Loving-kindness is a practice and technique where the central object we rest our attention on is the silent repetition of certain phrases. And the phrases are a way of offering, gift giving, and switching our attention. So for example, if we normally think about the mistakes we’ve made, what we did wrong, and when we failed, we’re going to switch our attention and just wish ourselves well.
You may use the phrases: May I be safe. May I be happy. May I be healthy. May I live my life with ease.
Many people ask me, “Well, who am I asking?” We’re not asking anybody, we’re offering. We’re gift giving. And then we wish others well. It may be people who’ve helped us, who we take for granted, tend to overlook, or people we don’t really know. There are many phases and stages of the practice, but we’ll begin with the offering of loving-kindness to ourselves. We’ll end with the offering of loving-kindness to all people everywhere.
A Meditation on Loving-Kindness
Offering Loving-Kindness to Yourself and Others
1. To begin, you can sit comfortably. Many of you may have your own loving-kindness practice, and it’s fine just to continue on. Common phrases you would repeat are things like, may I be safe, be happy, be healthy, and live with ease. Live with ease means: May the things in day-to-day life not be a struggle.
2. May I be safe, be happy, be healthy, live with ease. You can silently repeat these phrases or whatever phrases you’ve chosen. Gather all of your attention behind one phrase at a time. You don’t have to try to force a special feeling, the power of the practice is in that gathering. And when your attention wanders—because it will—don’t worry about it. See if you can gently let go and just return your attention to the phrases.
Offer Loving-Kindness to Those Around You
3. Then, see if you can call to mind someone who’s helped you. Maybe they’ve helped you directly and helped pick you up when you had fallen down. Maybe you’ve never met them, and they’ve inspired you from afar. So if someone like that comes to mind, you can bring them here. An adult, a child, a pet, whoever it might be, see if you can visualize an image of them, or say their name to yourself. Get a feeling for their presence and offer the phrases of loving-kindness to them. May you be safe, be happy, be healthy, live with ease. Even if the words don’t seem perfect. It’s fine. It’s the conduit for the heart’s energy.
Gather all of your attention behind one phrase at a time. You don’t have to try to force a special feeling, the power of the practice is in that gathering.
4. Now let’s have a gathering. Just with whoever comes to mind: friends, family, colleagues, pets. And offer loving-kindness to the group, to the collective. May you be safe, be happy, be healthy, live with ease.
5. Then, shift your attention to all beings everywhere, all people, all creatures, all those in existence, near and far, known and unknown. May all people be safe, be happy, be healthy, live with ease.
This practice was led during our first Mindful Live session with Sharon Salzberg and Barry Boyce. Watch the full session for a limited time here.