In the following meditation audio, I guide you through a Loving Kindness practice. This meditation is known as a heart practice, because it cultivates the inner qualities of love, openness and wellbeing. As Jack Kornfield says, “Without love, awakening is not possible.”
Through Loving Kindness meditation, we begin to lift the veil of separation, to feel our interconnectedness with others and sense into the energy of love that is always available to us. At our very core, love is who we are. The deepest desire of the human heart is to love and be loved.
On the scientific front, research has shown that Loving Kindness practice has powerful effects on physical and psychological health. Specifically, Loving kindness meditation can increase positive emotions and feelings of social connection; decrease negative emotions, chronic pain, migraines, and PTSD symptoms; increase grey matter in brain areas associated with emotion regulation; slow biological aging, measured at the chromosome level; reduce self-criticism; and increase compassion and empathy. In one study, even just ten minutes of Loving Kindness practice had an immediate relaxation effect, as shown by two measures of parasympathetic nervous system function.
Given all this, the potential benefits of Loving Kindness mediation are enormous. It’s also important to remember that it is a practice, meaning it builds and evolves over time. As you start out, you might feel it resonates with you right away, or it might take some repetition before it starts to feel natural and helpful. Either way, it’s okay. Giving yourself some grace about the process itself is a central part of opening and softening the heart.
The Buddha said, “Hatred never ceases by hatred, but by love alone is healed.” In Loving Kindness meditation, as Jack Kornfield teaches, we are not perfecting ourselves but rather perfecting our love.
Before you begin the practice, here are some helpful things to keep in mind:
- In Loving Kindness practice, we offer phrases of well-wishing to ourselves and others. Trust that as we offer these phrases, we are planting the seeds of love and kindness. With cultivation and patience, they will grow.
- As I ask you to bring to mind each new person, don’t worry about who you choose. Hold the inquiry lightly; whoever comes to mind is just fine. Ultimately the intention is to send Loving Kindness to every being on Earth. You can always practice again tomorrow and choose someone different.
- If the practice feels mechanical or awkward at first, that’s okay. Whatever arises in your experience, hold it with kindness toward yourself.
- If you notice any impatience, wanting it to “work” each time, simply hold that impatient feeling with kind attention as well. Sometimes the tender feelings come forward, and sometimes they might not. The heart goes in cycles, opening and closing, like so many other things in nature. It’s all okay. Trust the power of your intentions and the seeds you’re planting within yourself.
- Sit comfortably, or if you’re unable to sit, you can lie down or even stand. Find a way to let your body be at ease.
- As you continue your own practice over time, perhaps without the audio guidance, feel free to change the phrases to whatever feels right for you. Choose whatever words feel authentic to you in wishing yourself and others well. Find the words that connect most deeply with your heart.