05/06/2015 05:44 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

What Is a Loving-Kindness Meditation?


This morning I was doing a "Loving-Kindness Meditation"where you picture in your mind a person you love. Visualizing every detail about them -- how they look and act, the sound of their voice, their unique qualities; using all my senses to capture the deep, rich, loving facts about a specific person I love.

It's such a satisfying, calming, inspirational and emotional thing to do...reminding yourself why you love someone.

But then I got to thinking -- Why can't I do this with all people?

Why can't I have a good hope for anyone, wish them well even if I don't know them?

And why not try to gain mental peace and promote kindness for difficult people I know and release my resentment?

Every one of us is living life the best way we know how. We're all trying to be happy and loving-kindness to others is one way to fill in and expand your own potential for happiness and fairness to other people.

You don't have to approve of peoples words or actions or be in their company but this meditation practice helps you to keep your mind open and sweet and free of stress because if you like how you think about someone else then you don't get all jammed up with judgment, anger, hurt and irritation that run wild in your head.

All that chatter and meanness begins to dissolve. You're free from your own suffering.

Words without conditions

- I hope you'll be safe.

- I hope you'll have peace of mind.

- I hope you'll be physically well.

- I hope you'll live in ease and happiness.

These words express unconditional love. They have no conditions just the gentle, hopeful and sincere expression of good will you can have for anyone.

You're not asking for anything and not expecting anything in return. That's a big part of this meditation and also of good will. You're silently wishing goodness for another person and if you want to say the words right to the person or write them a note, do so.

You can changes the words. Make these phrases specific and meaningful to you - What would you wish for yourself and then...what would you wish for all other people?

I practice this all the time. For me the words are a powerful way to counter negative thoughts and to release any burden I feel because I was insulted by someone, disrespected or seen unfairly.

Loving-Kindness is that strong and practical. When you speak the words:

- Do they soften you and your heart?

- Do your thoughts become warmer, gentler and kinder?

- Do they break up barriers and ill feelings that truly do not stand for you?

Holding grudges, anger, hatred, bitterness, coldness, doubts, fears and judgments are not what you were born to feel. Those emotions deplete and wear you down. Loving-Kindness is a healing process. A way to center yourself into peace of mind and heart. It improves the quality of your life.

Four ways to open your heart and mind

Begin the meditation by sitting comfortably and focus on your breath. Close your eyes if you wish. Notice where you feel your breath. Feel how your stomach or chest expands and relaxes. Don't force it or control your breath in any way. Simply sit and relax into it. Take all the time you want. Let your breath do its natural job of going in...and out.

Now let your thoughts go into your heart. Focus on your heart center and focus on having your breath come from your open heart.

1. The exercise can be done with someone you love. Conjure up a full picture of this person. Drench yourself in their goodness. Feel their presence as if they are right there with you. Mentally speak their name and offer these loving words:

- I hope you'll be safe.

- I hope you'll have peace of mind.

- I hope you'll be physically well.

- I hope you'll live with ease and happiness.

Let your deep desire and intention guide you and if your mind wanders just begin again.

2. Try it with someone you hardly know. Someone fairly neutral. Perhaps the person you buy your coffee from or a person you see frequently but don't know.

3. Try it with someone you have trouble with. Someone who has hurt you, someone you dislike. Picture them in your mind, name them and speak the phrases and if it becomes too painful, try saying - "I'll do my best to hope you'll be safe...and live with ease". It takes courage to try this.

You may want to return to the person you love, if this becomes too strained. Eventually you'll be able to have loving-kindness for someone difficult because you'll see you don't truly wish them ill. You hope in a large and impersonal way that they live a good life.

4. And finally - try it with yourself. So often we don't treat ourselves with love or kindness. We don't speak or think about ourselves in nice ways. We don't think we deserve kindness. Self-hatred and self judgment hurts us when we should be honoring ourselves, celebrating ourselves, loving ourselves.

Don't run away from your thoughts, just acknowledge them. Feel any rigidity and blockage and opposition and then sink below it into your heart where you truly do love yourself. Where you truly are safe and happy and live with peace and rapturous love for yourself.

This state of loving-kindness, both in mind and heart, is something we all want. Having it for ourselves and others is truly our natural state of being. We were born that way.

Now -- take your mediation out into the world. Take it to work and let it walk with you down the streets. Become more open and friendly to everyone.

Go ahead - Renew your feelings of compassion, empathy, generosity, gratitude, love and kindness.