Imagine if you had the power to make the world a place full of love, kindness, and compassion. You’d do anything to live in such a world, wouldn’t you? And the fact is: you can, when you practice Loving Kindness Meditation.
In my guide to the top 31 meditation techniques I discuss why Loving Kindness Meditation ( Metta ) is one of the most important meditations in the world. It is a technique with which you can create feelings of love and kindness, warm feelings that make your inner world a place of compassion. Once your inner world is made of compassion, your outer-world will be too.
This lovely meditation has existed since the time of the Buddha, and it is very popular today.
As a meditation teacher, I love teaching people how to do loving kindness meditation. And I’m excited to share my teachings with you in this guide.
What’s in this Loving Kindness Meditation Guide
In this guide I’ll share:
- Buddhist loving kindness meditaiton instructions
- Infographic for you to save / print / share
I’ve crafted this post with love (and kindness…) so I hope you enjoy it.
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My passion is to share meditation with the world. If that is a passion you believe in, please help me out. Share this article on social media networks and on your own blog.
Let’s get started.With a boundless heart of loving kindness, hold yourself and all beings as your beloved children.” – Guatama Buddha. Click To Tweet
What does Loving Kindness mean?
Loving kindness is all about creating compassion. That’s key. Because science shows compassion is vital.
Loving Kindness is traditionally called “Metta”.
Metta is a Pali word that means benevolence, friendliness, friendship, good will, kindness, and love.
The full name “Metta Bhavana” means “developing loving kindness”. So this meditation is used to develop love and kindness in the mind.
“Love” and “Kindness” are the same in the Buddhist tradition as they are to you and I. They are about loving people, loving animals, and loving the world. They’re about doing good, meaning well, and living from a place of kindness and compassion. I’m sure you’ll agree with me that these are some of the most important and best qualities a person can possess.
Buddhists consider Metta (loving kindness) to be a special state.
Metta is one of the ten pāramīs (perfecctions) that are taught in the Theravāda school of Buddhism, and it is the first of the four sublime states (the states described in Buddhism as the ideal ways of conduct towards living being).
The Paramis (Perfections) are:
- Loving Kindness
As you can see, loving kindness is one of these perfect states. It is an ideal quality that all enlightened people possess.
Do you already have high levels of love and kindness? Then you are on your way to becoming an enlightened person.
The History Of Buddhist Loving Kindness Meditation
Loving Kindness is historically one of the most important Buddhist meditation techniques.
Guatama Buddha began to teach Loving Kindness Meditation over 2500 years ago.
The Buddha himself practiced Loving Kindness Meditation every day (I do the same thing myself).
Buddha would spend all morning meditating and reciting mantras.
Towards the end of the Buddha’s meditation sessions he would come to Loving Kindness. He would focus first on himself. He would extend thoughts and feelings of compassion, love and kindness to himself, perhaps because Buddha understood that love begins with yourself.
After giving loving kindness to himself, Buddha would look around him at the villagers and monks. They would be toiling away, trying to survive as best they could. The Buddha would imagine sending out positive feelings of love and kindness towards them. But Buddha did not stop there. Once he had mentally projected love and kindness to the people around him, Buddha would look for ways to help his community. Buddha would find ways to act out love and kindness.
Can you imagine if everyone did the same thing today? If everyone lived for love and kindness, if everyone spent their time helping others instead of selfishly helping themselves. Can you imagine how much better the world would be?
Buddha’s practice illustrates what Loving Kindness Meditation is all about:
Loving kindness Meditation is About:
- Focusing the mind and relaxing
- Extending love to yourself
- Extending love to others
- Finding ways to actually use that love to help other people.
I believe we should all practice loving kindness meditation, whether we are Buddhist or not. I personally believe in accepting and embracing all people. And I believe the world is better when we see the good in things, regardless of whether those things click with us. That’s why I’d like to remind you: You do not need to be Buddhist to do metta meditation. Regardless of who we are or where we come from, we can all benefit from learning how to do metta meditation.
So let’s now learn how to do loving kindness meditation.
How to do Loving Kindness Meditation—Instructions
- Before doing LKM take five minutes to relax with breathing meditations.
Get excited. You are about to learn how to do one of the best Buddhist meditation techniques. And you are going to create an inner world full of love and kindness. This is going to be a really specially occasion. So go slowly and follow the instructions correctly.
- Find somewhere quiet where you will not be disturbed for ten to twenty minutes. (Read my guide to creating a meditation space).
- Sit, lie down or stand up.
- Check your posture. Is your body in alignment? Strait spine? Feeling comfy but alert? Great.
- Focus on your breath: Focus on your breathing for a few moments to quiet and calm your mind.
- Extend loving kindness to yourself: Imagine seeing yourself happy and smiling.
- Now imagine sending out feelings of love and kindness towards yourself.
- Think of five positive things about that you love.
- Now think of five ways in which you enact self love (perhaps you are kind to yourself by eating healthily, by giving yourself peace when you need it. . . think of ways in which you are kind to yourself).
- Say to yourself the Loving Kindness Meditation words: “May I have loving kindness. May I have strength, peace, love and success. May I also have the strength to overcome all obstacles.”
- Repeat with someone close to you: Bring to mind someone close to you (family / friend) and repeat the process.
- Imagine the person happy.
- Imagine sending them love.
- Imagine them sending love back to you.
- Now think of five things to love about that person.
- Think of five ways that person shows loving kindness to you.
- Now say the Loving Kindness Meditation script “May (name of person) have loving kindness. May they have love, peace, strength and success. May they also have the strength to overcome all obstacles.”
- Now repeat the process and say the loving kindness meditation script with a neutral individual
- Now repeat with a hostile individual: This should be someone you have argued with or do not easily get along with (see my story above for a good example). Remember, the purpose of metta meditation is to feel universal loving kindness for everyone, and that include your noisy neighbor.
- Return to the beginning and repeat.
- Always remember the sacred loving kindness script: “May (name of person) have loving kindness. May they have love, peace, strength and success. May they also have the strength to overcome all obstacles).”
- If you have a prayer beads mala you can use it to count the number of people you include in your metta bhavna meditation. Aim for 20 people or more.
- If you notice that you experience anger or hate at any time during this process, you might like to use Buddhist Meditations to master your Anger.
- Once you have finished Loving Kindness meditation, move on to Karuna (compassion).
Review of LKM–A Short Overview
Loving Kindness Meditation creates love for all.
It begins with self love. Here we forgive ourselves, find compassion for ourselves, and develop a truly loving relationship with ourselves.
This can have a big impact on our happiness and well-being.
Once we have achieved self love, we then extend our loving kindness towards others, beginning with those close to us, those people whom we love and respect.
This helps us to feel and to act positively towards the people in our lives.
For instance, I once taught a married couple facing divorce to practice extending loving kindness towards each other.
They both spent twenty minutes a day extending loving kindness towards one another. This helped them to accept the weaknesses and errors of the other, which led to a very healthy relationship. They’re still together today and are now happier than ever.
Once we’ve extending loving kindness to people close to us, we move on to neutral people (people we know but feel indifferent towards). This includes colleagues, people we know but rarely speak to, and people about whom we simply feel indifferent. When we practice loving kindness towards these “neutral” people we begin to feel much closer to them. This in turn leads us to act more positively towards them, which often leads to new friendships and new relationships.
Finally we come to the most challenging part of loving kindness.
In this part we extend loving kindness towards those people towards whom we currently experience negative feelings.
For instance, a lot of people don’t get along with their neighbors.
It’s a tragic reality because your neighbors can be some of the best friends and most helpful acquaintances you have. But after a few years living next door to one another, with all that noise and the fact that they put up that ugly fence, it can be easy to fall out. By practicing loving kindness you can learn to see each other in a positive light, which cures any animosity and restores the positive relationship.
This final part of Loving Kindness can also help to cure seriously unhealthy relationships as well and emotional suffering.
The Health Benefits Of Loving Kindness Meditation
My research has discovered over 100 benefits of meditation.
So what are the specific benefits of Metta meditation?
Let’s take a look.
Spiritual benefits of Loving Kindness Meditation
Buddha taught that the practice of Loving Kindness Meditation will develop four traits in the individual:
- Metta (Friendliness),
- Compassion (Karuna)
- Joy (Mudita)
- Equanimity (Upekkha)
Here’s how it works:
- Loving Kindness Meditation (Metta) develops a warmth of feeling towards others.
- This leads to compassion (Karuna). We develop heightened levels of empathy and so we feel happy for the successes of others and compassionate for their suffering.
- This leads to Appreciative Joy—the appreciation of the good fortune of other people.
- Finally, we achieve Upekkha, equanimity, the state in which we extend love and kindness to all living beings. This is one of highest states a human can achieve, and it is best achieved through the practice of loving kindness meditation.
A state of equanimity (mental calmness) that is part of the process towards enlightenment in Buddhism.
Health benefits of Loving Kindness Meditation
Here’s the deal:
Loving Kindness Meditation is massive for your well-being.
That’s proven through both spirituality and science.
Here’s the spiritual bit:
In the Pali Canon (an ancient Buddhist text), it is said that Loving Kindness Meditaiton (Metta Bhavana) helps us to:
- sleep well
- start the day positively
- avoid nightmares
- feel a sense of emotional protection
- feel closer to others and to develop concentration.
- Loving kindness is one of the best ways to develop compassion.
Now the science:
Richard Davidson, a neuroscientist and Director of the University of Waisman Center, conducted research involving fMRI scans of monks who had been meditating for many years.
The research revealed that Loving Kindness has a profound impact on the brain as it significantly heightens our compassion for others. Loving Kindness was shown to heighten levels of joy, happiness and contentment. So it was scientifically proven that Loving Kindness makes people happier.
Plus, it boosts compassion. And we need compassion for health, happiness and wellbeing.
Even more benefits of loving kindness meditation
Here are even more benefits of Loving Kindness Meditation
Loving kindness meditation increases positive emotions and decreases negative emotions
In 2008, positive psychologist Barbara Frerickson conducted research that showed that practicing loving kindness meditation (metta) for seven weeks led to increased love, joy, pride, contentment, awe, gratitude, and hope.
These positive emotions in turn lead to increased mindfulness, increased sense of purpose, a decrease in illness, and an increased sense of social connection.
Increase vagal tone
A study in 2013 showed the effect of loving kindness meditation on emotions. The study revealed that loving kindness meditation affects the vagal tone, a physiological marker of well-being. This in turn shows that loving kindness meditation can help us to heal physically and emotionally.
The positive emotions and stress reduction created by loving kindness meditation leads to less migraines.
Research conducted in 2014 Tonelli studied the effects of metta meditation on people who suffer from migraines, and observed a significant decrease in migraine frequency in those who practiced the technique.
Helps Chronic Pain
In 2005 research (by Carson et al.) studied the effect of metta meditation on people with chronic lower back pain. They showed that the reduction in stress led to less severe pain. You can also these meditations for pain.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
In 2013 research (by Kearney et al.) showed that practicing loving kindness meditation for 12 weeks leads to less severe symptoms in post traumatic stress disorder patients.
A pilot study conducted by Johnson in 2011 researched the effects of metta meditation on individuals suffering from schizophrenia spectrum disorders. The results showed that meditation led to decreased negativity and increased positivity, and therefore was instrumental in recovery.
By the science of neuroplasticity, the brain evolves based on the activities we perform. Regular practice of loving kindness meditation leads to increased compassion and thereby teaches our brain to be more socially intelligent. This is just one of six key ways meditation makes you more intelligent. You can also use these great tips for emotional intelligence.
Gray Matter increase
In 2013, Leung et al. showed that loving kindness meditation leads to increase gray matter in the areas of the brain related to emotional regulation.
Respiratory Sinus Arrythmia
Another important benefit of loving kindness meditation is that it relaxes the body. This results in several physical benefits. Ten minutes of practice, for instance, leads to increased cardiac control, slow and more relaxed breathing, and increased respiratory sinus arrhythmia.
Decreases telomere length (it decreases the aging rate and helps you live longer)
Stress has been scientifically proven to decrease the length of telmores, which are genetic materials that are a marker of aging. In 2013, Hoge et al. proved that loving kindness meditation led to longer telomeres and thereby slowed the aging process.
Practicing loving kindness meditation makes you a more socially valuable person. In 2011 Leiberg et al. showed that loving kindness led to increased compassion, which in turn motivated individuals to behave in a way that was beneficial to society.
One of the most important aspects of Buddhism is compassion for all life. So perhaps it’s not surprising to hear that research conducted by Jones & Hutton in 2012 showed that loving kindness meditation significantly increased compassion.
A study in 2013 showed that loving kindness meditation also leads to increased empathy.
Makes you less biased
In 2014 Kang, Gray & Dovido showed that six weeks of loving kindness meditation led to less bias against minorities. This suggests that communal practice of loving kindness meditation will stop racism and other prejudices.
Alexander Stell, a doctoral student on the Universit Of Sussex’ psychology degree program, says, “This indicates that some meditation techniques are about much more than feeling good, and might be an important tool for enhancing inter-group harmony.”
Loving Kindness Meditation is a practice in which the individual imagines sending out feelings of compassion towards others.
Further studies have shown that racism can be countered by listening to meditation music.
“We wanted to see whether doing Loving Kindness Meditation towards a member of another ethnic group would reduce the automatic preference people tend to show for their own ethnic group.”
In his study, Stell took 71 Caucasian, non-meditating adults and showed them a photo of a black person. Half the group were asked to just look at the photo. The other half were asked to practicing loving kindness meditation and imagine sending out positive feelings to the black person in their photo.
The researchers studies the participants’ prejudices using the Implicit Association Test, which asks test subjects to describe the people in the photo.
The research shows that after loving kindness meditation people are more likely to describe the black person in the photo in a positive way. The researchers concluded that Loving Kindness Meditation is a powerful way to quickly end personal prejudices.
Increases Social Connection
This is the one benefit of loving kindness meditation that you will notice above all others. Loving kindness meditation makes you feel much more connected to the people around you. This was proven by research conducted by Kok et al in 2013.
Less self criticism
Part of practicing loving kindness meditation is extending thoughts of love and kindness towards yourself. This leads to less self criticism, which in turn raises self esteem and can help to cure depression and negative thoughts. This was proven by research in 2014 by Shahar et al. You can also use these techniques to become less self critical.
It works in small doses
In 2008, Hutcherson proved that just 10 minutes of loving kindness meditation was enough to provide the benefits listed above.
Finally, the benefits of loving kindness meditation will endure. In 2011 Cohn et al showed that 35% of participants who practiced loving kindness meditation had improved emotions for 15 months.
Oh, and it will also create good karma and stop bad.
The Science And Benefits Of Kindness
Psychological Definitions of Kindness
- Ellen Berscheid calls the strength of kindness “Compassionate Love.”
Daniel Batson’s definition tells us that kindness involves empathy, which is roughly translated as the ability to assume the position of others or to understand how others feel, being upset by another’s suffering and uplifted by another’s joy.
Kristin Neff’s research tells us that self kindness involves three components: self kindness (understanding our own short comings and not doting on failure / pain), self humanity (perceiving our own experiences as part of humanity rather than as reflections of ourselves as individuals) and mindfulness (holding in balance our sense of success / failure, happiness / pain etc.).
Patty O Grady has written a great article about the definition and effects of kindness on Psychology Today.
So that’s a definition of kindness.
But just why exactly is kindness so important? I mean, other than the fact that we all want to be good people and love being nice?
Mental Health Benefits of Kindness
Kindness helps maintain good health and diminish the effect of major and minor diseases and disorders. (PROOF)
Kindness promotes the release of endorphins that make you happy, promote calmness and improve your sense of well-being. (PROOF)
Kindness can reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation. (PROOF)
Kindness decreases negative feelings like anger and depression. (PROOF)
Recalling previous acts of kindness increases positive feelings. (PROOF)
Not to mention, kindness makes people like you and want to be with / around you. (No need for proof).
Physical Health Benefits of Kindness
Stress related health problems improve after kindness. (PROOF (see above))
Depression, anxiety and other mental health issues can cause heart attacks and other health problems. Kindness helps reduce the risk of these issues. (PROOF (see above))
Kindness promotes the production of T cells in the immune system, which help fight illness and disease. (PROOF)
Did you know about this importance of kindness and the health benefits of kindness? Isn’t it absolutely amazing?
Just being kind can have such a huge impact. And thankfully we’re all really kind people (in my experience, 99% of the readers of The Daily Meditation are extremely kind people, so I guess that means you’re all happy and successful too. Woo hoo!) Love you guys!
My experience with a student who lost weight with LKM
LKM helps with self forgiveness. And forgiving yourself is a surprisingly effective alternative way of losing weight.
I learned that with a student.
One girl I taught Loving Kindness Meditation to was struggling to accept the fact that she had allowed herself to put on weight.
She was hurt.
She was a beautiful and healthy but she’d gone through severe stress and had been comfort eating, which led her to put on 100lbs. She was still beautiful but she didn’t feel that way. She hated the fact that she had allowed herself to ruin her own health. She was depressed because of what she’d done to herself.
With Loving Kindness Meditation I was able to teach her to accept what she had done and to forgive herself.
This was an important case of self love.
She forgave herself and accepted the fact that she was now overweight. And it’s worth noting that forgiveness and self love are very important to weight loss.
Once she had gotten over the past and had found self love once again, she found it easy to return to her healthy habits and to lose weight. Now she’s even fitter than she had been previously.
That’s just one example of why self love and “self loving kindness” are so important: they empower us to behave positively towards ourselves.
Let me share a story about one student I taught loving kindness to.
How Loving Kindness Meditation Helped Me Personally
I’ll give an example from my personal life.
About a decade ago my father had been on business down in Portsmouth (a port city on the southern coast of England). He was walking back to his hotel when two men ran down the road. One of the men pulled a knife out of his pocket. He slashed it down my father’s face and through his throat.
They then ran.
My father, bleeding to death, managed to crawl into the nearest building, which happened to be a restaurant. By some miracle there happened to be a doctor in the restaurant when my father crawled in covered in blood and near death. The doctor managed to wrap the wound up to help control the bleeding. He then called the hospital, who through the modern miracle of health technology managed to save my father’s life.
Three miracles. But I don’t mention the story because of those miracles. Rather because of the fact that at first I had an extremely negative reaction to what happened. I (rightfully, perhaps) hated those two men who had attempted to murder my father. I felt mad at society too. But I knew that I could not allow those two men to destroy my state of mind. They’d already hurt my family more than enough. So I practiced Loving Kindness Meditation. I imagined sending compassion towards those two men who had tried to kill my dad. And in so doing I managed to forgive them and to move on.
When I talk about those two guys now everyone says “You must want to kill them”. I could want to do that if I let myself. It would be easy, I suppose. But that would only lead to damage. Instead I’ve chosen to understand that they’re the unfortunate result of an imperfect society. They themselves are almost definitely victims of some sort of suffering. You don’t act that way unless you’re truly hurting inside. So they’re victims themselves.
Instead of hating,I figure it’s better to try and understand them and where they come from, and to help cure their hatred and anger so things like this stop happening. In my mind that’s just a healthier and more positive way to be. But I’m only able to be so positive towards those guys because I’ve been practicing Metta Meditation.
So, how do you do Loving Kindness meditation? Let’s take a look.
I decided to create an infographic to teach the most important parts of metta.
This infographic teaches loving kindness meditation. Feel free to save this image so you know how to do loving kindness meditation. You may also share this loving kindness meditation infographic on your own site provided you leave a link back to this webpage.
Best Recordings And Books On Loving Kindness Meditation
If you would like to learn more about loving kindness meditation or have help practicing, I recommend these two fantastic books:
Loving Kindness: The Revolutionary Path Of Happiness by Sharon Salzberg
This is a truly beautiful and inspirational book by Salzberg. It explains why loving kindness means so much and how to bring loving kindness into your life. A truly life transforming work.
GET IT ON AMAZON
Meditation On Loving Kindness by Master Choa Kok Sui
Master Choa Kok Sui gives a guided meditation on Loving Kindness. A world renowned expert and luminary this recording is a real treat.
How about a PDF?
Sure. Download the PDF here.
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