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Loving Kindness Exercise

This meditation practice from the UCLA Mindful Aware­ness Research Center is very simple. Just follow these instructions.

  1. Sit straight on a chair in a darkened room. Close your eyes, breathe naturally, and relax your entire body, letting go of all the tension in your race, neck, legs, arms, and feet.
  2. Focus your mind on someone you love. Picture that person and feel your love for him or her in your body, attuning your­self to what you are really feeling. Don’t pretend and don’t push your feelings of love; just let them flow.
  3. Now wish the person well by sending him or her positive thoughts about specific things you wish for that individual, such as happiness and health. Wish anything positive that comes to mind. If the person is facing specific challenges, send him or her positive thoughts about overcoming those challenges.
  4. Now focus on you and send positive wishes to yourself. If you’ve never done this before, it may be challenging; you might feel self-conscious, and judgments may arise about sending positive wishes to and for yourself. Do your best to be mindful, to let go of whatever judgments come up, and open your heart to you so that you can experience yourself lovingly and feel that it’s fine for you to send positive wishes to yourself. I have experienced that I get better with this over time.
  5. Now focus on sending positive wishes to people in your life with whom you are having difficulty. When I do this part of the loving-kindness exercise, I picture the person in my mind, do my best to be mindful, let go of my judgments, and see if I can open my heart to that person and experience him or her from the COAL state of curiosity, openness, acceptance, and love. If I feel my heart opening to the person, I send him or her positive wishes. If I don’t, I just go as far as I can go authenti­cally and let it go. And then, on another day, I do it again, and I just experience whatever I experience on that day, too. I find that over time I am able to have more love even for the difficult people in my life. This makes it easier for me to interact with them and it increases my own sense of well-being.

The following insights by the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center are extremely helpful in doing this loving-kindness practice: “You are encouraged to be creative with this practice and stay connected to your inner experience. If you don’t feel it, don’t think this is a problem. This practice takes time and can be viewed like planting seeds that will ripen sometime in the future. It is very common for people to easily send loving-kindness to someone they love but have difficulty sending it to themselves or to difficult peo­ple in their lives.”6

Here are some phrases that the designers of the exercise suggest you use in sending positive wishes:

  • May you/I be happy and peaceful.
  • May you/I be healthy and strong.
  • May you/I be safe from all danger.
  • May you/I have ease and well-being in your life.

To me, the key points to remember as you do this exercise are these: (1) Only experience whatever it is that you are authentically experiencing; (2) every time you do it, you are “planting seeds”; and (3) it takes time, and if you continue doing the practice, these seeds will blossom into the good feelings that come with loving-kindness. As with all meditative practices, it’s important that each time you practice, you let go of all judgments as they come up.

An excerpt from my recent book, Your Mind Is What Your Brain Does for a Living, now available at Amazon.

  • 22 Jun, 2015
  • Posted by Steve Fogel
  • 10 Tags

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