The What and How of Loving Kindness
This month we are focusing on Loving Kindness, or metta meditation. It is our hope that this month will be a time of wishing happiness for all beings. Perhaps we can use all of the Valentine’s Day advertisements as reminders to do this practice instead of buying boxes of chocolates. What better gift than happiness can we give ourselves, others, and the world? The term Loving Kindness might sound a little fluffy, but as we look around the world are there any downsides to cultivating more happiness? We don’t think so.
Think of Loving Kindness as an equal opportunity love. It is usually easy to love the people close to us and wish them well. But what about everyone else? With this practice we learn to extend the same love to ourselves, to the stranger who cuts us off in traffic, and to our dearest friends. We don’t expect that level of happiness to infiltrate our lives after our first Loving Kindness practice. However, the goal is to build the capacity to let the wish for happiness flow through us so we can indiscriminately extend it to ourselves and every living being. It is a process of slowly chipping away at the walls we have built that prevent us from loving ourselves. Then, we work on the walls we have built preventing us from loving others.
Let’s jump in and get to practice.
The first step in this meditation is to imagine that you’re in front of yourself or inside of your heart. If envisioning yourself becomes a barrier, start by picturing a loved one, and then ease into envisioning yourself. Envelop yourself or your loved one in warm, strong feelings of love. Sometimes self-love is hard to come by, so it’s ok to feel uncomfortable at the start.
Envision yourself as a child. What would you want for that child? To be happy? If you can wish happiness for your child-self, why not wish it for your adult self now? Most likely, at some point in life you received the message that you are not worthy of love, or that once you achieve perfection, only then will you be worthy of love. Think of someone you love. Are they perfect? Most likely not, yet you love and wish them happiness anyway. You can grow the capacity to give that same Loving Kindness to yourself.
Imagine wrapping yourself or your child-self in a warm embrace. At the same time, let the love and warmth of that hug move through your body. Settle into your embrace and say this, or something along these lines:
“May you be happy. May you be well. May you be safe. May you be peaceful and at ease.”
Repeat that as many times as you like.
Once you feel a healthy love for yourself, follow the same practice for a loved one. See them clearly, embrace them, then repeat the above sentences or your own versions of them. Feel free to be creative. Keep going until you feel love, like waves rolling out to that person. Hint: This will be easier if you first take in Loving Kindness for yourself.
Send your love to entire classes of beings. There is an enormous world of sentient beings around you. There’s no need to limit Loving Kindness. Send it out until you feel surrounded by the strong tides, then soak up all that Loving Kindness.
To do this practice in person with Lama Tsomo, sign up for an upcoming Four Immeasurables retreat here!