Loving kindness meditation

Find a comfortable position somewhere where you won’t be disturbed for ten minutes or so, preferably sitting upright, with your back straight but not rigid or arched. You may like to sit cross-legged on a cushion or you may prefer to sit in a chair. If you need to do the practice lying down, that’s ok, it’s just more likely you will struggle to stay alert.

Take a few deep breaths, close your eyes or gaze in an unfocused way as if you’re looking at something half-heartedly in the distance, relax your shoulders, perhaps move your jaw about to make sure it’s not clenched.

Set your intention and motivation for this practice, maybe something about this being time for you, giving yourself permission to take this time out, and about cultivating compassion for yourself as well as others.

 

Turning your mind to yourself, deserving of love, just doing the best you can.  Staying with this. It may be hard, sometimes we find ourselves so very hard to love and feel compassion for. If it’s difficult to extend loving-kindness to yourself, just staying with that if you can, trying to avoid piling on further judgements or evaluations.  If it’s really too hard, moving into thinking about a loved one- a person or a pet- and then moving back to yourself. This is a very important part of this practice and you may like to just do this first step a number of times before going onto the next step.

Wishing yourself the following (you may like to change the wording):

May I be free from suffering

May I be well

May I be happy

May I have love and be loved

 

Welcoming each statement into your heart. Really feeling the message. Noticing how you’re responding, what is going on for you. Staying with this as long as you wish before moving onto the next step.

 

The loved one

Now bringing into your mind somebody you love, perhaps a partner or a child or a dear friend, or even a pet, a creature you find easy to love. Imagining them in your mind’s eye before you. Again, they are just doing the best they can.  As you did with yourself, wishing them the following:

 

May you be free from suffering

May you be well

May you be happy

May you have love and be loved

 

Staying with this as long as you wish, radiating loving kindness and good intent to this person. If they have done or said something to you recently that you didn’t like, finding it in your heart to forgive them if you can.

 

Someone neutral

When you’re ready, extending your loving-kindness to someone ‘neutral’, someone you have no strong feelings for of any kind, perhaps someone you saw at the bus stop or who was in the same shopping queue as you, or who you saw walking their dog earlier.  Visualising them in front of you as best you can. And as you did with yourself and a loved one, saying to them in your mind :

 

May you be free from suffering

May you be well

May you be happy

May you have love and be loved

 

‘The enemy’

Finally, and this one can be tricky too, conjuring up in your mind someone you have negative feelings for. It’s easier to start with someone you just find mildly annoying and work your way up to someone you hate or deem to be your arch enemy, if there is someone like that in your life. You may hate them or just find them rather annoying, or unpleasant.

 

Again, imagining this person in front of you, being their ‘hateful’, ‘annoying, ‘unpleasant’ self. Reminding yourself that these are just your perceptions which may have no bearing on ‘reality’ whatsoever.  Tapping into how they, like everyone else, are just trying their best to be happy. They want happiness just like you. Just like you, they don’t want to suffer. You may like to try to imagine them when they were young or tap into how child-like we all are beneath the veneer of adulthood. If they’ve done or said something to upset you, trying to find it in your heart to forgive them (this may be one step too far at this stage). Staying with meaning them no harm at the very  least. And if you can, wishing them what you’ve wished for others:

 

May you be free from suffering

May you be well

May you be happy

May you have love and be loved

 

All beings

Now extending that same loving kindness to all beings on the planet, including all your loved ones, strangers and those you find difficult, and, of course, yourself,

 

May all beings be free from suffering

May all beings be well

May all beings be happy

May all beings have love and be loved.