Search

Lovingkindness Meditation: How to Work With Painful Feelings.

When fear, worry, jealousy or any other tough feelings hit us, we’re not always as gentle with ourselves as we’d like to be. On top of that, when we’re shut down or caught up in self criticism, we’re not as easily able to see others as beings who suffer and are also in need of kindness and care. Instead of staying stuck in our habitual ways of relating to pain, we can actually use these experiences as an opportunity to train in kindness, acceptance and spaciousness.


Lovingkindness meditations have been one of the most transformative practices for me, and I know I’m not alone in that. This practice helps us cultivate a more open, loving heart and trains us to start relating to ourselves and others with more kindness and care. A shift that ultimately leaves us feeling more free, and less trapped and tangled up in our pain.


 

Benefits & Who Could Benefit

This practice might benefit you if you are feeling stuck and uncertain about how to work with tough feelings, or how to deal with it when you’re feeling annoyed or upset with those around you (don’t start this practice working with people you really struggle with, abusive, or ongoing toxic relationships). It can also be helpful for those with a strong inner critic or who’s minds tend to frequently be judgmental to others. More and more research is being done on the effects of these practices illustrating the numerous benefits to mind and body.


Challenges

Lovingkindness practice can be transformative, but it's not free from challenges. Sometimes when beginning the practice, going through the phrases can feel like you're just saying empty words. It’s ok if it feels mechanical to start, it takes some practice for it to become more embodied and beneficial. If it’s feeling really mechanical or if you're having a hard time conjuring up warm feelings towards yourself, it might be helpful to lean into the visualization tips that I’ll go into more below. If you notice you're having a hard time sending lovingkindness out to others, it's always ok to come back to giving yourself lovingkindness at any point.


Before Starting/Visualization Options

It’s helpful to start the practice by tapping into feelings of love, kindness and care. Experiment with this and see what works best for you. I’ll list below some ways of doing this:

  • Think about someone who feels easy to love or who emanates feelings of love. Tap into their presence, or thoughts of them. It could be a person living or dead, a beloved pet, a teacher or spiritual figure or whoever most brings these feelings to the forefront for you.

  • Reflect on a time when you felt truly loved or appreciated, bring the details of this experience to mind.

  • Visualize warmth or light flowing through you or whoever you’re imagining.

  • Imagine a safe loving place where you or others are receiving these wishes.

  • Picture yourself sitting with or being surrounded by loving figures in a safe place.

Instructions

To get started, set a timer and run through the script below, silently whispering the phrases outlined and feeling a sense of lovingkindness through your body. Perhaps giving yourself a few minutes at the beginning of the practice to steady your breath, and get settled in a quiet space either sitting upright or laying down. You may also prefer to get started with a guided practice, here are a few options if that's more up you're alley:

01 To Yourself

You'll start by offering wishes of lovingkindness to yourself. This step can be challenging, especially when starting out, so be patient. It can help to picture yourself as a young child, see yourself through the eyes of someone who loves you, or picture a spiritual figure or teacher sending you these wishes.


May I be held in a cradle of lovingkindness

May I be filled with unconditional love

May I accept myself just as I am

May I be at peace and at ease


02 To a Loved One

Now bring to mind someone who feels easy to love right now, who this person will be may change depending on the day you're practicing, that's ok! You can use anyone here, maybe it's a child, a beloved pet, a teacher or friend. Once you've chosen your person, bring their image to mind and send them the following wishes.


May you be held in a cradle of lovingkindness

May you be filled with unconditional love

May you accept yourself just as you are

May you be at peace and at ease

03 To Someone Neutral

Bring to mind someone who you have somewhat neutral feelings towards. Maybe a neighbor you don't know too well, your mail carrier, or someone you see in passing at your kid's school. Bring this person to mind, and send them the following wishes.


May you be held in a cradle of lovingkindness

May you be filled with unconditional love

May you accept yourself just as you are

May you be at peace and at ease


04 To Someone Difficult

Now think of someone you've been struggling to feel warm feelings towards that you'd like to (and feel ready to) work with. If you're new to this practice, start by working with someone who's just slightly difficult to practice with. Try remembering that just like you, they are a person who longs to love and feel loved.


May you be held in a cradle of lovingkindness

May you be filled with unconditional love

May you accept yourself just as you are

May you be at peace and at ease


05 To All Beings Everywhere

Now imagine all sentient beings, recognizing again that all beings want to love, and to feel love and belonging. Maybe you want to picture a specific subset of beings to start, it can be helpful to pick whatever you're currently struggling with, for example; "may all overwhelmed moms everywhere..." or "may all folks struggling with anxiety...". Or you can picture yourself holding the earth in your hands, briefly scanning out to the expansiveness of beings out there.


May all beings everywhere be held in a cradle of Lovingkindness

May all beings everywhere be filled with unconditional love

May all beings everywhere accept themselves just as they are

May all beings everywhere be at peace and at ease


Before closing the practice, notice how you feel, take a few deep breaths, thank yourself for practicing. And whenever you're ready, open your eyes.


Printable Instructions

Click below for a printable version of the instructions above!

LovingKindness Meditation Printable (1)
.pdf
Download PDF • 209KB

Alternative Phrases

You may want to alter the phrases to language that feels more comfortable or natural to you, or to be more specific to what you're needs are. Below are a few suggestions for alternative phrases to consider:

  • May I be free from inner and outer harm

  • May I be happy

  • May I be held with unconditional compassion

  • May I be free from unnecessary suffering

  • May I be kind to myself

  • May I awaken and be free

Open Heart, Open Eyes

One of my least favorite side effects of anxiety is how when it’s strong, I get very caught up in my own world and disconnected from others. When practicing Lovingkindness it not only helps me tend to myself with care, but reminds me to look up and see others on a more real level. It helps me remember that we’re all experiencing our own human struggles and that we all want to feel love and belonging, and in turn helps me feel more connected and generous with others. I hope this practice helps you experience the joy of opening your heart and mind, even if just a smidge more, to the world around you.