The world could do with a little bit more kindness, couldn’t it? It’s not just how much kindness we receive, but also how much we are able to give. When frustration and heavy emotions stand in the way, it’s easy to forget that we’re all just specks of dust moving through a limitless cosmos.
Kindness is the act of sharing love, compassion and warmth without expecting anything back, in the process of giving kindness to others we cultivate inner-joy, and happiness that starts to become a part of who we are.
Metta Bhavana, or simply loving-kindness meditation, is a concentration practice established by Buddhist monks for the purpose of cultivating metta, the quality of a compassionate mind, towards yourself and other human beings. The common misconception in society is to believe that people are born with such qualities, and that they’re only available to select few. This is false.
Metta can be learned, and it takes practice to master; just like any other skill would. Through determined practice, loving-kindness meditation practitioners can weed out any negative thought forms and patterns, and replace them with more warm and loving states of mind that naturally promote happiness.
You will learn how to practice metta meditation yourself, either by reading through the following infographic, or by referring to the text below it.
Without getting too much into the science of meditation and loving-kindness, it’s going to be easier to understand how loving-kindness meditation works if look at it from the opposite viewpoint: the emotions of anger and hatred.
We have all experienced being angry and spiteful at a time in our lives, some of us have experienced that even in recent weeks or days. When you’re angry, and express it towards other people, it leaves no choice for the other person but to respond to you in the same manner. It’s a basic human survival mechanism, to fight against something using the same exact force, and unless you’re being angry at a Buddhist monk who will brush your anger off as means of you needing to meditate more, you’ll usually expend huge amounts of energy just by being angry alone.
This goes without saying that one should work diligently towards resolving his anger issues, releasing the heavy emotions through meditation or other mindful practices — there cannot be any loving human interaction when one is holding on to anger, the same emotion that often holds people back from changing their lives.
Loving-kindness on the other hand is a state of mind, a compassionate awareness that intends happiness and wellbeing for all living things. When your state of mind changes to such a high frequency of love, your mind becomes clear of any negative baggage, and thoughts that kept arising due to stress and boredom.
How-To: Loving kindness meditation
This meditation is one of the easiest to do, yet provides some of the most comprehensive benefits for authentic wellbeing based on love and wisdom for oneself, and other human beings.
You don’t need to know anything about meditation if you’re to practice the loving-kindness technique, all you need is a couple of minutes of your time, a little bit of determination to experiment with new things, and a space in which you can sit quietly and undisturbed.
Cultivating a compassionate mind
Find a comfortable place to sit, either at home or somewhere outside, and intend for practicing loving-kindness, even if only for 5 minutes. The intention helps you to be dedicated to your practice, and it clears the mind of any overly negative activity.
As you sit down in a comfortable position, start to notice the movement of your breath. Take a moment to observe the present moment, look what is around you without putting any labels on anything, just acknowledge the existence of anything that is around you and continue to watch your breath — stillness in the body and mind are essential for an effective meditation session.
When you feel centered, and grounded in the present moment experience, gently close your eyes and continue to breathe mindfully.
Connecting with your Heart
Loving-kindness meditation is all about the connection of the heart and the mind, so it helps to connect with your heart for just a moment to further enhance the cultivation of metta. The secret lies in the ability to truly dedicate yourself to the practice, to have the determination to try new things, and to observe any changes that happen in your life.
As you sit comfortably with your eyes closed, put your right hand over your Heart and simply breathe. Start to notice your heartbeat, is it fast, or slow? Are there any emotions that you’re feeling at this time?
Just notice… and continue to breathe. If there’s heaviness in the heart, direct your breath to that particular area in your body and feel the heaviness start to dissipate.
Find yourself in an open and meditative state, enjoy this moment.
Cultivating love for yourself
Once you’re settled into your peaceful state of relaxation, you can start doing the actual practice of cultivating kindness for yourself, and then move forward by cultivating it towards others. The basis of metta meditation is positive affirmations, that are used to cultivate a heightened state of perception towards yourself, and other human beings.
With each new breath begin to affirm to yourself, either out loud or silently:
- May I be happy.
- May I be joyful.
- May I be free from suffering.
- May I be healthy.
You can create your own custom affirmations based on what you’re looking to resolve in your life. May I be free of anger, and May I be open to positive life experiences are just a few examples of how you can tailor your affirmations to suit your current needs.
The key to really making loving-kindness work for you is to feel each of the affirmations with your full presence, and the energy of your heart. Feel the energy of these positive affirmations vibrate through your body, your cells, and your whole being. You will notice instantaneous results in your perception and how you feel in that moment.
Repeat the affirmations for as long as you feel comfortable, and once you feel ready you can start to direct your loving energy towards others, including your family, friends, strangers, and even those who have hurt you in the past.
Cultivating kindness towards others
The structure of affirmations doesn’t change, except that instead of using “I” you can use “person’s name”. The other way to do is to imagine the person you’re directing the kindness to, as if standing in front of you. In that case, you could use May him/her be happy.
You’re bound to experience a range of emotions as you direct your loving energy towards people that you don’t know as persons, or people that have wronged you in the past, but the main teaching of cultivating loving-kindness is that we can accept things as they are, it teaches us that sometimes people do things not because it’s our fault, but because they were never exposed to a loving state of mind themselves.
Holding on to anger for others can only slow you down from being truly happy within yourself, and metta practice helps to release that anger as a positive state of mind surpasses that of negativity.
Guided Meditation for Cultivating Loving-Kindness (Metta)
I recorded a short guided meditation to help you better understand the steps through which you can practice loving-kindness at the comfort of your own home.
You can combine this guided meditation together with any other insights you’ve accumulated by reading this post.
This is not my first guided meditation, and you can check out my guided meditation for anxiety if you feel like that’s something you’d like to learn about as well. Other than that, your feedback and comments will be highly appreciated.
Becoming a kind person
Metta, loving-kindness, develops gradually. Persistence is your best weapon in fighting against doubt and distraction. Just a few weeks of a regular practice for cultivating kindness could significantly improve your relationships, promote empathy, and decrease your negative thought patterns to a bare minimum.
As you establish a deeper connection with your own Heart, life around you starts to shape into a new form — suddenly the goal of being naturally kind doesn’t seem so far fetched after all. It’s a beautiful feeling, to recognize yourself in other people, even more so when you can recognize that we all share this innate ability to be kind to each other.