Loving-Kindness – A Meditation Technique

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Children are closer to how nature intended for us to be. They are happy, joyful, carefree, gregarious and trusting. Children respond naturally in a caring way when they see someone suffering. There are numerous instances of how children have responded to suffering animals, even when they have no clue of what exactly is wrong.  When asked the question how do they want the world to be, they have responded – without being tutored or prompted – that they want a happy world.  That is because that is how they are intrinsically and wish that for everyone else. As parents we have found how easy it is to make a child laugh.  What a wonderful state to be in!. But as they grow, the massive tutoring and the do’s and dont’s they hear from everyone around them saps their intrinsic nature and they turn into serious adults. As adults we begin to wonder where all the love, joy and happiness went and start seeking out ways to be back in that state. That is the irony of the human situation where we are going around in circles to find compassion, kindness, love. The good news is there is nowhere to go, as it is all within.  There are several techniques that are available to assist us with our “Homecoming”.

One such technique is called “Loving Kindness Meditation”. This technique has its origins in Buddhism and is also known as “Metta Bhavana” – meaning to cultivate a loving-kindness towards all beings including oneself. This can be practiced by anyone regardless of religious affiliation. This is not the love of give-and-take or a bond formed for convenience. This is an unconditional, overflowing feeling of love and compassion towards everyone and everything. This feeling has to first start with unconditional acceptance of oneself and then project to everything else. Unless one experiences that state, it is difficult to extend it to others.  The practice involves softening of the mind and heart and opening oneself up to deeper feelings of love, compassion, until it becomes an overwhelming flow.  It has nothing to do with relationships, any expectation from anyone, or how someone else feels towards us. This is a completeness of gratitude, love and compassion within without any external inputs.

The technique for this meditation goes in the following way. Be seated in a comfortable posture. Place your focus in the chest area or heart center area. Start to breathe in and out, while maintaining the focus on the heart center and feeling the sensation of the heart center. The metta meditation is practiced towards oneself first. Be aware of all the self judgement, hatred, anger that you have towards yourself and say the following phrases gently and lovingly.

“May I be happy. May I be well. May I be joyful. May I be peaceful, safe and at ease”.

Allow the intent of these phrases to sink in.  If feelings of warmth and love arise within, connect to them and stay in that experience for some time.

Now think of someone who has been a very strong support in your life, someone who has been there for you without expecting anything back, like a benefactor, and say the same phrases keeping them in mind.

“May you be happy. May you be well. May you be joyful. May you be peaceful, safe and at ease”.

Similarly think of a dear friend, an acquaintance, someone you just met, in that order and repeat the same phrase keeping each one in mind.

Now move on to thinking of someone you have hostile feelings and resentment towards and repeat the phrase keeping that person in mind.  Stay with it until the negative feelings have eased and warmth is evoked.  Don’t worry if these disturbing feelings resurface.  Keep repeating this practice and eventually those feelings will dissipate. Most importantly, don’t judge yourself for harboring these feelings. It is all a process of growth to move to deeper and beautiful states. This is all part of the journey.

Now radiate these same feelings towards all the beings and say these phrases.

“May there be light and love in all beings,  May everyone be in wellbeing”

End with this Sanskrit chant.  Repeat it 3 times.

Aum Loka Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu.  (May all beings in the universe be in joy, happiness and free from suffering).

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