Each time we bring our mind back to the present or work mindfully with thoughts and sensations, we are invited to cultivate kindness. With kindness practice, we train in warm-heartedness more explicitly, by offering good wishes to those in our lives.
With kindness practice, we train in warm-heartedness more explicitly, by offering good wishes to those in our lives.
It’s not a problem if you don’t feel loving kindness during or after this meditation. Just keep working with the practice as best you can. Notice what comes up, and bring a friendly acceptance to it as best you can.
Part of kindness practice is being kind to ourselves when we don’t feel kind, allowing ourselves to be human, with all the difficulties as well as joys that come with living a human life.
Explore This Guided Meditation to Practice Kindness
17-Minute Kindness Practice
- To practice this now, take a good sitting posture. Upright, alert, gentle, and working with mindfulness of breathing for a while, allowing some moments for dropping into the being mode using the breath as an anchor for the present.
- Now I invite you to bring to mind someone you know who’s been kind to you, and for whom you feel a sense of warmth or perhaps gratitude. Visualize them in front of you, in your mind’s eye, and be open to feelings and let any feelings that come up be experienced and connected to your body without trying to force anything. As with any other mindfulness practice there’s no right or wrong way to be feeling here. Just imagine this person and feel whatever comes up in you.
- I invite you now to offer some good wishes to this person, saying to them in your mind: May you be safe. May you be free from stress. May you be at peace.
- If these particular phrases don’t feel right for you, feel free to use words that feel genuine to you. The words aren’t as important as the sentiment you’re offering. Just let the words come as best you can from your whole being, rather than just from your thinking mind. If you like you could imagine giving the person a hug as you send them your good wishes.
- It doesn’t matter if what you’re doing feels awkward or inauthentic, just treat this as an experiment and remember that whatever comes up is totally OK. May you be safe. May you be free from suffering and stress. May you experience peace.
- When the mind wanders away, acknowledge this gently and invite your attention to return to the image of the person in your mind, or the words of the good wishes, or the feeling of what’s happening within you.
- Let the image of this benefactor fade, and bring to mind a friend or family member for whom you feel love. It’s a good idea to choose someone for whom your love is uncomplicated and heartfelt, rather than tinged with desire or resentment. It could also be an animal, a pet maybe. I invite you to offer this person or other being your good wishes, gently repeating the same or similar phrases as before, offering them from the heart. May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you enjoy well-being in your life.
- You might like to imagine embracing your loved one, letting whatever feelings come up be experienced just as they are, without needing to change them. If at any point during the practice you feel overwhelmed, it’s completely OK to drop the visualization and return to mindfulness of breathing, or to stop if you need to. Explore the practice gently.
- Let the image of the loved one fade, and imagine that it’s now yourself appearing in your mind’s eye. Experiment with offering yourself the same kindness as the others. Recognize that you are a person worthy of compassion and care, who experiences the difficulties of being human and works with them as best they can. Repeat the same or similar phrases as before, silently to yourself. May I be well. May I be healthy. May I live with peace in my heart.
- If you like you can imagine giving yourself a hug. If you experience any resistance to this, notice and be interested in this. Some of us have been told that it’s not OK to be kind to yourself, but we’re all human beings working with the ups and downs of life. You might like to record kind or generous things that you’ve done in your life, or qualities about yourself that you like. If none come up, or you feel guilt, disappointment, or another difficult emotion, know that this isn’t a failure. Experiment with observing what comes up without attachment, returning perhaps to mindfulness of breath or body for a time.
- Now, bring to mind someone for whom your feelings are generally neutral, perhaps someone you don’t know so well. An acquaintance you see occasionally, but for whom there’s no strong liking or disliking. Or, it could be someone you encounter regularly in your life but haven’t gotten to know so well, such as the person who delivers your mail or who works in a local shop, or perhaps a neighbor who lives down the other end of your street. Recognize that this person too is a human being, vulnerable to the ups and downs of life with its stresses and strains. Like everyone, they want to be happy, and like everyone, they sometimes make mistakes.
- I invite you to practice wishing them happiness, health, and safety now, as they journey through daily life. Say these words in your mind: May you be joyful. May good things come to you. May you work with difficulties skillfully and be well.
- If feelings of warm-heartedness arise you can offer these too. If not, then just offer the words.
- If this feels workable for you now, bring to mind someone with whom you experience difficulty. Not choosing to begin with a person for whom you dislike or for whom anger is very strong, but someone you experience to be a bit challenging, or with whom you have some conflict. I invite you to open to the reality that this person is also human like you, and wants to be happy. Perhaps they’re doing the best they can in their circumstances. You might invite an awareness of their positive qualities, recognizing what they are good at. Or perhaps they suffer as a result of their behavior; contemplating this may open the window of compassion. Let go of judgments as best you can, and experiment with offering this person kindness too, wishing them well in their lives.
- Offering kindness doesn’t mean you’re condoning any unskillful behavior or harm done. Whatever feelings come let these be as they are. If this fails or becomes too difficult it’s completely OK to return to mindfulness of breathing, or to send loving kindness to a benefactor; loved one, friend, or ourselves once again. You could also choose to practice loving kindness for aspects of yourself that you find difficult. The parts that you tend to deny or try to get rid of. Notice what happens when you open to these difficult aspects of yourself with warm heartedness.May you be happy. May you be free from suffering. May you be well.
- Finally, picture all the people you’ve visualized together, including yourself, and I invite you to wish the whole group well, saying to yourself something like: May we all be safe. May we all be free from stress. May we all experience peace.
- If you like, you could extend your kindness out further to the whole town you live in, or even to all beings on the planet. Sense or visualize the energy of kindness radiating out from your heart. If it feels like there’s no such energy there, then you can just imagine this happening. May everyone be happy. May everyone be healthy. May everyone be at peace.