Anger is an emotion that can make us feel powerful or justified. We may think resentful thoughts towards our enemies hoping we will feel better. Unfortunately, the chemicals that our brain releases “on anger” harm none other than ourselves. When we harbor ill will towards others, it is our very self that drinks the poison.
Luckily, there is an antidote. It’s called loving kindness meditation, or in the Buddhist tradition, “metta” meditation. This type of meditation guides us in growing a loving, connected outlook toward ourselves and others. In loving kindness meditation, you learn to become intimate with compassion and understanding. Imagine a world that leads with those qualities. Imagine a life that leads with those qualities. It could easily be your life!
We have a collection of meditation scripts and worksheets to help you build a strong loving kindness practice. Bring more love into your life with our “metta” resources!
What is Loving Kindness Metta Meditation?
The practice of loving kindness originated in Buddhism. Loving kindness meditation is also called metta bhavana in Pali, the language of the Buddha. Metta means love, friendliness, and kindness. Bhavana means cultivation. The love referenced by the Buddha is non-romantic. It’s that of the purest, most unconditional form and it is meant to include all living beings. According to the Buddha, the practice of loving kindness provides the ultimate mental freedom. "For this is the escape from ill-will, friends, that is to say, the freedom of mind wrought by universal love" (Digha Nikaya, III. 234)”
For those of us who are less devotional, loving kindness meditation is also a non-religious practice. It simply requires your willingness and a healthy dose of imagination. The practice begins by becoming aware of our inherent desire to be peaceful and happy. As you set your mind to understanding that this is a universal quality, you are ready to begin your meditation. In metta meditation, you focus on a warm, loving light in your own heart. Then you project it into the world. This practice may also be accompanied by phrases like “may I be well, happy and peaceful” and “may all beings be well, happy, and peaceful.” Some loving-kindness meditations walk you through the cultivation of “metta” for people with whom you have a personal difficulty.
How to Practice Loving Kindness Step by Step
One of the best ways to participate in a loving kindness meditation is with others. Below we have a guided metta meditation by Sharon Salzberg. Let an experienced loving kindness practitioner’s warm-hearted guidance introduce you to, or deepen, your practice of compassion and understanding.
Why Loving Kindness Meditation is Worth Trying?
Loving kindness meditation is a great tool for building our self-love and compassion. It also helps us relate better to the world around us. It is very useful when we are struggling with difficult emotions or people. Research shows that metta meditation increases gray matter in the part of our brain associated with mood and anxiety regulation. Loving-kindness meditation creates a container of care and acceptance for all of our experiences whether we “like” them or not.
What Research Says About Loving Kindness Meditation
The National Library of Medicine reviewed 24 empirical studies on loving-kindness meditation. They found large, positive emotional changes in those who practiced long-term metta meditation.
Another study in the National Library of Medicine followed 94 participants who were to use imagery OR loving-kindness meditation to direct positive feelings toward photographs of people they did not know. The group assigned to practice loving kindness meditation reported a greater feeling of positivity and connection towards the neutral person’s picture than did the group who practiced only imagery. Loving kindness meditation can prime the mind to feel a greater sense of belonging and affability toward the world.
Harvard’s “Making Caring Common” project defines empathy as “understanding and caring about another person’s feelings..”. This is both a cause and effect in loving-kindness meditation. As you grow your empathy through metta meditation, research says you are increasing your oxytocin levels. These are the “cuddly” chemicals we associate with love and bonding.
Studies also found that loving kindness meditations increased activity in both the amygdala and the posterior superior temporal sulcus (pSTS). The pSTS is a key player in your ability to interpret and intuit the social actions of others and the motives behind them.
Benefits of Loving Kindness Mediation
The Buddha utilized lists to get his points across, much like blog writers today. In Buddhist texts, he lists the benefits of practicing loving kindness (metta) meditation. As you can reference in the link, part of the list cannot be researched by science. We will do our best with our own list of benefits from practicing loving kindness meditation.
A study done at the University of Massachusetts medical school, set out to find how effective meditation was in relieving migraines. Results found that new meditators, practicing 20 minutes of loving kindness meditation experienced an immediate 33% decrease in pain. The same participants also reported a 43% decrease in the emotional tension related to migraine headaches.
Research shows that loving kindness meditation can decrease chronic pain. One particular study followed a group of people who experience chronic lower back pain. One-half of the participants were assigned to loving kindness meditation practice, and the other group did nothing. Practitioners of loving kindness meditation showed a significant decrease in chronic pain and the anger and distress connected to it.
The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology studied working adults and the effects of loving kindness in their life. Results showed that the participants experienced a significant increase in positive emotional experiences. This change created a positive shift in the participants’ physical health, sense of purpose, and social support. On a grander scale, these positive shifts proved to raise their overall life satisfaction and decreased depressive symptoms.
Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Journal found a significant increase in gray matter associated with the “right angular gyrus” in the brain of experienced LKM practitioners. This is compared to people who have no meditation experience. The right angular gyrus is responsible for attention and awareness. It is also related to increased social cognition concerning empathy and emotional openness.
So far loving kindness meditation is proving to be a painkiller, relationship builder, and mental health stabilizer!
6 Best Worksheets to Practice Loving Kindness Meditation
This meditation is a beautiful mélange of breath awareness, body relaxation, and imagery. You will transform the affirmations of “may I be well and happy” into a sensory visual of warm light. You will transport this loving light of awareness from your own body out into the universe.
The purpose of this meditation is to exercise your muscle of love and acceptance towards yourself and others. Reciting well-wishes towards yourself can help you increase your self-esteem. You will also speak these wishes towards friends and loved ones, growing your relational compassion.
This worksheet is designed to help you connect more deeply with yourself. In this world, it is not easy to find moments to unite with our inner worthiness. That’s why reflections like these are an important tool to remind us of how inherent connectedness to love and life.
This collection of affirmations is centered around forgiveness, self-love, and compassion. It is not always natural for humans to default to these states in challenging moments. Affirmations like these help us strengthen our connection with our inner resources. Forgiving ourselves is a step towards inner freedom and that takes both love and compassion.
Children can be great examples of loving-kindness; all-inclusive love. The purpose of this worksheet is to re-establish your connection with your sense of childlike acceptance of what is. In this worksheet, you will also find segments created to foster a healing connection with your inner child. Comfort your inner child and learn more about their pains and desires as you grow a sense of deep love for the many stages of your life.
This meditation gives you a firsthand opportunity to practice imagery with loving kindness. As the title implies, you will imagine several different-sized spheres of light. The meditation suggests sizes associated with different sports balls so they are easy to imagine. The sphere of light is a visual way for you to expand this ball of loving energy until it encompasses the entire world. After all, sharing is caring!
Love Kindness Meditation FAQs
What do you say for loving-kindness meditation?
“May I be well and happy?” “May I be free from suffering?” “May all beings be safe and at ease.” You can also come up with personalized affirmations, as long as they serve to cultivate warm feelings.
What is the difference between loving kindness and metta meditation?
Loving kindness and metta are the same thing. Pali is the language of the Buddha. “Metta” is a Pali word that translates to “loving kindness.” Other translations are “loving friendliness” and “universal love.”
How often should I practice loving kindness?
In an aforementioned study, participants practiced loving kindness meditation daily over seven weeks. This meditation significantly increased their positive emotions and life satisfaction. Consistency is a game changer.
How does loving kindness meditation make you feel?
Loving kindness is about cultivating a state of inner warmth and compassion. It can feel joyful, calm, cozy, blissful, touching, and other connection-promoting feelings.
Is loving kindness meditation Buddhist?
Metta meditation originated centuries ago in the Buddhist tradition, but it is not strictly for Buddhists. Well-wishing ourselves and others have no religion or creed. While it can be a devotional practice, it is also beneficial for general mental hygiene.
What if I do not feel warm and fuzzy during loving kindness meditation?
As with anything, metta meditation is a practice. If you struggle to feel emotional warmth, use imagery to visualize a person or animal who inspires a loving feeling. Start with this image until you become familiar with this connective feeling. Don’t let your expectations be too high for how good you “should” feel. Be as curious and patient as you can.