I close every class I teach with these words from a loving kindness meditation:
May all beings everywhere be healthy
May all beings everywhere be happy
May all beings everywhere be safe
And may all beings everywhere find peace.
Meditating on loving kindness (also known as mettā meditation) is a practice intended to develop benevolence. Through this process, the practitioner can experience joy in celebrating the happiness of others. It’s a somewhat simple, yet potent practice. I find reciting just the four lines above – a mere portion of a complete mettā practice – is a powerful reinforcement of my intentions and aspirations for compassionate living.
A traditional mettā practice begins with an offering of loving kindness directed toward oneself. The offering is then repeated several times, each time directing the energy to a specific person or group such as a ‘neutral’ individual, a loved one, an enemy, and then to all beings throughout the universe. In the meditation, the practitioner breathes in suffering and exhales happiness.
Research on the benefits of mettā meditation are mounting. This post by Angela Wilson on Thrive (the Kripalu blog on yoga, health, and wellness) highlights a number of recent studies that show how mind training in loving kindness impacts the practitioner’s own happiness. The evidence shows that it:
- increases the variety of one’s personal resources, including mindful attention, self-acceptance, positive relationships with others, and good physical health
- activates the areas in the brain responsible for our ability to empathize and attune to the emotional state of others
- improves feelings of social connection
Mettā meditation is a highly accessible practice. I’ve even used this with my kids as a bedtime ritual to close out the day. As with any practice, the key is to – well – practice.
This 30 minute guided meditation from Sharon Salzberg author of Loving Kindess: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness provides a lovely introduction.