How Loving Kindness Meditation Can Change Your Life
The age old practice of meditation can come in many different forms. For centuries meditation was practiced in connection with the world’s great religions. Indeed, it has only been since the early 1920s, with the work of American physician, Edmund Jacobson, that more modern, health benefiting forms of meditation have become more known and popular. Loving kindness meditation, for instance, is rather new to the meditation roster, having grown out of that research.
The Benefits of Loving Kindness Meditation
In her article entitled, 18 Science-Based Reasons to Try Loving-Kindness Meditation, Emma Seppälä, Ph.D., author and Science Director of Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, stated:
“In a landmark study, Barbara Frederickson and her colleagues found that practicing seven weeks of loving-kindness meditation increased love, joy, contentment, gratitude, pride, hope, interest, amusement, and awe. These positive emotions then produced increases in a wide range of personal resources (e.g., increased mindfulness, purpose in life, social support, decreased illness symptoms), which, in turn, predicted increased life satisfaction and reduced depressive symptoms.”
Sounds pretty impressive, doesn’t it?
If Loving Kindness Meditation Has Such Benefits, How Do I Do It?
The wonderful part about loving kindness meditation is that it is very easy to learn and incorporate into your life.
Here are the simple steps you need to know in order to get started:
1. Find a quiet and restful place to meditate: Make sure that the place you choose will be free from distractions. You might wish to play some meditative music during this time. Make sure it does not distract you though.
2. Choose the posture that is most comfortable for you: Although the default posture is sitting erect in a chair with both feet planted on the ground, if that is not most relaxing for you, choose another posture. If you choose to lie flat on the ground, do not cross or bend your legs, and keep your hands at your side.
3. Close your eyes, breathe deeply, release tension and relax: Once your eyes are closed breathe in and out slowly and deeply. Let the tensions and thoughts drain out of you with each breath.
4. Choose 4 words that are meaningful to you (i.e. well, happy, peaceful, loved): You will use these 4 words throughout your meditation in the following phrases: “May I (or you) be well, may I (or you) be happy, may I (or you) be peaceful, may I (or you) be loved.”
5. Begin by wishing yourself happiness and fulfillment using the words you chose: Here we stress that it is important to begin with yourself. The theory is that you need to love yourself first before you can pass the loving kindness on to others. Using the phases above, wish wholeness to yourself.
6. Wish the people who are closest to you the same: By now, you should be ready to spread that loving kindness on to your family and closest friends – all who are special in your life.
7. Wish the people you know, but are not close to, the same: It is amazing how many people we interact with who we know, but don’t really know. This step takes the loving kindness thoughts to them. The same 4 phrases are used for these people as well.
8. Wish strangers and people you don’t know loving thoughts, using the same 4 phrases: This step may take a little effort at first, but eventually it will become second nature to wish a stranger the same well-being as you wish yourself and those close to you.
9. Follow the same pattern with people you don’t like. This is the hardest challenge, but one of the most healing: When we dislike a person, our human tendency is to wish that person ill. That is especially true if the person we dislike has been personally offensive to us by their behavior toward us. When we can turn that abuse around and wish the other good for evil, we are the ones who receive the blessing.
If you like the idea of trying out loving kindness meditation, here is a meditation video that you may find very helpful in getting started.