loving kindness meditation

The Buddhist Loving Kindness Meditation Script (Metta meditation script) is a prayer (or simply words) that we use for developing kindness and compassion. It is one of the most important Buddhist techniques for beginners

The technical, Buddhist name for this technique is Metta Bhavana, metta meaning compassion and bhavana meaning cultivating.

Metta Bhavana (Buddhist Loving Kindness Meditation) is a technique that we use to create feelings of love and kindness, warm feelings that make your inner world a place of compassion. It is used by many famous meditation teachers (especially popular of late is Sharon Salzberg’s loving kindness meditation script). 

We can use the metta script either in a traditional seated practice or as a guided meditation.

In this tutorial, I will share with you both a long and a short Loving Kindness Meditation script and the words of Buddha when he described the method. I’ll also discuss the benefits, give you a “How To” with instructions, PDF, and a video with yours truly.  

VIDEO 

Loving kindness Meditation Tutorial--Learn Buddhist Metta

Loving Kindness Meditation Script

There are two versions of the Metta meditation script. There is the short 5-minute version used by most teachers, including Sharon Salzberg and Jack Kornfield, which is a simplified, guided version. And there is the original Buddhist Metta Bhavana script, which reveals the true meaning of Buddhist loving-kindness meditation. 

Short(5-minute script): 

This is a modern and short Loving Kindness Meditation script (5 minutes approximately). It is a sort of prayer that you can use. (If you have not done Metta before please read the instructions below).

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).

I personally like to then add, “I am one with [name of person]. I love [name of person]”

Remember to visualise the other person saying the loving-kindness script back to you. And then repeat with numerous people (including people you do not find it easy to get along with (this is essential!)

This 5-minute loving-kindness meditation script trains the mind to give and receive love and kindness while also offering compassion for human suffering.

When you repeat this loving kindness meditation script you will greatly increase your connection to other people (and animals too if you practice loving kindness for animals). But that’s just one of the benefits.

There are several different versions of the Metta Bhavana script (partly because translations vary and partly because, you know, the internet). Most teachers, such as Sharon Salzberg and Jack Kornfield, have their own modified versions. Most of these versions are essentially the same thing.  

Full Buddhist Metta Bhavana Script (words of Buddha)

Below is the real Buddhist loving-kindness meditation script—the actual words Buddha said about it. This reveals its true meaning. 

ess meditation script—the actual words Buddha said about Loving kindness. This reveals the true meaning of Metta meditation. 

 

 

Buddha loving kindness meditation script

 

We can translate this Metta meditation script to mean the following: “May we wish ease and peace on all, whomever they should be. This is the path to enlightenment.” 

This you can turn into a mantra, like so “I give love and kindness to all living things, and thereto may I become enlightened”. 

 

Self-Loving Script 

Although I personally advocate using the full method above, it is possible to do a self-loving kindness meditation script, in which we focus on the self. 

In fact, this is basically the exact same as the short version above. Simply repeat the mantra words to yourself. 

May I have loving kindness. May I have love, peace, strength and success. May I have the strength to overcome all obstacles). “I am one with myself. I love myself.”

Now let us look at how to Metta Bhavana properly at home. 

How to do Metta Meditation (Loving-Kindness)—Instructions  

  1. Find somewhere quiet where you will not be disturbed for ten to twenty minutes.
  2. Sit, lie down or stand up.
  3. Check your posture. Is your body in alignment? Is your spine straight? Feeling comfy but alert? Great.
  4. Focus on your breath: Focus on your breathing for a few moments to quiet and calm your mind.
  5. Extend loving kindness to yourself: Imagine seeing yourself happy and smiling.
  6. Now imagine sending out feelings of love and kindness towards yourself.
  7. Think of five positive things about yourself that you love.
  8. 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).
  9. 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.”
  10. Repeat with someone close to you: Bring to mind someone close to you (family / friend) and repeat the process.
  11. Imagine the person happy.
  12. Imagine sending them love.
  13. Imagine them sending love back to you.
  14. Now think of five things to love about that person.
  15. Think of five ways that person shows loving kindness to you.
  16. 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.”
  17. Now repeat the process and say the loving kindness meditation script with a neutral individual  
  18. 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 includes your noisy neighbour.
  19. Return to the beginning and repeat.
  20. 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).”
  21. 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.
  22. If you notice that you experience anger or hate at any time during this process, you might like to use Buddhist Meditations to control anger.
  23. Once you have practised Buddhist Loving Kindness meditation, move on to Karuna (compassion)

Meaning

So now you know the loving-kindness meditation script, you might wonder what Metta means exactly. 

The Pali word Metta means benevolence, friendliness, amity, goodwill. You will have noticed how the Mett Bhavana script above is all about sending compassion to ourselves and others. This is huge because scientific research shows how important compassion is.   

The full name “Metta Bhavana” means “developing loving kindness”.  

“Love” and “Kindness” are the same in the Buddhist tradition as they are to you and me. 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 qualities a person can possess.

Metta meditation is even more important than that though. It is one of the ten pāramīs (perfections) that are taught in the Theravāda school of Buddhism. Metta is the first of the four sublime states (the states described in Buddhism as the ideal ways of conduct towards living beings).

The Paramis (Perfections) are:

You might think you already possess the quality of Metta. If so, you are on your way to becoming enlightened.   

History

This technique is historically one of the most important Buddhist techniques.

Guatama Buddha began to teach it over 2500 years ago.

The Buddha himself practised 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 session, he would do LKM. He would start by focusing on himself. He would extend thoughts and feelings of compassion to himself, perhaps because Buddha understood that love begins with yourself.

After cultivating Metta towards himself, Buddha would look around him at the villagers and the monks. They would be toiling away, trying to survive as best they could. The Buddha would imagine sending positive feelings of compassion towards them.

But Buddha did not stop there.

Once Buddha had mentally projected love and kindness to the people around him, he would look for ways to help his community. Buddha would find ways to help people in his community.

Can you imagine if everyone did the same thing today? If everyone lived for compassion, 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 the true meaning of Metta Bhavana: 

What it’s about:

  1. Focusing the mind and relaxing
  2. Extending love to yourself
  3. Extending love to others
  4. Finding loving ways to help others.

I believe we should all practise loving-kindness meditation, whether we are Buddhist or not. And not just because of the amazing benefits.  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 practice  metta bhavana. Regardless of who we are or where we come from, we can all benefit from learning how to do metta meditation.  

>>Back To Contents Page

 

Benefits of Loving Kindness Meditation

Scientific research has revealed some seriously impressive benefits of loving-kindness meditation. The script helps us to develop compassion, of course. But there is a lot more to it than that. 

There are more than 100 benefits of meditation. And Metta Bhavana is one of the most beneficial practices.

I’m sure you will agree with me that some of the best feelings are compassion and warmth for both ourselves and for other beings on this beautiful planet of ours. One of Loving Kindness Meditation’s benefits is that it helps us to cultivate those feelings.

It goes a lot deeper than this though. There are seriously powerful spiritual benefits of Metta Bhavana and benefits for the mind and body too. And it is huge for overall wellbeing. I personally practice this technique as one of my main techniques, and every time I do it I feel so much more relaxed, happier, and connected to other people and to the world.

In the Pali Canon (an ancient Buddhist text), it is said that Metta Bhavana helps us to:

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. [1]

The research revealed that Loving Kindness meditation benefits the brain because it significantly heightens our compassion for others. It benefits us by heightening levels of joy, happiness and contentment. So it was scientifically proven that the technique makes people happier. 

Here are more benefits.

1.  Spiritual benefits  

If you read the full Buddhist Loving Kindness Meditation script above, you will have noticed that Buddha mentions that Metta helps with enlightenment. 

Buddha taught that the practice of Loving Kindness Meditation will develop four traits in the individual:

Specifically, the benefits of Metta Bhavana come from four essential steps:

  1.  Metta develops a warmth of feeling towards others.
  2. 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.
  3. This leads to Appreciative Joy—the appreciation of the good fortune of other people.
  4. Finally, we achieve Upekkha, equanimity, the state in which we extend love and kindness to all living beings. 

 

 

 2: Increases positive emotions and decreases negative emotions

The Loving Kindness script is full of positive words and emotions, and by repeating these words we develop those emotions in ourselves. 

In 2008, positive psychologist Barbara Fredrickson conducted research that determined that practising 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.  

3. Increases vagal tone

A study in 2013 showed the effect of loving kindness meditation on emotions. The study revealed that it benefits our wellbeing by improving vagal tone, a physiological marker of well-being. This, in turn, shows that it can help us to heal physically and emotionally.

4. Decreases migraines:

Believe it or not, there is a link between the Metta Bhavana script and the number of migraines we get.   

Research conducted in 2014 Tonelli studied the effects of metta on people who suffer from migraines and observed a significant decrease in migraine frequency in those who practised the technique.

5. Helps Chronic Pain

In 2005 researchers (Carson et al.) investigated whether metta meditation benefits people chronic lower back pain. They showed that the reduction in stress led to less severe pain.  

6. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

In 2013 research (by Kearney et al.) showed that practising metta for 12 weeks leads to less severe symptoms in post-traumatic stress disorder patients.

7. Schizophrenia

A pilot study conducted by Johnson in 2011 investigated whether there are any benefits of metta for individuals suffering from schizophrenia spectrum disorders. The results showed that the technique led to decreased negativity and increased positivity, and therefore was instrumental in recovery. Because of this benefit of Metta Bhavana, it is now a serious treatment for some mental health conditions.

8. Improves emotional intelligence

Naturally, the metta meditation script is full of positive emotions. And this can improve emotional intelligence.

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 the brain to be more socially intelligent. This is just one of the ways meditation makes you more intelligent.  

9: Increases Gray Matter

In 2013, Leung et al. showed that the technique leads to increase in gray matter in the areas of the brain related to emotional regulation.

10. Respiratory Sinus Arrythmia

Another important benefit 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.

11. Decreases telomere length (it decreases the ageing 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 ageing. In 2013, Hoge et al. proved that loving-kindness meditation led to longer telomeres and thereby slowed the ageing process.

12. Social Value

One of the main focuses of the script is on our connection with other people, and this can have a positive effect on our sense of social value.

Practising metta makes you a more socially valuable person.

In 2011 Leiberg et al. showed that the practice leads to increased compassion, which in turn motivates individuals to behave in a way beneficial to society.

13. Boosts compassion

Perhaps the biggesst focus of the Metta bhavana is on compassion. This is one of the most important traits in. So perhaps it’s not surprising to hear that research conducted by Jones & Hutton in 2012 showed that it significantly increased compassion.

14. Empathy

A study in 2013 showed that it also leads to increased empathy.

15. Makes you less biased

When we recite the Loving Kindness Meditation words we say them to all people, including people we do not get along with. This decreases biases and prejudices. 

In 2014 Kang, Gray & Dovido showed that six weeks of metta led to less bias against minorities. This suggests that communal practice will stop racism and other prejudices.

Alexander Stell, a doctoral student on the Universit Of Sussex’ psychology degree program, says, “This indicates that some techniques are about much more than feeling good, and might be an important tool for enhancing inter-group harmony.”

Further studies have shown that racism can be countered by listening to Zen 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 practise loving kindness meditation and imagine sending out positive feelings to the black person in their photo.

The researchers studied the participants’ prejudices using the Implicit Association Test, which asks test subjects to describe the people in the photo.

The research shows that after the practice people are more likely to describe the black person in the photo in a positive way. The researchers concluded that the technique Meditation is a potent way to quickly end personal prejudices.

16. Increases Social Connection

Another focus of the Loving Kindness Meditation words is on 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 loving kindness meditation script involveds extending thoughts of compassion 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.

18. It works in small doses

Wondering whether the 5-minute loving kindness meditation 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

Finally, the benefits of loving kindness meditation will endure.  In 2011 Cohn et al determined that 35% of participants who practised loving-kindness meditation had improved emotions for 15 months. 

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 the LKM script to was struggling to accept the fact that she had allowed herself to put on weight.

She was hurt.

She was beautiful and healthy but she’d gone through severe stress and had been comfort eating, which led her to put on 87lbs. 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 the metta bhavana script 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-compassion are so important: they empower us to behave positively towards ourselves.

Personal experience

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 practising Metta Meditation.

 

Review of LKM

LKM 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.

Next, 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 send compassion 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.

In this part we focus on 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 LKM you can learn to see each other in a positive light, which cures any animosity and restores the positive relationship.

This final part can also help to cure seriously unhealthy relationships as well and emotional suffering.

Infographic

I decided to create an infographic to teach the most important parts of Metta.

This infographic teaches LKM. 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.

loving kindness meditation infographic

 

PDF

Download the PDF here.

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About Paul Harrison

Paul Harrison is a qualified meditation teacher and writer with more than 15 years experience in meditation and mindfulness. He studied meditation in Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University. Paul has helped thousands of people to discover their true potential through mindfulness, yoga and meditation.

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