is a meditation practice taught by the Buddha to develop the mental
habit of selfless or altruistic love. You can find in the Metta
Sutta the teaching the Buddha gave on how to develop loving-kindness:
"Hatred cannot coexist with loving-kindness. It dissipates
if we supplant it with thoughts based on loving-kindness".
It is a fact
of life that many people are troubled by negative mind states yet
do little about it in terms of developing skills to deal with it.
Yet even when the mind goes sour it is within most people's capacity
to arouse feelings of loving-kindness to sweeten it. Loving-kindness,
as a meditation practice, specifically retrains the mind to overcome
all forms of negativity. It brings about positive attitudinal changes
as the meditation systematically develops the quality of loving-acceptance.
In this way, it acts as a form of self-psychotherapy, a way of healing
the troubled mind to free it from its pain and confusion.
is practised as the first of a series of meditations that produce
four qualities of love: Friendliness (metta), Compassion (karuna),
Appreciative Joy (mudita) and Equanimity (upekkha). The quality
of 'friendliness' is expressed as warmth that reaches out and embraces
others. When loving-kindness matures it naturally overflows into
compassion, because it empathizes with people's difficulties; while
on the other hand one needs to be wary of pity, as its the near
enemy, merely mimicking the quality of concern without empathy.
The positive expression of empathy is an appreciation of other people's
good qualities or good fortune rather than feelings of jealousy
towards them, which is the enemy of appreciative joy. This series
of meditations comes to maturity in the state of on-looking equanimity.
This equanimity has to be cultivated within the context of this
series of meditations or else it tends to manifest as its near enemy,
indifference or aloofness. It remains caring and on looking with
an equal spread of feeling and acceptance toward all people, relationships
and situations without discrimination.
To receive the
full benefits of loving-kindness meditation it needs to be developed
systematically to the level of meditative absorption or one-pointedness.
By developing the five absorption factors of concentration through
the systematic practice it will counteract the Five Mental Hindrances:
Sensuality; all forms of Ill Will, Mental inertia; Restlessness
and Skeptical Doubt. When the meditator achieves full concentration
five absorption factors are present: the first two are casual factors:
Applied thought and Sustained thought, followed by three effects:
Rapture, Ease-of-mind and One-pointedness or unification of mind.
The five absorption factors have a one to one correspondence to
the five mental hindrances or obstacles for the meditator: Applied
thought, by arousing energy and effort, overcomes the hindrance
of sloth and torpor; Sustained thought, by steadying the mind, overcomes
skeptical doubt which has the characteristic of wavering; Rapture
with its uplifting, effervescence, prevails over feelings of ill-will;
Ease-of-mind, by relieving accumulated stress, counteracts restlessness
or agitation of mind; while One-pointedness holds the mind wanderings
in the sense-fields to inhibit sensuality. The benefit of achieving
deep concentration with this positive mind set is that is will tend
to imprint the new positive conditioning while overriding the old
negative patterns. In this way, old negative habits are changed
freeing one to form new positive ways of relating.
to do loving-kindness meditation
practice begins with developing loving acceptance of yourself.
If resistance is experienced then it indicates feelings of unworthiness
are present. No matter, this means there is work to be done, as
the practice itself is designed to overcome any feelings of self-doubt
or negativity. Then you are ready to develop loving-kindness to
Types of Persons are chosen to send loving-kindness to:
respected, beloved person - such as a spiritual teacher;
dearly beloved -
which could be a close family member or friend;
neutral person - somebody you know, but have no special
feeling towards, for example: a person who serves you over a counter;
hostile person - that is,
someone you are currently having difficulty with.
yourself, then moving systematically from person to person in the
above order will have the effect of breaking down the barriers between
the four types people and yourself. It is at the same time breaking
down the divisions within your own mind, the source of much of the
conflict we experience. Just a word of caution, it is best if you
choose a member of the same sex or if you have a sexual bias to
your own sex then a person of the opposite sex. This is because
of the risk that the near enemy of loving-kindness, lust, can be
aroused. Try different people to practice on as some people do not
easily fit into the above categories, but do keep to the prescribed
of arousing feelings of loving-kindness:
That is, bring up a mental picture. Seeing oneself or the person
the feeling is directed at smiling back at you or just being joyous.
Reflection: Reflecting on the positive qualities of a
person and the acts of kindness they have done. And to oneself,
make an affirmation, which is a positive statement about yourself,
using your own words.
This is the simplest way but probably the most effective. It is
repeating an internalized mantra or repetition of a word or phrase
such as 'loving-kindness'.
reflections and the repetition of loving-kindness are devices to
help you arouse positive feelings. You can use all of them or one
that works best for you. When the positive feelings arise switch
from the devices to the feelings, as it is the feelings that are
the primary focus. Keep the mind fixed on the feeling, if it strays
bring it back to the device or if the feeling weakens or is lost
then return to the device, e.g. use the visualization to bring back
or strengthen the feeling.
stage is Directional Pervasion where you systematically
project the aroused feeling of loving-kindness to all points of
the compass: north, south, east and west, up and down, and all around.
This directional pervasion can be enhanced by bring to mind friends
and communities in the cities, towns and countries around the world.
Pervasion follows, which tends to spontaneously happen
as the practice matures and is not discriminating. There is no specific
object but just naturally radiating feelings of universal love.
The practice has then come to maturity in that it has changed particular
love, preferential love, which is an attached love to an all-embracing,
is a heart meditation and should not be seen as just a formal sitting
practice removed from everyday life. So take your good vibes outside
into the streets, at home, at work, into your relationships. Applying
the practice to daily life is a matter of purposefully directing
a friendly attitude and having openness toward everybody you relate
to without discrimination.
you be happy hearted!