In the last posts we discussed beginning meditation practice building up to open monitoring meditation practice.
Beginning Meditation – Getting Started 4 – Open Monitoring Meditation
Beginning Meditation – Getting Started 3 – Breath Following 2
Beginning Meditation – Getting Started 2 – Breath Following 1
Today we will begin to discuss other meditation techniques and practices, starting with Loving Kindness Meditation (LKM). This is a simple but very powerful practice. We’d appreciate hearing comments and suggestions from others. There are many paths!
Loving Kindness Meditation (LKM) is designed to develop kindness and compassion to oneself and others. This is a seemingly ridiculously simple technique, but research has demonstrated that it is very impactful. This is true even if you are already a kind and compassionate person. Engaging in the practice will further reinforce and enhance it further. (see Loving Kindness Meditation and the Disease of the West http://contemplative-studies.org/wp/index.php/2015/07/17/loving-kindness-meditation-and-the-disease-of-the-west/
In western culture it is quite common for people to have a negative view of themselves, often feeling inadequate and unworthy or simply disliking themselves. So, for westerners, practicing loving kindness to themselves is particularly important. It is essential that we learn to be kind and compassionate toward ourselves. This is the foundation for honest and sincere kindness and compassion for others. So, pay particular attention to and carefully practice LKM toward the self.
LKM starts exactly like every meditation in a comfortable posture with the eyes lightly closed. Begin whatever meditation practice is your current practice and continue for a couple of minutes until you feel calm and focused. Then begin by bringing lovingkindness to yourself. Envision a time when you felt completely loved and accepted. Let yourself fully engage in the memory, feeling what it was like, feeling the inner sensations and the ease of well-being. Once you have this fully present begin slowly and meaningfully to say to yourself while maintaining the lovingkindness feelings:
“May I be happy. May I be well. May I be safe. May I be peaceful and at ease.”
With each statement use the lovingkindness feelings to reinforce the wish to yourself. Wholeheartedly engage in honestly wishing yourself well and visualize how it would feel to truly be happy, well, safe, and peaceful. Sincerely make these wishes in the unshakable knowledge that you deserve to be happy, well, safe, and peaceful. Repeat the process around three times. But, you can adjust this as you get experience with the meditation to a number that is comfortable and seems appropriate to you.
After completing sending lovingkindness to yourself move on to wishing lovingkindness to others. Start with someone who you are close to and care deeply about. Visualize that person and hold him/her in your heart and repeat the lovingkindness phrases with sincerity, truly wishing them well. Repeat the process around three times.
Now move on again to a person you know who may be going through hard times and difficult challenges. Visualize that person and hold him/her in your heart and repeat the lovingkindness phrases with a heartfelt desire that they feel happy, well, safe, and peaceful. Repeat the process again around three times.
Next move on to someone you know but are not particularly close or have strong feelings about, perhaps a neighbor or a work associate. Visualize that person and hold him/her in your heart and repeat the lovingkindness phrases with a heartfelt desire that they feel happy, well, safe, and peaceful. Visualize that your words actually take effect within that person. Repeat the process again around three times.
Finally comes the most challenging practice. Think of someone who you truly dislike or who has harmed you or simply someone who you have a particularly difficult time with. Visualize that person and hold him/her in your heart and repeat the lovingkindness phrases. See that person as a human being who, like everyone, needs happiness, wellness, safety, and peace. This may be difficult but recognize that for you to be a truly compassionate person you must really want everyone to be well, unconditionally. Repeat the process again around three times.
Depending upon the length of your meditation you may repeat this whole process by going back to wishing happiness, wellness, safety, and peace to yourself, to a loved one, to someone in need, to a neutral person, and again to a disliked person.
There are many variations of the lovingkindness words. Find a set that feels comfortable, natural, and real for you, a set that you can repeat without having to think about it or search memory for the exact words. In fact the actual words don’t matter. It is the engagement in wishing well and really feeling it that is most important.
Try this practice. You may be amazed at how good it makes you feel and how much it alters your view and approach toward yourself and others. Remember that it is a practice and has to be engaged in repeatedly over time to be effective.
So, practice lovingkindness meditation and strengthen your compassionate nature.
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies