Loving-kindness meditation, known in Pali as metta bhavana, is a method of teaching yourself to interact with the world from a place of deep and unconditional love.
If you want to bring more positivity into your life and reaffirm and strengthen your relationships, loving kindness meditation is the practice for you. It’s one of the most popular forms of meditation being practiced today.
Loving-kindness meditation is a powerful practice for deepening your sense of compassion and opening your heart to the people in your life. It’s simultaneously a meditation on friendship, tenderness, forgiveness, empathy, and care.
The step-by-step practice is designed to help you cultivate a profound and abiding sense of love that is directed towards yourself and those around you, without expecting anything in return. Whether you’re struggling with low self-esteem, marital issues, or conflict with a coworker, loving-kindness meditation can give you a more wholesome and enlightened perspective.
Making the intentional decision within yourself, on a regular basis, to shift your focus away from the things that make you anxious and towards love, light, and compassion can have a huge impact on many aspects of your life. When you operate from a place of love, you’re actively building a better world for yourself and those around you.
These are some of the biggest benefits you can expect from regular practice:
1. Increased Positivity and Decreased Negativity
In a whole host of studies, loving-kindness meditation has been proven to decrease negative emotions experienced by practitioners while actively increasing their positive feelings. There are numerous reasons why the practice is so effective. At its root, however, you’re simply training your mind not to dwell on negativity. You learn to recognize it, acknowledge it, and move on, and instead focus on the things that energize you.
By improving your attitude and your feelings about life in general, loving-kindness meditation also helps increase vagal tone, a genetic wellness marker that measures the health of the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve helps to regulate many different physical symptoms ranging from heart rate to sensitivity in your digestive tract.
Changing your perception and feeling better helps put you on the path for continued wellness by increasing your physical health and capacity to respond with enthusiasm and determination to the many challenges of life.
2. A Deeper Connection with the People Around You
More than half of all people in the US experience loneliness and a feeling of disconnection. Humans are social beings by nature, and feelings of loneliness and isolation manifest themselves in an array of physical and emotional problems.
Practicing loving-kindness meditation can help to counteract these problems by increasing your sense of connectivity to those around you.
3. A Stronger Sense of Compassion and Empathy
Because loving-kindness practices draw your focus outside of yourself, it is a powerful tool for increasing empathy. With regular practice, you can fully realize that other people are complex beings who are just as worthy of love and respect as you are.
One of the most profound effects of this meditative practice is its role in increasing empathy felt towards others. This enhanced sense of compassion in turn informs your daily decision-making. Having a regular practice has been shown to increase the gray matter in your brain, compared to non-meditators. Gray matter has been associated with a person’s level of empathic responses and overall mood.
4. Improved Physical and Mental Health
Whether you suffer from PTSD, migraines, or chronic pain, loving-kindness meditation has been shown to help improve symptoms — in some cases immediately — and lower reliance on pharmaceutical medications. Meditation helps your body to heal itself in profound ways.
No matter how you’re feeling, always consult with your doctor before making any changes to your medication schedule or dosage.
5. Decrease Your Biological Age
Loving-kindness meditation has been shown to correlate with longer telomeres, which are a biological age marker. Stress, anxiety, and other forms of trauma can cause your telomeres to shorten, but it seems that having a regular loving-kindness meditation practice can help you to stay younger and healthier for a longer period of time. The observed correlation is even stronger in women than in men.
Step One: Find a quiet and peaceful location, one where you won’t be disturbed during your meditation. This can your bedroom, the local park, even your car. Settle into a comfortable seated position. Relax.
Step Two: Begin by simply focusing on your breathing. Breathe in, breathe out. Feel your chest rise and fall. Let this center and soothe you. Breathe.
Step Three: Focus loving-kindness on yourself first. Approaching others from a place of love means first loving yourself. You are just as worthy, just as deserving of love as those you love. Try repeating the words, “May I be happy, may I be healthy, and may I live with ease.”
Step Four: Now picture a person beside you who evokes feelings of love and affection. Feel the warmth of that feeling, the comfort of being loved and loving without expectation. This person, whether it’s a parent, mentor, or someone else, wants the best for you. They want you to be happy and healthy.
Step Five: Imagine another person who loves you standing on your other side. Feel the warmth radiating from them, the love that they hold for you. You are surrounded by people who love you. Feel the loving kindness of everyone who has loved you throughout your life. Feel them sending you encouragement and hoping for your health and happiness.
Step Six: Imagine again that first person standing beside you. Recognize that they are just like you. They have needs and desires. They have triumphs and failures. They are complex and wonderful and deserving of love and compassion. Direct the love that overflows from you to them. You can repeat the words, “May you be happy, may you be healthy, and may you live with ease.”
Step Seven: Think of another person you love, a sibling or close friend, and repeat this practice with them. They too are just like you. They too are a complicated and inspiring person. They too are deserving of love and kindness. Send your love and well wishes to them. You can repeat the words again, “May you be happy, may you be healthy, and may you live with ease.”
Step Eight: Now imagine someone you don’t know very well. This can be an acquaintance or some other person that you have neutral feelings towards. Just like you, just like your loved ones, this person is deserving of love. This person is seeking happiness and connection. Direct your love to this person. Holding them in your mind, repeat the words, “May you be happy, may you be healthy, and may you live with ease.”
Step Nine: Think of someone you don’t like. Whatever differences you may have, whatever your experiences may have been, this person still deserves love and compassion. Wish them love with the same warmth and authenticity you wished your close friends and family. Repeat the words, “May you be happy, may you be healthy, and may you live with ease.”
Step Ten: Finally, imagine all of the people in the world. You can picture the planet before you. Let your loving kindness envelop the Earth and be directed towards all of its people, each of whom is living a unique life full of depth and vibrancy. Wish all of them well. Hold the planet before you and repeat the words, “May you all be happy, may you all be healthy, and may you all live with ease.”
Step Eleven: Bring your attention back to your breathing. Take a few deep breaths as you come back into yourself. Try to carry that loving kindness forward with you into your day.
May you be happy, may you be healthy, and may you live with ease.