Loving-Kindness Meditation

Loving Kindness Meditation
As we move into a second national COVID-19 lockdown, many of us are experiencing increased stress and anxiety, depression and suffering the negative effects of social isolation.

One of the ways we can help fight the impact is to practice mindfulness. In this post I present a script for a Loving-Kindness meditation, along with an accompanying audio track you can play at home.

Loving-kindness, along with other compassion meditations have become increasingly popular in contemporary psychology. Recent research has shown that such compassion-focused meditations are very effective in reducing stress, increasing empathy and improving emotional processing. Just what we need at this time.

Loving-Kindness–A Guided Meditation

by Counselling Matters

Loving-Kindness: A Guided Meditation Script

Introduction

Although we often use words when we are learning the loving-kindness meditation, the words are only props. The focus of the meditation is on a feeling: the feeling of loving-kindness. As you practice the meditation over time, the words can fade, leaving you with just the feeling.

Sometimes, especially to begin with, this meditation might feel mechanical or awkward. It can also bring up other feelings which are quite contrary to loving-kindness. Emotions such as irritation and anger are quite common. If this does happen, it is especially important to be kind and gentle toward yourself. Allow whatever arises to be there, without trying to judge, analyse or change it. Welcome whatever arises with a spirit of friendliness and kind affection, without fear, judgement or shame.

Preparation

Begin by sitting comfortably, in a relaxed position, with your feet flat on the floor, your legs uncrossed, and your spine straight. Allow your hands to rest comfortably on your lap, and, if you are comfortable to do so, allow your eyes to close. Or, if you prefer, look down into your lap.

Now, simply sit and notice yourself sitting. Notice the points of contact between yourself and the chair, and your feet and the ground.

Settle into an awareness of your body; and of your breath. Simply notice what is there, being open to whatever that might be. Without judgement. Without looking to change it.

Breathe naturally. Notice your breath going in, and your breath going out. Observe your chest rising and falling as you breathe, noticing the flow of air over your nostrils.

Mindful attention

Now, bring your attention to the area in the middle of your chest, around your heart.

Slowly, silently and gently repeat to yourself, allowing yourself to feel the resonance of the words:

Love. Love. May my heart be filled with love…
Love. Love. May my heart be filled with love…

Now, bring to mind an image of someone or something that really loves you, or to whom you feel deeply loving and caring. It could be someone from your present or from your past; someone who is still with us, or someone who has passed. It could be an imaginary friend, a spiritual leader, guide, or higher power. It could be a fictional, fantasy or TV character, a favourite toy or an object in nature. Maybe an animal: the image of a loveable puppy, or the feeling that comes from stroking the fur of a kitten or the bark of a tree.

Images like these can help you connect with feelings of loving-kindness, but they are not an essential part of this meditation. If you can develop a sense of loving-kindness without any images, that is fine, too.

Developing loving-kindness

Now, allow the sense of loving-kindness, of warmth and caring, to flow through your whole body. Let these feelings wash over you and flow through you.
Okay, slowly and silently, repeat to yourself:

May I be filled with loving-kindness…
May I be safe from inner and outer dangers…
May I be well in mind and body…
May I be at ease and happy…
May I abide in peace…

Sometimes people find it difficult to offer themselves loving-kindness, and that is okay. If you find it hard, accept that; without judgement, without shame. There is no need to rush. It can take time to develop this practice.

It may be helpful to spend some days or weeks simply cultivating loving-kindness for yourself. The number of people you send the feeling of loving-kindness to is not what is important, it is developing the quality of the feeling that matters.

Offering loving-kindness to someone you value

Now, bring into your mind someone you really like, value and respect. Or, maybe, someone who deeply cares for you and wishes the best for you. Again, it may be someone from the past or the present; someone who is still with us or has passed.

Send them feelings of warmth and caring, as you wish them well:

May you be filled with loving-kindness…
May you be safe from inner and outer dangers…
May you be well in mind and body…
May you be at ease and happy…
May you abide in peace…

If you have a strong sense of loving-kindness, you may not need the words. If the words are too many for you, simply saying, May you be happy is also fine.
This is your meditation. Adapt it to meet your needs.

Offering loving-kindness to someone else you value

Now, do the same with someone else who is important to you. Someone that you like and respect. Choose someone it would be easy to offer loving-kindness to.

Send them these feelings of warmth and caring, as you wish them well:

May you be filled with loving-kindness…
May you be safe from inner and outer dangers…
May you be well in mind and body…
May you be at ease and happy…
May you abide in peace…

Offering loving-kindness to someone neutral

Now, do the same for someone you barely know and feel neutral about: maybe someone you have seen in the street, see on the bus, or pass in the corridor at work.

Send them these feelings of warmth and caring, as you wish them well:

May you be filled with loving-kindness…
May you be safe from inner and outer dangers…
May you be well in mind and body…
May you be at ease and happy…
May you abide in peace…

Sometimes people find the feelings of loving-kindness weaken. If this happens, you may always return to an earlier stage and rekindle the warmth and loving-kindness. There is no need to rush on. It is developing the quality of the feeling that matters.

Offering loving-kindness to someone who has irritated you

Now, think of someone you got irritated or upset with today, or this week. Choose someone you were mildly irritated by, someone who “got up your nose”. Maybe a slow driver or someone at work. This is not the time to go to someone who has been very hurtful towards you.

Send them these feelings of warmth and caring, as you wish them well:

May you be filled with loving-kindness…
May you be safe from inner and outer dangers…
May you be well in mind and body…
May you be at ease and happy…
May you abide in peace…

Offering loving-kindness to someone who has hurt you

Now, if you wish, offer loving-kindness someone who has hurt you in the past.

You are not condoning or approving of what they have done. You are simply allowing yourself to let the pain and anger you carry towards them to go, as the pain and anger hurts you more than anyone else.

Send them these feelings of warmth and caring, as you wish them well:

May you be filled with loving-kindness…
May you be safe from inner and outer dangers…
May you be well in mind and body…
May you be at ease and happy…
May you abide in peace…

Offering loving-kindness to the wider world

Now send loving-kindness into the wider world, to everyone in the world, maybe even to the whole universe:

May you be filled with loving-kindness…
May you be safe from inner and outer dangers…
May you be well in mind and body…
May you be at ease and happy…
May you abide in peace…

Offering loving-kindness to yourself

Now, focus your attention back on yourself, so the feeling of loving-kindness fills your whole being: breathing in peacefully; breathing out peacefully; at peace with yourself and the world.

Let these feelings wash over you, and through you, while you gently, silently, repeat to yourself:

May I be filled with loving-kindness…
May I be safe from inner and outer dangers…
May I be well in mind and body…
May I be at ease and happy…
May I abide in peace…

Drawing to a close

Now, allow the feelings of loving-kindness to subside, slowly and naturally.

Bring your focus back to your breathing. Observe your chest rise and fall as you breathe; the passage of air over your nostrils, with each breath.

Notice how you are sitting, and the points of contact between your body and the chair. Notice your feet on the ground and your connection with the floor.

Notice what you can hear: my voice; any sounds in the room; any traffic or other noises outside.

Notice the orange-brown colour of the light passing through your eyelids.

And, finally, when you are ready, slowly open your eyes, and bring your attention back into the room.

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