Loving Kindness, also called Metta Bhavana, is an important Buddhist meditation and one of the most popular, with scripts from famous teachers like Sharon Salzberg, Tara Brach, Pema Chodron, Jack Kornfield, and me.
But despite the popularity of this technique, there are still a lot of things most people don’t know about it. For instance, the fact that this is not the main Buddhist meditation for compassion. That would be Karuna.
So, put your reading glasses on. Because I’m about to share everything you need to know.
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Loving Kindness Meditation Script
- Sit with good posture. Tuck your chin down a little to extend your neck. Relax your facial muscles from your forehead to your chin. Place your tongue lightly against your soft palate. Angle your gaze so it is diagonal, so you are not looking directly ahead but down a little.
- [OPTIONAL] For this practice, we want to use a hasta mudra (hand gesture). We will use Lotus Seal. Hold your hands in front of your chest in the prayer position. Now open your hands outwards a little bit, leaving the base of the hands, the little fingers, and the thumbs touching one another. You will know when you have it right because your hands will look like a flower opening.
- Focus on your breath for a few moments.
- Extend Metta to yourself: Imagine seeing yourself happy and smiling.
- Imagine sending feelings of love and kindness to yourself.
- Think of five things you love about yourself.
- Now think of five ways in which you enact self-love (e.g. eating healthy, exercising, talking nicely to yourself)
- Say to yourself the words: “May I have loving-kindness. May I have strength, peace, love, and success. And may I 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.
- Visualize 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 words“May (name of person) have loving-kindness. May they have love, peace, strength, and success. And may they have the strength to overcome all obstacles.”
- Repeat the process and say the script with a neutral individual
- Now repeat with a difficult person (e.g., someone you have argued with).
- Always remember the loving-kindness script: “May (name of person) have loving-kindness. May they have love, peace, strength, and success. And may they also have the strength to overcome all obstacles.”
- If you notice that you experience anger at any time during this process, you might like to use Buddhist Meditations to control anger.
Jack Kornfield: “May I /you be filled with lovingkindness [sic]. May I / you be safe from inner and outer dangers. And may I /you be well in body and mind. May I / you be at ease and happy.”
Sharon Salzberg: “May you be safe, may you have mental happiness, may you have physical happiness, may you live with ease.”
Tara Brach: “May I /you be filled with loving presence. May I / you accept myself / yourself just as I am / you are. And may I / you know the natural joy in life. “
Jon Kabat Zinn: “May I / you be safe and protected and free from inner and outer harm. May I / you be happy and contented. Also, may I / you be healthy and whole to whatever degree possible. And may I / you experience ease of well-being.”
Although I personally advocate using the full method above, it is possible to do a self-loving kindness meditation. When we do this, we focus on ourselves. Overall, the script is the same, but you repeat the mantra to yourself.
“May I have loving-kindness. May I have love, peace, strength, and success. And may I have the strength to overcome all obstacles. I am one with myself. I love myself.”
Metta Sutta Script
Below is the exact text from Buddha in the Karaniya Metta Sutta.
When you read the text below, you will understand the exact meaning of Metta. Essentially, it means, “May we wish ease and peace on all, whomever they should be. This is the path to enlightenment.”
Benefits of Metta Meditation
Naturally, the number one benefit of Metta meditation is compassion. Indeed, the Pali word Metta means benevolence, friendliness, amity, and goodwill.
You will have noticed how the Metta Bhavana script above is all about sending compassion to ourselves and others. Consequently, we develop this trait in ourselves.
Ten Paramis (perfections)
Metta is one of the ten pāramīs (perfections) that are taught in the Theravāda school of Buddhism. It is the first of the four sublime states. These are the states that Buddhists consider the ideal qualities of mind. They are Generosity, Virtues, Renunciation, Insight, Effort, Patience, Honesty, Determination, Loving Kindness, and Equanimity.
According to the Pali Canon
- Metta (Friendliness)
- Compassion (Karuna)
- Joy (Mudita)
- Equanimity (Upekkha)
- Sleep well
- Start the day positively
- Avoid nightmares
- Feel a sense of emotional protection
- Feel closer to others
- Develop concentration.
- Develop compassion
How it works
- Metta develops a warmth of feeling towards ourselves and 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.
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 Metta benefits us by increasing compassion.
2: Increases positive emotions and decreases negative emotions
Research by Barbara Fredrickson shows that practicing Metta for seven weeks increases love, joy, pride, contentment, awe, gratitude, and hope.
3. Increases vagal tone
A study in 2013 showed that it improves vagal tone. This is a physiological marker of well-being. In turn, this shows that it can help us to heal physically and emotionally. [Department of Psychology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, NC27599-3270, USA.]
4. Decreases migraines:
In 2014 Makenzie E. Tonelli studied the effects of Metta meditation on people who suffer from migraines. Tonelli observed a significant decrease in migraine frequency in those who practised the technique. [Makenzie E Tonelli, Psychiatry Department, University of Massachusetts Medical School]
5. Relieves Chronic Pain
2005 research by Carson et al shows that Metta meditation benefits people with chronic lower back pain.
[James W Carson, Journal of Holistic Nursing 23(3):287-304, DOI: 10.1177/0898010105277651]
6. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
2013 research by Kearney et al. shows that practising Metta for 12 weeks leads to less severe symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
7. Helps with schizophrenia
A pilot study conducted by Johnson in 2011 showed that Metta decreases negativity and increases positivity. In turn, this helps with schizophrenia.
[David P Johnson, Department of Psychology, University of North Carolina]
8. Improves emotional intelligence
Regular practice leads to increased compassion. In turn, it teaches the brain to be more socially intelligent.
9: Increases Gray Matter
2013 research by Leung et al. shows that it increases grey matter in the areas of the brain related to emotional regulation.
[Mei-Kei Leung, Laboratory of Neuropsychology, The University of Hong Kong]
10. Helps with respiratory Sinus Arrhythmia
Metta Bhavana relaxes the body. This results in several physical benefits, including increased cardiac control, slower and more relaxed breathing, and improved respiratory sinus arrhythmia.
[Boris Bornemann, Department of Social Neuroscience, Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences ]
11. Strengthens telomeres (it decreases the ageing rate and helps you live longer)
In 2013, Hoge et al. proved that Metta led to longer telomeres and thereby slows the aging process.
[Khoa D Le Nguyen, Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, University of North Carolina ]
12. Increases social Value
In 2011 Leiberg et al. showed that Metta compassion. In turn, this motivates us to behave in a way beneficial to society.
[Susanne Leiberg, Laboratory for Social and Neural Systems Research, University of Zurich]
13. Boosts solicitude
Research conducted by Jones & Hutton in 2012 showed that it significantly increased solicitude.
[Boellinghaus, I., Jones, F.W. & Hutton, J. The Role of Mindfulness and Loving-Kindness Meditation in Cultivating Self-Compassion and Other-Focused Concern in Health Care Professionals. Mindfulness 5, 129–138 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-012-0158-6]
14. Heightens empathy
A study in 2013 showed that it also leads to increased empathy. This also makes it great for teamwork, which is why I teach it in our corporate meditation classes. Mascaro, J. S., Darcher, A., Negi, L. T., & Raison, C. L. (2015). The neural mediators of kindness-based meditation: a theoretical model. Frontiers in psychology, 6, 109. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00109
15. Makes you less biased
In 2014 Kang, Gray & Dovido showed that six weeks of Metta makes us less biased against minorities. This suggests that communal practice will stop racism and other prejudices.
16. Increases Social Connection
Another benefit is social connection. It makes you feel much more connected to the people around you. This was proven by research conducted by Kok et al in 2013.
17. Less self-criticism
Part of the script involves extending thoughts of compassion towards yourself. This decreases self-criticism.
[Shahar B, Szsepsenwol O, Zilcha-Mano S, Haim N, Zamir O, Levi-Yeshuvi S, Levit-Binnun N. A wait-list randomized controlled trial of loving-kindness meditation programme for self-criticism. Clin Psychol Psychother. 2015 Jul-Aug;22(4):346-56. doi: 10.1002/cpp.1893. Epub 2014 Mar 16. PMID: 24633992.]
18. It works in small doses
Wondering whether the 5-minute script works or whether it is too short? In 2008, Hutcherson proved that we get the benefits of Metta from just 10 minutes. So, you might have to do the 5-minute version twice.
19. It lasts
The benefits endure. In 2011 Cohn et al determined that 35% of participants who practiced Metta had improved emotions for 15 months.
Download the PDF here.
Paul Harrison BSc is a qualified meditation teacher who believes in genuine, authentic meditation. He has more than 15 years experience in teaching meditation and mindfulness both to individuals and to corporations and is the author of four books on meditation. He has been featured in Psychology Today, Breathe Magazine, Healthline, Psych Central and Lion’s Roar.
Paul studied meditation in beautiful Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University.
Paul’s biggest inspirations include Thich Nhat Hanh, Jon Kabat Zinn, and Jack Kornfield.
“My goal is to provide the most authentic meditation sessions so you can harness the power of your own mind for personal transformation” – Paul Harrison