How To Practice Loving-Kindness

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Everyone’s meditation practice is deeply personal depending on individual needs, and certainly it helps to have the advice of a qualified meditation teacher. But our most profound guru dwells within us.

Our inner teacher is a valuable resource, available anytime 24/7, when and if our minds are calm enough to listen. Many practices and techniques are beneficial for making the best use of the limited time available for practice in our busy lives. We learn the basics from qualified teachers in preparation to skillfully follow our inner teachers. Good teachers always seem to encourage experimentation and observation to develop mindfulness and later insights for transforming negative thought patterns to healthier and more helpful ones.Loving-kindness and compassion practices are antidotes for many difficulties, regardless of whether the situation relates to ourselves, loved ones, adversarial relationships, or larger societal issues. Loving-kindness practice (also known as Metta) cultivates love and acceptance, which is a good replacement for habitual negative patterns of thoughts and feelings. The following meditation practices help promote loving-kindness and compassion and ease suffering through contemplation or chanting either aloud or silently.

 

How To Chant A Mantra For Loving-Kindness

One basic mantra for loving-kindness involves starting with simple phrases, focusing first on oneself.

May I be safe from harm.

May I be happy.

May I be healthy.

May my life unfold with ease.

 

These same phrases are repeated again, but instead of “I,” focus next on loved ones, then focus on individuals with whom we have a difficult relationship.  (May so-and-so be safe from harm, etc.). Then for the last part of this mantra focus on all beings. Take notice of any physical or body sensations or changes each time the focus is changed.

May all beings be safe from harm.

May all beings be happy.

May all beings be healthy.

May all beings’ lives unfold with ease.

 

As with loving-kindness, there are many meditation practices for cultivating compassion and certainly loving-kindness is itself a method for practicing compassion. Similarly, chanting a mantra such as the Tibetan compassion mantra (Om Mani Padme Hum) can be used whether focusing on oneself, others or all beings. 

 

Breathwork For Loving-Kindness

Another compassion practice, Tibetan Tonglen meditation, involves focusing on the breath while mentally breathing in suffering and mentally breathing out compassion.  It’s a way of letting go of many forms of negative thoughts or feelings and replacing them with thoughts and feelings of genuine compassion.

At first this practice may seem strange—to mentally focus on some form of suffering while taking an in-breath. The point is not to take on the suffering, but to feel and understand it empathically and then to respond by generating thoughts and feelings of compassion.

We can learn a great deal just by sitting in meditation and noticing whatever is temporarily passing through our minds, without grasping it. While there are many good teachers, seemingly infinite books and teachings, our inner teacher—through quiet introspection and openness using loving-kindness and compassion meditation practices—can provide firsthand personal knowledge and insights though direct experience.

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