Loving-Kindness Meditation

Definition - What does Loving-Kindness Meditation mean?

Loving-kindness meditation is a form of meditation that focuses on cultivating feelings of goodwill, kindness and compassion. It originates in the Buddhist tradition, but has achieved more widespread popularity due to its reputed benefits, and the fact it can be practiced by anyone, regardless of their religion or belief system.

Loving-kindness meditation is also known by its Pali name, metta bhavana, where metta means "love," in the unromantic, unconditional sense; and bhavana means "cultivation" or "development."

Yogapedia explains Loving-Kindness Meditation

The key to loving-kindness meditation is understanding that the feelings cultivated should be inclusive and undiscriminating. Nothing is expected in return and as such, it is considered the purist form of love. The practice is said to soften the heart and mind, opening the yogi up to experiencing feelings of deep warmth and affection for themselves and others. It is believed to:

  • Increase positive emotions and reduce negative ones
  • Reduce migraines and chronic pain
  • Activate empathy and emotional processing
  • Improve social connection

There are different variations of loving-kindness meditation, but the yogi will usually move through a series of stages, cultivating a specific intention and visualization. These are typically:

  1. Cultivate loving-kindness for the self through a visualization such as seeing love as a golden light, or through use of a phrase such as, “May I be well and happy.”
  2. Move one's focus to cultivating loving-kindness for someone it is easy to do that for — for instance, a mentor, an older relative or a valued teacher.
  3. Shift the focus to a good friend, and cultivate the loving-kindness once again for them.
  4. Choose a neutral person, someone who raises no initial emotional response in one's self — for example, a casual acquaintance — and allowing the feeling of loving-kindness for them.
  5. Move on to someone who feelings of hostility or resentment are felt toward, and focus on cultivating loving-kindness for them.

The meditation is generally finished by radiating out loving-kindness to all beings, spreading awareness as far as is possible.

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