By Joellepearson (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Loving-Kindness Meditation -- A Balm for the Soul
I saw a bumper sticker not long ago that said, “Love is our soul purpose.” In this spirit, I offer you the practice of loving-kindness meditation. This meditation has been taught through the ages as a balm for the soul, opening the heart and conjuring deep feelings of compassion, peace and acceptance, as well as the healing force of unconditional love, first toward ourselves and then to all life. Though loving-kindness meditation comes from the Buddhist tradition, anyone can appreciate it.
In a hurting world, loving-kindness meditation opens us to infinite possibilities for eliciting deep heartfelt love and soothing difficult emotions. Love is the most powerful force there is and, when practiced with full intention, it can help overcome any suffering we may experience, individually as well as collectively. Buddha taught that the mind is naturally radiant and pure. It’s when dark and turbulent forces invade the mind that we suffer. Anger, violence, greed, guilt, anxiety, depression and resentment are all forms of pain. Cultivating a deep sense of love, compassion, forgiveness and understanding can transform our experience. And thus, transform our world.
When we open our hearts to ourselves, to all sentient beings, and to creation in its entirety without distinction, we’re more apt to include instead of exclude, to connect instead of overlook, to care instead of be indifferent. This truly exemplifies the salutation “Namaste,” used regularly in meditation and yoga. It means “The spirit in me honors the spirit in you, and we are all connected. We are all one.”
1. Sit or lie down in a comfortable position, with your spine reasonably straight. Gently close your eyes. Bring attention to your heart chakra, emanating from the center of the chest. Breathe in and out through your heart center. Witness the inflow and outflow of the breath. The heart, mind and body will begin to soften and release any held stress.
Begin with loving-kindness toward yourself. If you sense any blockages or negative feelings, imagine dropping beneath them to the place where your only desire is to care for yourself, and be safe and well. You can use the phrases shared here or your own.
Here are some possible phrases: “May I be safe and protected from harm. May I be deeply joyful. May I be peacefully at ease. May I be healthy and strong.”
2. Gently repeat the phrases again and again, letting the feelings that arise permeate the layers of your being. Do this for one minute, five minutes or 20 minutes, whatever your time allows. If your mind wanders off, don’t worry. Gently witness your lapsed attention, and bring it back to focus on the phrases. Be in the moment with these positive statements, feeling their vibration resonate through your mind-body physiology.
3. Now think of someone in your life about whom you care deeply: a parent, spouse, dear friend or teacher. Visualize this person and now direct loving-kindness their way: “May you be safe, be joyful, be at ease, be healthy and strong.” Repeat the phrase again and again as time permits. You are a broadcaster of energy. Really tune in to the broadcasting of these feelings.
Next, consider someone who is having a difficult time in his or her life right now. Feel his or her presence. Now offer loving-kindness to this person: “May you be safe, be joyful, be at ease, be healthy and strong.”
4. Now think of someone in your life who plays a more neutral role, whether it be a cashier at the grocery store, a bus driver, a dry-cleaner attendant or a gas-station clerk. Imagine being with this person, and feel his or her presence. Now offer loving-kindness to this person. “May you be safe, be joyful, be at ease, be healthy and strong.”
5. We’ve come this far. Now we’re ready to expand our loving-kindness outward to all of creation. Send out your boundless love without reservation: “May all living beings be safe, be joyful, be at ease, be healthy and strong.” This unbounded, loving energy can deeply heal and transform.
Gently come out of this meditation, taking this energy with you as you embark on your daily activities. Use this practice anywhere: at the doctor’s office, a business meeting or home. As you practice it among others, you’ll immediately feel a wonderful connection to them. Deep love and affection will grow unbounded, along with the healing benefits.
MARY BETH JANSSEN is a certified mind-body health educator for the Chopra Center for Wellbeing and author of five books. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. marybethjanssen.com