The Practice of Lovingkindness

The Practice of Lovingkindness

Lovingkindness is the mindfulness meditation practice of offering our love, friendliness, and care, first to ourselves, then out to those around us, and beyond that, the entire world. 

The word for lovingkindness in Pali is “metta” - which translates to positive energy and kindness to others. 

Metta is meeting what's happening in the present moment with kindness, and metta is the foundation for any expression of an awakened heart. This doesn't mean we walk around doe-eyed all day.

Sometimes what's most kind is strong or even fierce.

The practice of lovingkindness helps us remember our most authentic nature. We might not often make space to witness that we contain these depths of goodness. 

The Buddha said that the object of our practice should be, first of all, our own self. Your ability to love another person depends on your ability to love yourself

Because it's who we are in the end, and it's what our true nature is, which is consciousness and love itself. And we can't get away from it, and we are interconnected.

It can sometimes be a real challenge to remember this lovingkindness. 

Often we have built so many conditions for why we are unlovable that they can become impenetrable. From that shielded place, offering love to others is more challenging, and it becomes cyclical. 

We have all felt a sense of separateness. Like we screwed up in some way that no one else has.

We've all felt it, this separation from ourselves. And if I knew you were suffering, I would have offered deep compassion. Because you are a fellow human being, a friend. So, it's in compassion that we befriend ourselves.

The self-compassion of lovingkindness contains action, and it also contains allowance. Allowance is the shining of a flashlight on our suffering, creating space for it to come out of its dark shadows. When we have genuine compassion, we allow the feelings of sorrow and pain. We aren't bypassing that and trying to paint a rosy picture. The allowance is the saying, yes, we can witness this. And the action is that we can help ease it in some way. 

"If you're not able to accept yourself, how could you accept another person?" - Thich Nhat Hanh 

The felt sense of lovingkindness is easily expressed by repeating loving phrases. Just like repeating an affirmation or mantra, the feeling associated with metta comes into our being a little easier. 

May I be held in loving kindness. 

May I feel safe and at ease. 

May I feel protected from inner and outer harm. 

May I be happy. 

May I accept myself just as I am. 

May I be free.

These are just some of the lovingkindness phrases. You can offer these to yourself in daily meditation or simply when you are going through your day. That's part of what makes metta so transformational, and it is simple, accessible, adaptable, and portable. 

Traditionally in mettā practice, we begin by imagining a loved one offering these phrases of kindness to us. Receiving care from the loved one makes it a little easier to accpet this love and, with practice, caring for your own self increases. As you learn to receive love from others, this deepens your love for yourself. 

As our practice continues, we begin offering these same phrases to others. Loved ones, people we don't know well, and eventually, people we might find difficult. 

May you be held in loving kindness. 

May you feel safe and at ease. 

May you feel protected from inner and outer harm. 

May you be happy. 

May you accept myself just as I am. 

May you be free.

This is a heart experiment, sensing what words and images best serve to soften and open your heart. You might explore placing your hand gently on top of your heart. So, you can change these phrases to fit best the natural kindness within your heart. And remember, this is called a practice for a reason. Sometimes it might feel clunky, awkward, or downright not true. Those thoughts and feelings are okay! 

As much as we might forget, we love to love. Especially when we are awake in mindfulness, we can sense that we love and need the ooey gooey-ness of all forms of love, and it opens us up in a way that nothing else can. Because we are truly born for love. And in this love, we wake up together. 

May we all feel safe and at ease. 

May we all feel protected from inner and outer harm. 

May we all be happy. 

May we all accept myself just as I am. 

May we all be free.

“Kindness has magical powers, you see. It connects heart to heart, and it connects you to me.” -- Tiny Acts of Kindness by Thuy Ha


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