Cultivating loving kindness can bring more peace and harmony into our hearts, in our relationships with ourselves and others as well as help to overcome both inner and outer conflicts. In this post yoga teacher Amanda Holmström leads you through a loving kindness meditation resulting in a deep feeling of love towards everyone and everything around you.
This meditation’s original name is Metta Bhavana. Bhavana translates to cultivate, to develop and Metta is best translated with loving kindness. It is a form of universal love which is free of expectations in return, a deep desire to wish oneself and others well.
There are different ways to practice Metta Bhavana meditation and the most common form includes five stages where each stage last five minutes.
The stages of cultivating Loving Kindness:
- Stage 1 – towards yourself
- Stage 2 – towards a friend
- Stage 3 – towards a neutral person
- Stage 4 – towards a difficult person
- Stage 5 – extending loving kindness to all living beings
Before you begin, find a timer or use a meditation app and set it for a recommended time of 25 minutes with five minute intervals. Find a quiet place where you can relax and sit in a comfortable position. Begin to anchor yourself in your body and in the moment. Allow yourself to feel whatever you might feel or experience in the body right now and begin with the stages when you feel ready.
1. Loving kindness towards yourself. To enter this state you can bring your awareness to the things in your life which you are grateful for or remember a specific moment when you felt joyful and loved and notice what you begin to feel in your heart center.
Anchor yourself with the sensations you begin to feel in your heart and start to breathe in and out from your chest, as if breathing with the heart and generate a feeling of loving kindness towards yourself as you focus on your positive sides or your blessings.
If this stage seems difficult, if you have low self-esteem or a challenging relationship with yourself, be patient and trust that this practice can have the effect of softening your heart towards yourself. Allow any mental blockages or judgements to exist without trying to change or escape anything, breathe with them before you bring your awareness back to your heart and wishing yourself peace and freedom of any suffering.
2. Loving kindness towards a loved one. Begin to visualize a good friend or family member in front of you. Bring their good qualities to mind, think of the things you are grateful with this person, or imagine him/her in a state of pure happiness to create your connection to them. Notice any feelings you develop of warmth, joy or light in your heart as you think of your loved one and visualize this feeling entering your friend, filling him or her with all the wealth you wish for.
3. Loving kindness towards a neutral person. This should be a person who you have no strings attached to, maybe a post man, someone who works in a local store, or somebody from work who you neither like nor dislike. Bring their human qualities to mind that you share with this living being and send him/her Metta by wishing wealth and happiness.
4. Loving kindness towards a difficult person. Invite someone you dislike or have a problem with at the moment, someone you find annoying or have a trouble connecting with. Stay present with the feelings that arise as you invite this person in your meditation. Meet and acknowledge your own feelings before you begin to reflect over this persons positive qualities and wish this person well beyond your difficulties.
5. Extend loving kindness to all living beings. Bring all the people back to your awareness, yourself, your friend, the neutral person and the difficult person. Begin to expand the feeling you have cultivated even further. Extending Metta, free love, from your heart as a cloud of warmth or light over your neighborhood, town, city, country, covering the whole world and spread it into the universe, including all living being.
After this stage bring the focus back to yourself and take your time before you move your body slowly again and you open your eyes.
This meditation can be practiced daily, weekly or every now and then. Be gentle with yourself as it takes both time and patience to open and soften our hearts.
May you be happy, may you be peaceful, may you be free.
Inspired by Johannes Vondey.
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