindness Meditation
Loving kindness meditation is ‘the development of loving-kindness’.
Loving kindness is a translation of ‘metta‘ a Sanskrit word originally applied to the practice.
It is almost impossible to translate metta adequately, so we use ‘loving kindness‘. We could also use ‘friendliness’ and think in terms of qualities such as empathy and compassion
But really, it but refers to strong, even passionate, feelings of love, friendliness, and compassion towards all life. Metta is felt equally towards all, and is completely free from emotional self-interest or grasping.
What we are actually looking for in this practice is the intent to be well. We may not be able to actually realise ‘being well’ in the practice, but we at least have the intention that we, or another is well.
The Practice Itself….
There are five stages to the practice. We can start with stages one, two, and five. And when we feel comfortable, we can add stages two and three. Below is a summary of the five stages of the practice.
– To Begin…
Begin as for the Mindfulness of Breathing, possibly with a quick Body Scan.
– Stage 1
In the first stage, we look to develop a positive response to ourselves. This could be friendliness, interest, or kindness towards ourselves – wishing ourselves happiness and freedom from the stress and suffering of life.
– Stage 2
In Stage 2, we stay in touch with the feeling generated from Stage 1. Then we bring to mind a good friend. We can think about inviting our friend into our awareness, or we can thing about directing awareness to our good friend, whichever seems best.
– Stage 3
In Stage 3, we bring to mind a ‘neutral’ person. This is someone for whom we have no clear like or dislike. Maybe it’s someone we see every day but they don’t really register with us.
– Stage 4
In Stage 4 we turn your attention to a ‘difficult’ person. Try not to use someone too difficult. Just someone we may have had a slight disagreement with, or not seen eye-to-eye with.
– Stage 5
In Stage 5 we bring to mind all four people and try to have an equal response to them all. We do this for a minute or two, then start to expand out. To everyone in the building where you are, to the roads and streets around.
Then broaden out further to include those in the local area, the country, the world. We can even bring to mind other forms of life – all life even. We can expand out as far as we want, throughout time and throughout space!
– To End
To end, as in the Mindfulness of Breathing, we relax our effort. We sit for a few moments and absorb the results of the meditation. We become aware of ourselves sitting in the room.
When we are ready, we can open our eyes.
Want to know more?
There is an expanded explanation of the practice plus some great tips for working creatively with the practice, plus a led audio, in our Blog post: “How to do Loving Kindness Meditation“.
You can also download the audio on our Resources Page