What Is Loving Kindness Meditation?
Loving Kindness Meditation is a form of meditation based on mantras and exercises that promote healthy feelings of love towards oneself and the universe in general. Loving Kindness Meditation (“LKM” for short) helps practitioners to open and “sweeten” the mind – emphasizing healing thoughts of compassion and acceptance over harmful doubt and confusion.
Loving Kindness Meditation firstly teaches kindness and patience towards self, then gently moves the individual beyond personal concerns to cultivate empathetic concern for the wellness of all living beings in our world.
The Basics of LKM
Loving Kindness Meditation is based on ancient texts for the development of Mettā (literally, “loving-kindness”) in one’s life. While there are slight variations between modern meditation practices, many students and teachers generally adhere to the following traditional approach:
- Begin with loving kindness for the self
- Loving kindness towards a beloved friend or teacher
- Loving kindness towards a neutral person / stranger
- Loving kindness towards a difficult person
- Equal loving kindness towards all four people above
- Eventual loving kindness for the whole universe
LKM involves many practical methods of developing loving kindness during each stage of meditation above:
Visualization: Picturing oneself, a friend, or a stranger smiling warmly or embracing.
Reflection: Focusing on good attributes and good deeds performed by self or others.
Auditory: Using spoken or whispered mantras to cultivate feelings of goodwill – saying “loving kindness” works just fine!
LKM can be practiced as often as necessary, although 2-3 times per week is widely considered an adequate devotion towards this principle.
Loving Kindness Beyond Meditation
Loving Kindness Meditation can get pretty advanced – experienced practitioners eventually move on to what is called directional pervasion (radiating compassion out towards each compass point) or nonspecific pervasion (radiation of one’s love through the entire cosmos).
But for most, loving kindness meditation is a practical way to encourage forgiveness, generosity and warmth in one’s moment-by-moment thoughts. This mindset then spreads our warmth toward every living being we encounter, helping to nurture a philosophy of healing and peace in daily life.
Lastly, many teachers stress that LKM is a meditation from the heart – meaning that its precepts should manifest beyond one’s thoughts and into the real world through openness and positive action between one another.