We all have people in our lives who drive us absolutely crazy. We all have people in our lives who we barely notice. And, we have people in our lives whom we cherish.
There’s a way to connect with all of them, even the most difficult ones, in a way that feels so good you’ll want to practice it all the time.
It’s called loving-kindness meditation or “metta.”
Loving-kindness meditation brings out our natural capacity for connection. It helps us become less judgmental, less critical, and less dismissive of people and it helps us feel less separate and alone.
We rarely have the time and energy to take much interest in people. We’re focused on our own agendas and often look right through them while saying pleasantries we barely even mean.
Practicing loving-kindness meditation changes all that in a way that enriches you. You start to relate to people, even if you don’t spend any more time with them. And, the people who irritate us and make our lives difficult, can become tolerable and even enjoyable to be around.
The key to loving-kindness meditation is giving someone attention in a positive way, either during meditation or in person.
Here are some tips to get you started practicing loving-kindness meditation:
- Begin by focusing on someone you love. Direct wishes for well-being toward them. People commonly use the following phrases or some variation on them that you create, during “metta” practice:
- May you be happy.
- May you be healthy.
- May you live with ease.
- May you be loved.
- May you be at peace and harmony.
- May you be free of suffering.
- Next, send love and kindness to an acquaintance or friend who has positively impacted you. Send them waves of gratitude and respect.
- Move on to someone you don’t have strong feelings about, someone you don’t give much attention to and barely notice. Consciously wish them well.
- Send love and compassion to any difficult person who elicits bad feelings in you. They need it the most because their behaviors are based in their own inner pain.
- Send love to yourself. It’s important to remember yourself, because so often we are conditioned to give love, but feel awkward about receiving it. Love for others begins with love for yourself, so don’t forget this crucial step!
- Finally, send loving-kindness to all beings, whether they are in your immediate life experience or not. Encompass the whole planet with your love!
What will you discover as you make loving-kindness meditation a daily practice?
- You’ll find yourself softening toward people
- You become more tolerant of differences
- You become more accepting of people just as they are
- You begin caring about others’ welfare more
- You become more interested in people as individuals
- You become less fearful of people who are not like you
- You become more open to alternative points of view
- You begin to drop your expectations of others
- You forgive more easily and gracefully
- You strengthen your relationships
- You begin to feel as one with everyone
- You become compassionate to people’s pain and suffering
- You become happier
While loving-kindness is a great meditation practice to do every day, you can also practice it “on the fly” as you go about your day. Whenever you interact with someone, send them love. Whenever you’re on the phone, send love. Whenever you’re at work, send love. Not only does it feel good, but it primes your brain to notice the good in people, and this alone changes your behaviours toward them, for the better!