How to Practice Loving-Kindness Meditation

The mindfulness practice can improve your well-being, even in the face of conflict

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Your own capacity for loving, whether you know it or not, is infinite.

In teaching or practicing formal loving-kindness meditation, I sometimes include imagery, emphasizing the direct feeling of loving-kindness rather than relying solely on the traditional phrases associated with evoking it. What follows is a guided loving-kindness meditation you might explore whenever you care to — even now.

We recognize how much we human beings, and all living creatures, are all united in our common aspiration to be happy and not to suffer.

So, whenever you are ready to try it, in your mind’s eye and in your heart, evoking the feeling or image of an individual for whom you have great affection, someone you are very close to emotionally, someone you can truly say you love. Can you hold this person in your heart with the same quality of loving-kindness that you have been directing toward yourself? Whether it is a child or a parent, a brother or a sister, a grandparent or other relative near or distant, a close friend or a cherished neighbor, singly or together, breathing with them in your heart, holding them in your heart, imaging them in your heart as best you can (although none of it needs to be very vivid for it to be effective), wishing them well:

To engage in this way is to recognize and nurture your own humanity in all its beauty.

But over time, it is likely — since your own capacity for loving, whether you know it or not, is infinite (that is simply the nature of love; it is limitless and therefore in infinite supply) — that you will find yourself naturally drawn to invite more and more beings into the field of loving-kindness radiating from you in all directions, inwardly and outwardly — even insects, even birds, even mice, even snakes or toads.

From Falling Awake: How to Practice Mindfulness in Everday Life, by Jon Kabat-Zinn, published by Hachette. Copyright © 2018 by Jon Kabat-Zinn.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, is professor of medicine emeritus and the founder of MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction).

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