Loving Kindness Meditation - Try it you may be surprised!
Loving Kindness Meditation or Metta meditation is a centuries old practice that originally comes from the Buddhist tradition. It involves repeating a set of phrases sending out your wish that you, and all beings, be happy, peaceful, and healthy.
"the practice of loving-kindness is about cultivating love as a strength, a muscle, a tool that challenges our tendency to see people (including ourselves) as disconnected, statically and rigidly isolated from one another. Loving-kindness is about opening ourselves up to others with compassion and equanimity, which is a challenging exercise, requiring us to push back against assumptions, prejudices, and labels that most of us have internalized." Sharon Salzberg, leading meditation teacher and author of Lovingkindness
Benefits of Loving Kindness Meditation
Modern science increasingly backs up Loving Kindness Meditation as a powerful practice which brings a host of emotional, social, neurological and physical health benefits such as:
Increased positive emotions such as love, joy, awe and hope which led to improvements in purpose in life, social support and life satisfaction (Fredrickson, and colleagues, 2008)
Reduced self-criticism and depressive symptoms in self-critical individuals (Shahar et al (2014)
Increased empathy (Klimecki et al (2013)
Improved vagal tone – the vagus nerve is connected with our rest and digest system – (Kok et al (2013)
Immediate relaxation benefits – while most of these studies looked into 6 to 7 week programmes, just 10 minutes of loving-kindness meditation has an immediate measurable relaxing effect as shown by activity in the parasympathetic nervous system and slower respiration (Law, 2011)
The phrases are traditionally something like:
May I (you / we) be happy
May I (you / we) be peaceful
May I (you / we) be well
You begin by saying these phrases to yourself and then to an increasingly wider group: starting with someone you love or feel close to, then someone neutral, someone you have some negative feelings about, and finally expanding this out to all beings.
If you’re doing the meditation on your own, spend time first thinking about what phrases you will use. Traditionally, phrases like “May I be safe,” “be happy,” “be healthy,” are used but you can be creative using phrases that speak to you – to make the statements more personal. Stick to a small number and keep them simple so you can repeat them easily. Here are some suggestions:
May I be happy
May I be peaceful
May I be well
May I live with ease
May I find deep joy
May I be free of pain
May I be free from harm
May I be free of suffering
May I feel safe
Say these for yourself, your loved ones, your animals, even someone you feel negative about, just change the I to You. And send out to all beings changing the I to We. I practice this for 5 minutes twice a day, when I feel anxious or stressed or when my day is just not going to plan - I always feel better, positive and calmer.