There are many different kinds of meditations that aim to set an intention — from forgiveness to compassion. Loving-kindness is simply about about evoking friendliness toward oneself and others.
While you can meditate almost anywhere, whether that be your living room or garden to your car or office space, I prefer to meditate as part of my yoga practice. This not only gives me a known quiet place to start my day, but which also helps me set an intention before class.
Ideally, you will meditate for 15-20 minutes, but start with what you can (even if that be five minutes) and work your way towards a longer meditation practice.
- Sit comfortably.
- Let your body relax.
- Let your heart be soft.
- Breathe deeply.
Begin with yourself because without loving yourself it is almost impossible to love others:
May I be filled with loving-kindness.
May I be safe from inner and outer dangers.
May I be well in body and mind.
May I be at ease and happy.
If these phrases, do not feel genuine to you, create phrases that best open your heart of kindness. Repeat these phrases over and over again, letting the feelings permeate your body and mind.
It may help to picture yourself as you are now, and hold that image in a heart of loving-kindness — or to picture yourself at a very peaceful place. Adjust the words and images in any way you wish.
As in any kind of meditation practice, at times, it may feel mechanical or awkward. Meditation can also bring up feelings of irritation or anger. If this happens, be patient with yourself and allow whatever arises to be received in a spirit of friendliness and affection.
Once you have established some stronger sense of loving-kindness to yourself, you can expand the meditation to include others, such as a benefactor or someone in your life who has loved or truly cared for you. Picture this person and recite the phrases:
May you be filled with loving-kindness.
May you be safe from inner and outer dangers.
May you be well in body and mind.
May you be at ease and happy.
Let the image and feelings you have for this person support the meditation. Once the loving-kindness for this other person has developed, you can gradually begin to include other people you live in your meditation, recite inwardly the same phrases, evoking a sense of loving-kindness for each person in turn.
After this, include others, such as a wider circle of friends. Then gradually extend your meditation to include community members, neighbors, all beings, the whole earth.
Finally, include the difficult people in your life, even your enemies, wishing that they too may be filled with loving-kindness and peace. This might take practice, but as your heart opens, first to loved ones and friends, you will find that in the end, you won’t want to close it to anyone.1