In my guide to 31 different meditations I discuss how important Loving Kindness ( Metta ) is.
Loving Kindness is one of the most important meditations in the world. And it has the science to prove it.
In this guide I will reveal everything you need to know about Loving Kindness Meditation. Including:
- Buddhist loving kindness meditaiton intstructions
- Infographic for you to save / print / share
My passion is to share meditation with the world. If that is a passion you believe in please help me out. Share this article on social media networks and on your own blog.
Let’s get started.
What does Loving Kindness mean?
Loving Kindness (called Metta in Pali) is benevolence, friendliness, friendship, good will, kindness, and love.
It is one of the ten pāramīs of the Theravāda school of Buddhism, and the first of the four sublime states.
“Parami” : The term “Parami” is Pali for “Perfection”. There are ten perfections: Generosity, Virtues, Renunciation, Insight, Effort, Patience, Honesty, Determination, Loving Kindness, Equanimity.
Guatama Buddha began to teach Loving Kindness Meditation over 2500 years ago.
The Buddha himself practiced Loving Kindness Meditation every day.
Buddha would spend all morning meditating and reciting mantras. Towards the end of the Buddha’s meditation sessions he would come to Loving Kindness. He would focus first on himself, extending thoughts and feelings of compassion, love and kindness to himself, perhaps because Buddha understood that love begins with yourself.
After this, Buddha would look around him at the villagers and monks and would imagine sending out positive feelings of love and kindness towards them. Finally he would look for some way to help his community, seeking an actual way to act out those feelings of love and kindness.
Buddha’s practice illustrates what Loving Kindness Meditation is all about:
- Focus the mind and relax
- Extend love to yourself
- Extend love to others
- Find ways to actually use that love to help other people in productive ways.
Of course you don’t need to be Buddhist to do the technique. I simply share Buddha’s story to show how Loving Kindness Meditation works.
The Health Benefits Of Loving Kindness Meditation
Take a look at this guide to 100 benefits of meditation.
Some of those benefits are unique to Loving Kindness Meditation.
In addition to producing happiness and compassion, LKM offers many benefits for the mind, body and soul.
Let’s take a lok.
Spiritual benefits of Loving Kindness Meditation
LKM will make you a Highly Empathetic Person.
Buddha taught that the practice of Loving Kindness Meditation will develop four traits in the individual:
- Equanimity (Upekkha),
- Metta (Friendliness),
- Compassion (Karuna)
- Joy (Mudita).
More specifically, Loving Kindness Meditation (Metta) develops a warmth of feeling towards others, and this in turn leads to compassion (Karuna) as we develop heightened levels of empathy–feeling happy for the successes of others and compassionate for their suffering.
This then leads to Appreciative Joy—the appreciation of the good fortune of other people.
Finally, we achieve Upekkha, equanimity, the state in which we extend love and kindness to all living beings. This is one of highest states a human can achieve, and it is best achieved through the practice of loving kindness meditation.
A state of equanimity (mental calmness) that is part of the process towards enlightenment in Buddhism.
Health benefits of Loving Kindness Meditation
In the Pali Canon (an ancient Buddhist text), it is said that Loving Kindness Meditaiton (Metta Bhavana) helps us to sleep well, to start the day positively, to avoid nightmares, to feel a sense of emotional protection, to feel closer to others and to develop concentration.
Loving kindness is one of the best ways to develop compassion.
Richard Davidson, a neuroscientist and Director of the University of Waisman Center, conducted research involving fMRI scans of monks who had been meditating for many years. The research revealed that Loving Kindness has a profound impact on the brain as it significantly heightens our compassion for others. Loving Kindness was shown to heighten levels of joy, happiness and contentment. So it was scientifically proven that Loving Kindness makes people happier.
You may be wondering why kindness and compassion are so healthy.
Science proves kindness and compassion are vital to good health.
For more on this you might like to read these articles:
- Studies Reveal Compassion Is Most Important Thing For Happiness
- When You Act With Kindness You Create Serious Benefits, Says Sciences
Here are even more benefits of Loving Kindness Meditation
Loving kindness meditation increases positive emotions and decreases negative emotions
In 2008, positive psychologist Barbara Frerickson conducted research that showed that practicing loving kindness meditation (metta) for seven weeks led to increased love, joy, pride, contentment, awe, gratitude, and hope. These positive emotions in turn lead to increased mindfulness, increased sense of purpose, a decrease in illness, and an increased sense of social connection.
Increase vagal tone
A study in 2013 showed the effect of loving kindness meditation on emotions. The study revealed that loving kindness meditation affects the vagal tone, a physiological marker of well-being. This in turn shows that loving kindness meditation can help us to heal physically and emotionally.
Decreases migraines: The positive emotions and stress reduction created by loving kindness meditation leads to less migraines. Research conducted in 2014 Tonelli studied the effects of metta meditation on people who suffer from migraines, and observed a significant decrease in migraine frequency in those who practiced the technique. You can also use these meditations for headaches and migraines.
Helps Chronic Pain
In 2005 research (by Carson et al.) studied the effect of metta meditation on people with chronic lower back pain. They showed that the reduction in stress led to less severe pain. You can also use these meditations for pain.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
In 2013 research (by Kearney et al.) showed that practicing loving kindness meditation for 12 weeks leads to less severe symptoms in post traumatic stress disorder patients.
A pilot study conducted by Johnson in 2011 researched the effects of metta meditation on individuals suffering from schizophrenia spectrum disorders. The results showed that meditation led to decreased negativity and increased positivity, and therefore was instrumental in recovery.
By the science of neuroplasticity, the brain evolves based on the activities we perform. Regular practice of loving kindness meditation leads to increased compassion and thereby teaches our brain to be more socially intelligent. This is just one of six key ways meditation makes you more intelligent. You can also use these great tips for emotional intelligence.
Gray Matter increase
In 2013, Leung et al. showed that loving kindness meditation leads to increase gray matter in the areas of the brain related to emotional regulation.
Respiratory Sinus Arrythmia
Another important benefit of loving kindness meditation is that it relaxes the body. This results in several physical benefits. Ten minutes of practice, for instance, leads to increased cardiac control, slow and more relaxed breathing, and increased respiratory sinus arrhythmia.
Decreases telomere length (it decreases the aging rate and helps you live longer)
Stress has been scientifically proven to decrease the length of telmores, which are genetic materials that are a marker of aging. In 2013, Hoge et al. proved that loving kindness meditation led to longer telomeres and thereby slowed the aging process.
Practicing loving kindness meditation makes you a more socially valuable person. In 2011 Leiberg et al. showed that loving kindness led to increased compassion, which in turn motivated individuals to behave in a way that was beneficial to society.
One of the most important aspects of Buddhism is compassion for all life. So perhaps it’s not surprising to hear that research conducted by Jones & Hutton in 2012 showed that loving kindness meditation significantly increased compassion.
A study in 2013 showed that loving kindness meditation also leads to increased empathy.
Makes you less biased
In 2014 Kang, Gray & Dovido showed that six weeks of loving kindness meditation led to less bias against minorities. This suggests that communal practice of loving kindness meditation would lead to the cessation of racism and other prejudices.
Increases Social Connection
This is the one benefit of loving kindness meditation that you will notice above all others. Loving kindness meditation makes you feel much more connected to the people around you. This was proven by research conducted by Kok et al in 2013.
Less self criticism
Part of practicing loving kindness meditation is extending thoughts of love and kindness towards yourself. This leads to less self criticism, which in turn raises self esteem and can help to cure depression and negative thoughts. This was proven by research in 2014 by Shahar et al. You can also use these techniques to become less self critical.
It works in small doses
In 2008, Hutcherson proved that just 10 minutes of loving kindness meditation was enough to provide the benefits listed above.
Finally, the benefits of loving kindness meditation will endure. In 2011 Cohn et al showed that 35% of participants who practiced loving kindness meditation had improved emotions for 15 months.
Oh, and it will also give you good karma and stop bad karma.
My own experience teaching Loving Kindness Meditation
The state of loving kindness is represented through the kanji “Kazuna”… This kanji represents compassion for all.
When practicing loving kindness we extend feelings of love and kindness to all. It begins with the self. We must learn to love ourselves and to be kind to ourselves. For some this can be a challenge. Most people have a few aspects of themselves that they do not like. We may get angry at ourselves or sad.
To illustrate this, let me share a story about one student I taught loving kindness to.
One girl I taught Loving Kindness Meditation to was struggling to accept the fact that she had allowed herself to put on weight.
She was a beautiful and healthy but she’d gone through severe stress and had been comfort eating, which led her to put on 100lbs. To me she was still beautiful but she didn’t feel that way. She hated the fact that she had allowed herself to ruin her own health. She was depressed because of what she’d done to herself.
With Loving Kindness Meditation I was able to teach her to accept what she had done and to forgive herself.
This was an important case of self love. She forgave herself and accepted the fact that she was now overweight. And it’s worth noting that forgiveness and self love are very important to weight loss.
Once she had gotten over the past and had found self love once again, she found it easy to return to her healthy habits and to lose weight. Now she’s even fitter than she had been previously.
That’s just one example of why self love and “self loving kindness” are so important: they empower us to behave positively towards ourselves.
So, loving kindness begins with self love.
Once we have achieved self love, we then extend our loving kindness towards others, beginning with those close to us, those people whom we love and respect. This helps us to feel and to act positively towards the people in our lives. For instance, I once taught a married couple facing divorce to practice extending loving kindness towards each other. They both spent twenty minutes a day extending loving kindness towards one another. This helped them to accept the weaknesses and errors of the other, which led to a very healthy relationship. They’re still together today and are now happier than ever.
Once we’ve extending loving kindness to people close to us, we move on to neutral people (people we know but feel indifferent towards). This includes colleagues, people we know but rarely speak to, and people about whom we simply feel indifferent. When we practice loving kindness towards these “neutral” people we begin to feel much closer to them. This in turn leads us to act more positively towards them, which often leads to new friendships and new relationships.
Finally we come to the most challenging part of loving kindness. In this part we extend loving kindness towards those people towards whom we currently experience negative feelings. For instance, a lot of people don’t get along with their neighbors. It’s a tragic reality because your neighbors can be some of the best friends and most helpful acquaintances you have. But after a few years living next door to one another, with all that noise and the fact that they put up that ugly fence, it can be easy to fall out. But by practicing loving kindness you can learn to see each other in a positive light, which cures any animosity and restores the positive relationship.
This final part of Loving Kindness can also help to cure seriously unhealthy relationships as well and emotional suffering.
How Loving Kindness Meditation Helped Me Personally
I’ll give an example from my personal life.
About a decade ago my father had been on business down in Portsmouth (a port city on the southern coast of England). He was walking back to his hotel when two men ran down the road. One of the men pulled a knife out of his pocket. He slashed it down my father’s face and through his throat.
They then ran.
My father, bleeding to death, managed to crawl into the nearest building, which happened to be a restaurant. By some miracle there happened to be a doctor in the restaurant when my father crawled in covered in blood and near death. The doctor managed to wrap the wound up to help control the bleeding. He then called the hospital, who through the modern miracle of health technology managed to save my father’s life.
Three miracles. But I don’t mention the story because of those miracles. Rather because of the fact that at first I had an extremely negative reaction to what happened. I (rightfully, perhaps) hated those two men who had attempted to murder my father. I felt mad at society too. But I knew that I could not allow those two men to destroy my state of mind. They’d already hurt my family more than enough. So I practiced Loving Kindness Meditation. I imagined sending compassion towards those two men who had tried to kill my dad. And in so doing I managed to forgive them and to move on.
When I talk about those two guys now everyone says “You must want to kill them”. I could want to do that if I let myself. It would be easy, I suppose. But that would only lead to damage. Instead I’ve chosen to understand that they’re the unfortunate result of an imperfect society. They themselves are almost definitely victims of some sort of suffering. You don’t act that way unless you’re truly hurting inside. So they’re victims themselves.
Instead of hating,I figure it’s better to try and understand them and where they come from, and to help cure their hatred and anger so things like this stop happening. In my mind that’s just a healthier and more positive way to be. But I’m only able to be so positive towards those guys because I’ve been practicing Metta Meditation.
So, how do you do Loving Kindness meditation? Let’s take a look.
How to do Loving Kindness Meditation
Read “The Basics Of Meditation now, then follow the steps below.
- Find somewhere quiet where you will not be disturbed for ten to twenty minutes. Sit, lie down or stand up, making sure you have good posture. I’ve created a guide to meditation spaces to help you out. Personally I do find that meditating in front of a Buddha statue helps me. But that is me. Where you meditate is entirely your choice.
- Focus on your breath: Focus on your breathing for a few moments to quiet and calm your mind. You may do this by using either of the two breathing meditations we discussed in the previous section. Or you can take a look at this guide to breathing meditations that I’ve put together for you.
- Send loving kindness to yourself: Imagine seeing yourself happy and smiling.
- Now imagine sending out feelings of love and kindness towards yourself.
- Think of five positive things about yourself, five things to love.
- Now think of five ways in which you enact self love (perhaps you are kind to yourself by eating healthily, by giving yourself peace when you need it. . . think of ways in which you are kind to yourself).
- Say to yourself the Loving Kindness Meditation words: “May I have loving kindness. May I have strength, peace, love and success. May I also have the strength to overcome all obstacles.”
- Repeat with someone close to you: Bring to mind someone close to you (family / friend) and repeat the process.
- Imagine the person happy.
- Imagine sending them love.
- Imagine them sending love back to you.
- Now think of five things to love about that person.
- Think of five ways that person shows loving kindness to you.
- Now say the Loving Kindness Meditation script “May (name of person) have loving kindness. May they have love, peace, strength and success. May they also have the strength to overcome all obstacles.”
- Now repeat the process and say the loving kindness meditation script with a neutral individual
- Now repeat with a hostile individual: This should be someone you have argued with or do not easily get along with (see my story above for a good example)
- Return to the beginning and repeat.
- Always remember the sacred loving kindness script: “May (name of person) have loving kindness. May they have love, peace, strength and success. May they also have the strength to overcome all obstacles).”
- If you have a prayer beads mala you might like to use it to count the number of people you include in your metta meditation.
If you notice that you experience anger or hate at any time during this process, you might like to use these Buddhist Meditations For Anger.
And that is the correct way to do loving kindness meditation. I’ve checked this against all my favorite meditation books to make sure you guys have the absolute best guide.
I decided to create an infographic to teach the most important parts of metta.
This infographic teaches loving kindness meditation. Feel free to save this image so you know how to do loving kindness meditation. You may also share this loving kindness meditation infographic on your own site provided you leave a link back to this webpage.
Share this Image On Your Site
Best Books On Loving Kindness Meditation
If you would like to learn more about loving kindness meditation or have help practicing, I recommend these two fantastic books:
Loving Kindness: The Revolutionary Path Of Happiness by Sharon Salzberg. This is a truly beautiful and inspirational book by Salzberg. It explains why loving kindness means so much and how to bring loving kindness into your life. A truly life transforming work. Pick up your copy here
Meditation On Loving Kindness by Master Choa Kok Sui: Master Choa Kok Sui gives a guided meditation on Loving Kindness. A world renowned expert and luminary this recording is a real treat. Pick up your copy here.
I hope this guide has helped you. If there is anything I can do to help you further, please let me know.
How about a PDF?
Okay, here ya go: Download this guide as a PDF.
Help me out
If you have found this article useful, please do me a favor. Share it. The only way I can keep producing content like this is if kind people llike you help share these articles.
Thanks so much.
Leave a comment.