Feelings of love, joy, and pain relief are just a few of the benefits of practicing loving kindness meditation.
The loving kindness meditation, also known as Metta, is a Buddhist practice that dates back more than 2,500 years.
Its full name, Metta Bhavana comes from the Pali language – Metta means non-romantic love, friendliness, or kindness, and Bhavana – to cultivate – and recent research has found this ancient practice to have a wealth of benefits.
Loving kindness meditation is a popular self-care technique that can be used to boost well-being and reduce stress.
Those who regularly practice loving kindness meditation are able to increase their capacity for forgiveness, connection to others, self-acceptance, and more.
This technique is not easy as you are asking yourself to send kindness your way or to others. It often takes practice to allow yourself to receive your own love or to send it.
What is Loving Kindness
Loving kindness, goodwill, or benevolence manifests as the sincere wish for oneself and others to experience true happiness, a type of wellbeing not relying on circumstances.
Furthermore, it is firmly rooted in acceptance. Mettā, as it’s called in the ancient Pali language, supports and enhances our meditation practice on many levels.
The nature of this practice revolves around the creation of wholesome and constructive personality traits.
Motivated by goodwill, the practitioner works on becoming a source of happiness and wellbeing both to oneself and indirectly to others.
Hence, it is a fundamental aspect of the spiritual path. Cultivating a benevolent attitude is an inspiring and meaningful way to spend our relatively short time here on this earth.
A person with a kind heart experiences a special sort of joyful comfort. It is quite different from the relatively well-known forms of happiness that come with short-term sense-gratification.
It’s a profound experience that feels pure and innocent, perhaps because it’s based on giving rather than on taking.
Just like compassion, true kindness is dependent on a practical understanding of suffering and its cessation.
Don’t Be Nice
One of the biggest misunderstandings people have about Buddhists is that Buddhists are always supposed to be nice. But, usually, niceness is only a social convention.
Being “nice” often is about self-preservation and maintaining a sense of belonging in a group. We are “nice” because we want people to like us, or at least not get angry with us.
There’s nothing wrong with being nice, most of the time, but it’s not the same thing as loving-kindness.
Remember, Metta is concerned with the genuine happiness of others. Sometimes when people are behaving badly, the last thing they need for their own happiness is someone politely enabling their destructive behavior.
Sometimes people need to be told things they don’t want to hear; sometimes they need to be shown that what they are doing is not okay.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama is supposed to have said, “This is my simple religion”. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple.
The philosophy is kindness.” That’s great, but remember that we’re talking about a guy who gets up at 3:30 a.m. to make time for meditation and prayers before breakfast. “Simple” isn’t necessarily “easy.”
Sometimes people new to Buddhism will hear about loving kindness, and think, “No sweat. I can do that.” And they wrap themselves in the persona of a lovingly kind person and go about being very, very nice.
This lasts until the first encounter with a rude driver or surly store clerk. As long as your “practice” is about you being a nice person, you are just play-acting.
This may seem paradoxical, but unselfishness begins by gaining insight into yourself and understanding the source of your ill will, irritations, and insensitivity.
‘May she be happy, May she be healthy, May she be free from all pain’
This takes us to the basics of Buddhist practice, beginning with the Four Noble Truths and the practice of the Eightfold Path.
Benefits of practice loving kindness meditation
During loving kindness meditation, you focus on benevolent and loving energy toward yourself and others.
There are many well-documented benefits of traditional meditation, but as with other techniques, this form of meditation takes practice.
It can be difficult and sometimes leads to resistance since the average person is not used to this level of giving and receiving love.
Emerging research specifically on Loving kindness meditation is also helping social scientists to understand the unique benefits that it provides, although most study authors note that more research is needed.
A study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology revealed that seven weeks of practicing loving kindness meditation increased feelings of love, joy, contentment, gratitude, and amusement, leading to a greater sense of purpose in life and fewer symptoms of illness.
May I be filled with loving-kindness. May I be well. May I be peaceful and at ease. May I be happy’
But the benefits go beyond making you feel positive.
Studies have shown it can bring immediate relief for migraine sufferers (a 33 percent reduction in pain and a 43 percent decrease in emotional tension after just one 20-minute session).
significantly ease chronic lower back pain, improve post-traumatic stress relief, increase your respiratory sinus arrhythmia (an indication of your ability to enter a restorative state) and slow your breathing rate – meaning you relax more.
Evidence also shows it makes you less self-critical; more compassionate and helpful, it increases empathy, and makes you feel more part of society.
Research shows it’s even anti-aging – women who practice the loving kindness meditation, have longer telomere lengths than a control group (shorter telomeres are linked to accelerated aging).
What’s not to love!
11 mindfulness books on Amazon a definitely worth a read-
- Acceptance- and Mindfulness-Based Approaches to Anxiety:–Amazon
- Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World– Amazon
- Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening-Amazon
- Meditation for the Love of It: Enjoying Your Own Deepest Experience-Amazon
- 30-Minute Anxiety Meditation-Amazon
- Chakra Healing: A Beginner’s Guide to Self-Healing Techniques that Balance the Chakras-Amazon
- The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living-Amazon
- Meditation: 4 Books in 1-Chakra and Reiki Healing for Beginners,-Amazon
- Practical Meditation for Beginners: 10 Days to a Happier, Calmer You-Amazon
- Mindfulness Therapy Games: Social Skills Game That Teaches Mindfulness for Kids,-Amazon
- Little Book of Mindfulness: 10 minutes a day to less stress, more peace-Amazon
Meditate Upon the Heart in loving kindness
Often people talk about quieting your thoughts during meditation/prayer or focusing on your breath as a way to quiet your mind.
The simple fact of so many talks about quieting your mind should raise the question of what are you listening for if not thoughts?
Is it the tranquil and serene feeling that comes from silence?
That is not nothingness, that is your heart listening and connecting to divine love. That communication is not with words, often words cannot give this experience full justice.
Meditating upon the heart means focusing on love. We were created out of love, we were designed to love and we will be unfulfilled and searching for more when we deny ourselves a connection to divine love.
In the simplest explanation, God is love and love is from God. God/Love encompasses all and can be a force of healing.
Loving kindness meditation as a Tool for Optimal Living
One benefit of Loving kindness meditation is that loving-kindness reduces the stress response.
Those who practice even a short course of Loving kindness meditation experience less distress than those who do not by the end of those eight weeks, according to this study.
Probably no huge surprise there, right?
However, further exploration of this practice may intrigue you.
The study on the effect of compassion meditation also investigated the impact of Loving kindness meditation on the body’s inflammatory and neuroendocrine system.
At first preliminary results revealed that Loving kindness meditation showed no discernable differences in inflammation compared to the control group.
But, when divided into high-practice group vs. low-practice group (i.e., those who practiced Loving kindness meditation each day compared to those with minimal practice) the results became more striking.
The high-practice group saw a significant decrease in inflammation compared to the low-practice and no-practice groups.
This research highlights two important findings: First, that not only can Loving kindness meditation subjectively reduce distress but it can impact the body’s physiology as well (in this case, Loving kindness meditation reduced inflammation).
The second, equally noteworthy finding is that this only happened for those who activity engaged in the practice of Loving kindness meditation.
Simply attending a meditation class once a week was not enough to produce a change, students had to practice at least a little each day.
The Brain on Loving kindness meditation
So we know that Loving kindness meditation positively impacts our emotions, our physical health, and our sense of connection.
But does that translate to an impact on the brain?
Neuroscientific meditation researcher Richard Davidson from the University of Wisconsin became interested in just that question.
He has extensively studied the effect of meditation, including Loving kindness meditation, on the brain. He had a simple question:
Would Loving kindness meditation change the brain?
To investigate the exact implication of this practice on the brain he invited two groups of subjects into his lab.
those who had at least 10,000 hours of Loving kindness meditation under their meditative belt and those who were interested, but new to meditation.
He invited both these groups into the MRI scanner to see how Loving kindness meditation would impact the brain.
The results were clear—the practice of Loving kindness meditation changed several important brain regions: Both the insula and the temporal-parietal juncture (TPJ) lit up as a result of Loving kindness meditation.
The insula is the part of the brain responsible for our ability to empathize with others and to make ourselves aware of emotional and physical present-moment experiences.
While both groups saw an increase in insula activity, the group with 10,000 hours of experience showed significantly more activation than the other group.
This group was experiencing higher levels of compassion than the non-practicing group.
Loving-Kindness and Social Connection
Given this research, it is no surprise that Loving kindness meditation has been shown to increase social connectedness, even for strangers.
A study conducted by a group of researchers from Stanford University found that in just seven minutes of Loving kindness meditation, subjects reported greater social connection toward others.
Other studies have shown that the feeling of social connection can predict changes in a person’s vagal tone (a physiological measurement of resilience and overall well-being).
I have had the opportunity to teach loving-kindness practice to members of a workforce who are at high risk for compassion fatigue—healthcare providers.
In just the 10 minutes that I invite participants to practice Loving kindness meditation toward themselves and others, something powerful emerges. Some students begin to cry.
Some bring their hand softly to their heart. Some physically relax. Afterward, when I invite the group to look around at each other, the sense of connection is palpable.
9 Ways to be Kind and Loving
1. Love them sincerely and genuinely. Love expressed out of sincerity and genuine care is the greatest love there is.
While some people claim to love another just because they make an effort to be with them, true love is actually more than your willingness to be physically connected to another person.
True and genuine love is beyond the physical and is characterized by acts of selflessness, concern for another person’s well-being, and the feelings of contentment that come from just seeing that person happy.
2. Be a source of comfort. Be a source of comfort in a world full of uncertainties, not only for the person you love but also for everyone around you.
Loving someone means giving them a shoulder to cry on, a refuge to run to whenever life becomes too much to bear.
3. Choose to be kind than to be angry. People make mistakes and most of the time, our initial reaction is to be angry and to do something that will hurt them back – but if you truly love a person, why would you choose anger over kindness?
Learn to forgive and be kind especially if your partner did not mean to hurt you.
4. Show them the beauty of living. Loving someone means helping them to appreciate the beauty of life and living – especially when it matters the most.
When times are tough, remind them that life can still be beautiful. When things aren’t going their way, help them remember that these are just challenges designed to help them grow.
5. Inspire them to be more positive. Loving someone means helping them see the brighter side of love.
When someone you love complains a lot about their daily struggles, absorbing these negative emotions and feeling equally frustrated can do more harm than good.
Instead of sharing the burdens of these negativities, teach them how to be more positive.
6. Treasure every moment you have together. Showing your love to your partner involves celebrating memorable moments together, treasuring every piece of those memories, and keeping them in your heart.
A relationship doesn’t always have to be about romantic dinners, travel dates, or even movie marathons – it can also be about conversations, witty banter, or “good morning” texts.
In fact, it’s the small things that matter.
7. Make faith in the center of your relationship. The ultimate way to be kind and loving in a relationship is to recognize faith as the center of your commitment.
Your faith and your beliefs will remind you that your purpose as a person is to spread love and kindness, not just to your significant other but to everyone around you.
Becoming a better person for others can help you become the best person for yourself – and it’s this goal that will help you achieve true and genuine happiness.
8. Teach them self-love and self-care. Remind your partner to love himself/herself first before trying to give love to others.
This is because, if you want to truly love someone, you have to make sure that you have enough love to give – but this is only possible if your happiness does not depend on other people.
Most importantly, make sure that you don’t give all your love to someone by leaving some for yourself.
Most of the time, people tend to forget this part of being in a relationship and when it doesn’t work out, they are left with nothing.
9. Choose your words well. Words can be powerful. A single line can change someone’s life just as how a single word can tear it apart.
Practice kindness by choosing your words well, especially during the times when you feel angry, betrayed, or hurt because these are the moments where words are like sharp daggers that can easily pierce one’s heart.
Be kind and be calm when dealing with these challenging moments because the consequences of your actions after a temporary argument can have lasting effects in the future.
Love your partner enough to always choose to be kind even if the circumstance demands you to choose hate.
Love and kindness teach people to love life, especially for couples in a romantic relationship, despite the challenges that they face every day.
In fact, these two qualities serve as their source of hope and strength whenever they think that their only option is to give up.
How to Practice Loving Kindness Meditation
There are different ways to practice this form of meditation, each based on different Buddhist traditions, but each variation uses the same core psychological operation.
During your meditation, you generate kind intentions toward certain targets including yourself and others. The following is a simple and effective loving kindness meditation technique to try.
Here is a five-step instruction for loving kindness meditation. These steps are for practicing loving-kindness for yourself.
You can also practice Metta for others in different categories, such as people close to you, friends, people you are neutral toward, people you find difficult, and ultimately all living beings.
‘May you be well, healthy and strong. May you be happy. May you abide in peace. May you feel safe and secure. May you feel loved and cared for’
Initially, set aside 15-20 minutes to do the five steps. As you develop your practice, you can add more time as you wish. Setting a timer is helpful.
You can use any of the phrases dotted around these pages, but feel free to change or adjust them so that they resonate with your own experience.
Start a loving kindness meditation
Begin, as usual by centering yourself and letting your breath slow down.
Then, acknowledge any thoughts that come into your mind and let them pass by like clouds in an empty sky. When you feel quieter, move on to the practice loving kindness meditation as directed below.
- Begin to silently repeat the words you have chosen, focusing on yourself.
- For example, ‘May I be filled with loving kindness…’ Let your breath find a natural rhythm.
- You may want to repeat one phrase on the in-breath, the next on the out-breath, or you might prefer to breathe in and out, and then say a phrase.
- Experiment and find what works best for you, using your breath to allow the feeling of relaxation and calm to expand within you. You can also use images to encourage the development of loving kindness.
- The Buddha suggests picturing yourself as a young and much-loved child, or you might like to imagine yourself being bathed in soft golden light that surrounds and fills your body.
You could also choose a memory of when you felt unconditional love and then, letting go of the memory, stay with the feeling of love.
- When you feel ready, either after the above practice or on a separate occasion, bring to mind someone you love deeply – a friend, partner, or parent, perhaps.
- Allow your thoughts to dwell on this person and connect to your feelings for them, then repeat the phrase you’ve been using,
- This time changing the words to ‘May he/she be filled with loving-kindness…’
- Some practitioners also suggest having your awareness on your heart area, sensing it becoming more open, and visualizing soft light gently traveling from your heart to theirs.
- The next stage of this practice is to choose someone you feel neutral about.
- Perhaps a friend of a friend that you rarely see, or a colleague who sits on the other side of the office to you.
As you repeat the phrases, simply hold them in your awareness, and offer these kindly feelings for their wellbeing.
Next, move on to someone you don’t like or have difficult feelings towards.
- This may seem as if it’s going to be very difficult, but once you’ve established a bedrock of compassion towards yourself, it’s easier to feel compassion for others.
- Rather than becoming absorbed in any emotions, you may be feeling towards this person, see if you can simply allow yourself to focus on them and their need for more loving-kindness in their life.
- The final stage of the practice is to offer loving kindness to all beings – those you know and those you don’t know.
- As you become more experienced, if you wish, you can include the five stages in your 20-minute meditation.
gradually let your mind become still again and spend a few moments absorbing the effects of your experience. Over time, the practice will bring you many things, including a greater sense of calm and connection to the world.
loving-kindness meditation over and over for 15-20 minutes once or twice a day for several months.
If this seems a big commitment, remember you can easily fit it into your normal day’s activities, for example by using your commute to work, saying it in bed before you go to sleep, or while you cook your supper.
As a beginner, aim to start with five minutes and don’t worry if it feels unnatural or awkward at first or makes you feel irritated.
Just accept these feelings, and be patient and kind to yourself. The feelings will soon change.
Tips for a More Effective loving kindness meditation Practice
When you first begin your loving kindness practice, use yourself as the sole subject during meditation.
As you get more comfortable with the imagery and loving phrases, begin to add the visualization of others into your practice.
Finally, direct loving kindness meditation toward difficult people in your life.
This last arm of loving kindness meditation boosts feelings of forgiveness and helps you to let go of rumination for an increased sense of inner peace.
As you develop a regular practice of meditation, you may want to set a timer with a gentle alarm if you’re concerned about spending too much time in focus.
Lastly, remember that this meditation can be practiced in many different ways. The method outlined above is a sample of how you might choose to begin.
You may come up with your own loving kindness meditation technique that works better for you.
Here are some Journal Articles for you
If you’re interested in learning more about mindfulness from an academic standpoint, there are a few key journal articles to put on your reading list:
- how to be mindful and 4 mindfulness worksheets
- 10 amazing life changer mindfulness quotes
- How to get started a walking meditation
- 10 amazing health benefits of mindfulness and easy meditation technique
- 5 easy way of Loving Kindness Meditation technique and benefit
- 101 way of Start a mindful breathing well
- 7 ways of mindfulness body scan meditation exercise: benefit
- Walking meditations: with peace is every step
- What is mindful eating: techniques, benefit, exercise
As long as you focus your attention in a way that promotes feelings of loving kindness, you can expect to gain benefits from the practice.