When I trained to be a yoga teacher, I learnt about metta, which translates as loving kindness. It all sounded a bit airy-fairy woo-woo to me. A bit like crystals and healers and all that sort of stuff – not really my thing! Still, I am a warm-hearted soul and discovered that once I saw things through a loving kindness lens, I found it easier to move on from those cranky-pants moments.
Ah yes, cranky pants. Those moments when someone almost hits you with their car while you’re riding your bike or someone jumps in front of you in a queue or steals your parking spot. If you embrace loving kindness and see everyone as deserving love, it’s much easier to bounce back.
Loving kindness meditation is about directing feelings of love, kindness and compassion towards yourself, towards someone you know and love, towards someone you don’t really know (the sort of person you see on the bus but have never actually spoken to) and towards someone who you have a difficult relationship with.
It turns out that Loving Kindness Meditation has several thousand years of Buddhist tradition behind it. So I put my skepticism aside and jumped in and gave it a go. I discovered that Loving Kindness Meditation left me feeling calm, peaceful and at ease.
Being the scientist that I am, I went on a hunt for research and I was really surprised by what I found! There are quite a few research studies that looked at loving kindness meditation and lots of it found very positive effects.
A brief bit of science – loving kindness meditation
So, here’s the science nerd stuff. Loving kindness meditation:
- increases feelings of social connectedness;
- is effective for managing psychological problems that have an interpersonal element to them, including marital conflict, social anxiety and the strain of being a long-term caregiver;
- improves cardiovascular health;
- can reduce pain, anger and psychological distress in people with chronic back pain.
Loving Kindness Meditation – a recording
I’ve recorded a short loving kindness meditation for you. You’ll find it here. (Right click and “save link as” to download the file).
The key phrases I used in this meditation are:
- May I be happy
- May I be well
- May I be safe
- May I be peaceful and at ease.
Once you get used to the sequence, you can try using your own phrases and directing your awareness towards different people. You can try directing your loving kindness towards someone who you don’t like very much or towards someone who has hurt you. Before you finish and return to yourself, direct your loving kindness towards all creatures and beings in the world.
Finish by coming back to yourself and by bringing your awareness back to your body and your breath. Take a few moments before you get up.