Loving-Kindness Meditation

Loving-kindness or Compassion Meditation can take a few forms and I will focus here on the one I practice most. Why would we need to focus on compassion? One reason is many (or most) of us do not practice enough compassion with ourselves. For some, this lack of compassion can be the hateful voices of others that we have internalised in our lives. For others (like me), while there are no overt voices, there is a pushing of oneself to always be doing and accomplishing more. I think of this as analogous to a rider with a whip, constantly beating and spurring oneself on further.

Other people might imagine that they love themselves, but they imagine that they don’t have love for others. I do not believe this is the case. If you truly love yourself, that love will overflow to others. Loving-kindness meditation supports this view, as in the example below, the focus begins with the self.

So, we need love for ourselves and when that love is nurtured, it will overflow to others. An entire therapeutic intervention has been created called Compassion-focused Therapy, which looks at the mental and social rewards of growing the parts of our minds hard-wired for compassion and nurturing. If you are curious, you can search for this counselling modality yourself, including the therapist who created this modality, Paul Gilbert. Another option? The Compassionate Mind is available here.

The Compassionate Mind, by Paul Gilbert
The Compassionate Mind, by Paul Gilbert

Loving-Kindness Meditation Practice

Find a place where you can meditate with some privacy and where you won’t be distracted. Sometimes, I have this compassion meditation as a full session and sometimes I practice compassion meditation just before sleeping. The latter puts me in a very good frame of mind for sleep.

Loving Yourself

First, focus on yourself. Imagine that you are feeling love for yourself, as you would for another person. Some people find this awkward, as they have never done it. I can assure you that it is a wonderful feeling! All of the love that you feel for your parents, your spouse, your child or another, you can focus back on yourself. It creates a warm and radiating feeling. If you have difficulty doing this, don’t be discouraged and certainly DO NOT reprimand yourself – that is the opposite of what you are doing here! Be kind to yourself. Love will come, in time. Spend as long as you need to with this and don’t rush to the other steps. Just stay with this for awhile.

As you radiate love, say this:

May I be well. May I be happy.

May I be healthy. May I be at peace.

May I be free from pain and suffering.

Loving Someone Close to Your Heart Already

Second, once you have experienced love for yourself, think of someone you love dearly. Radiate love to them, thinking of how much this person (or other animal) means to you. Imagine that you are sending them love, across the distance between you. Wish the best for them.

As you radiate love, say this:

May [person’s name] be well. May [person’s name] be happy.

May [person’s name] be healthy. May [person’s name] be at peace.

May [person’s name] be free from pain and suffering.

Loving Someone Currently Unimportant

Now think of someone for whom you have no significant feelings. Perhaps someone at work who you hardly know. Take the love that you have radiated to yourself and to someone dear to you and project these feelings to the person relatively unimportant to you. In all of these examples use a name (excluding yourself). This makes the experience more “real”.

As you radiate love, say this:

May [person’s name] be well. May [person’s name] be happy.

May [person’s name] be healthy. May [person’s name] be at peace.

May [person’s name] be free from pain and suffering.

Loving Someone for Whom There is Hatred

Now, finally, think of someone you hate, despise or are otherwise hostile towards. This can be a difficult part of the meditation for some, but that suggests it is a part that can be worked upon.

Take the love that you have radiated to yourself, to someone dear to you and to the person relatively unimportant to you and project this love to the person you do not like. This can seem “fake” at first, but stay with it. Imagine him or her in need of love, of being worthy of love.

As you radiate love, say this:

May [person’s name] be well. May [person’s name] be happy.

May [person’s name] be healthy. May [person’s name] be at peace.

May [person’s name] be free from pain and suffering.

This loving-kindness may not seem natural at first, but that is why you practice anything – to make the unnatural second-nature. You will find that your heart grows in love over time towards yourself and others and your kindness will bring its own rewards.

That you may find the peace that is already within you!

Lee Jordan, MBA, MEd, MCouns
Lee Jordan, MBA, MEd, MCouns