A Beginner’s Guide: Loving Kindness Meditation
What first comes to mind when someone says, meditation? I used to picture monks in orange robs who lived far away in a tranquil monastery. Maybe you picture a yoga studio, or dark room full of candles. Meditation seems like something you’ve heard might be good for you, but seriously who has time for that and who wants to sit still for that long? Right? Wrong!
As someone with a non-stop mind and frequent bouts of anxiety, finding a meditative state is literally something my mind and body reject on a daily basis! Calm is NOT my natural state. I am actually convinced this is why I became a yoga teacher, because I knew I needed to chill the f*** out.
Meditation has countless health benefits and I think we need it more than ever in this fast-paced world. It is the number one thing you can do (easily I might add) to reduce your stress level.
In my experience, traditional meditation techniques such a simply focusing on the breath or “quieting” the mind are really hard, especially for beginners. The following walks you through the steps of a loving kindness or metta meditation. Metta means kindness towards yourself and others.
This is a quick, but powerful meditation! I encourage you to find a comfortable place sit, either on the floor or seated in a chair. Use pillows to make yourself comfortable, sit up nice a tall and make sure you can breathe easy. I like to light a candle to focus my gaze and dim the lights. You can think about and internally say the dialogue, or try saying some of the refrains out loud.
Here you go, off to meditation land!
- In the first stage of the meditation, you feel metta for yourself. You start by becoming aware of yourself, and focusing on feelings of peace, calm, and tranquility. Let these thoughts grow into feelings of strength and confidence, and then develop into love within your heart. You can use an image, like golden light flooding your body, or a phrase such as ‘may I be well and happy’, which you can repeat to yourself. These are ways of stimulating the feeling of metta for yourself.
- In the second stage think of a good friend. Bring them to mind as vividly as you can, and think of their good qualities. Feel your connection with them, and your liking for them, and encourage these feelings to grow by repeating ‘may they be well; may they be happy’ quietly to yourself. You can also use an image, such as shining light from your heart into theirs.
- Then think of someone you do not particularly like or dislike. Your feelings are ‘neutral’. This may be someone you do not know very well. You reflect on their humanity, and include them in your feelings of metta. Repeat ‘may they be well; may they be happy’ quietly to yourself. You can also use an image, such as shining light from your heart into theirs.
- Then think of someone you actually dislike — an enemy. Trying not to get caught up in any feelings of hatred, think of them positively and send your metta to them as well.
- In the final stage, think of all four people together — yourself, the friend, the neutral person, and the enemy. Then extend your feelings further — to everyone around you, to everyone in your neighborhood; in your town, your country, and so on throughout the world. Have a sense of waves of loving-kindness spreading from your heart to everyone, to all beings everywhere. Repeat ‘may all beings be well; may all beings be happy’ quietly to yourself.
Gradually relax out of meditation. Take 10 deep breaths and bring yourself back to the present moment. Notice how you feel. It may have been challenging process, just notice what came to the surface. Try to acknowledge and accept your feelings. It may have felt really good. Either way radiate some love towards yourself – you tried something new!
Let me know if you tried the meditation and how you liked it / what did not work.
XO – CLAIRE
Meditation script adapted from The Emotional Intelligence Institute