Learn the five steps of the Loving Kindness Meditation to open your heart.
We attended the Global Meditation for Compassion this past Saturday at the Chopra Institute in San Diego, Ca. With smiles from ear to ear and warmth filling our hearts we meditated in a packed room of 1500 like-minded people while 220 countries tuned in live across the global telecast. We came together for the singular purpose to open our hearts and generate compassion for all living beings. As avid meditators this was a unified world-wide opportunity we did not want to miss. The feeling of love electrified the room. Maybe you felt a wave of peace and love this past Saturday morning coming your way!
This meditation inspired us to share with you one of our favorite meditations for generating compassion. It is called Loving Kindness Meditation and is considered a classic Buddhist meditation. This is one of our foundational practices that helps to let go of the past, heal our heart and expand our capacity to love. We are currently in the process of recording this meditation to have available on our website.
Cultivate a Compassionate Heart
Loving Kindness Meditation is a dynamic practice with a significant impact on increasing compassion and positivity. In the case of forgiveness, it’s a powerful tool to cultivate an open heart, which is necessary to let go and make peace with the past. Neurologically speaking, it activates the prefrontal cortex, limbic system, and reward networks, all of which increase neural plasticity. It has been shown to increase positive emotions and compassion while decreasing negative emotions and stress.
Research has shown that Loving Kindness Meditation increases gamma waves, thus leading to increased self-awareness, perceptivity, creativity, and problem solving. In one study, Davidson and Lutz asked experienced meditators to meditate on unconditional loving kindness and compassion. They noticed such powerful gamma activity in the meditators that the researchers questioned if their readings were accurate. This was demonstrated in brain waves oscillating at roughly 40 cycles per second, indicating intensely focused thought. Gamma waves are usually weak and difficult to see; however, those from the meditators were easily visible. The meditators produced gamma waves that were 30 times as strong as the non-meditators’ waves. In addition, larger areas of the meditators’ brains were active, particularly in the left prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for positive emotions. The results were astounding to researchers while providing powerful support for Loving Kindness Meditation.
Loving Kindness Meditation Practice
- Identify a person you find easy to love and someone you find difficult to love.
- Bring to mind the person you find easy to love. Send this person your loving thoughts and kind wishes, knowing that just like you, this person desires to be loved and cared for. After a few minutes, wish this person well and that they may have peace in their life. Slowly allow this person to fade from your mind.
- Bring to mind a person you find difficult to love. Do your best to send this person your loving thoughts and kind wishes, knowing that just like you, this person desires to be loved and cared for. After a few minutes, wish this person well and that they may have peace in their life. Slowly allow this person to fade from your mind.
- Bring yourself to mind. Send yourself loving thoughts and kind wishes, knowing that just like others, you desire to be loved and cared for. After a few minutes, wish yourself well and that you may have peace in your life. Slowly allow this image to fade from your mind.
- Now bring each of these individuals back into your mind and imagine the three of you are standing in a circle with feelings of loving kindness shared among you. Recall that you are all doing your best and have the same desire to be loved and cared for. Gently move your awareness outward toward all beings. Begin with your neighborhood. Then expand further into the city, the state, the country, many countries, and continue until all living beings receive your positive thoughts and intentions. Wish that all living beings be well, be happy, and be free from suffering.
- Slowly bring your awareness back to yourself, your body, and your breathing. As you bring your practice to a close, you may wish to sit for a short time to integrate your experience.
Hilary Stokes Ph.D. and Kim Ward Ph.D. have been a team for 20 years, specializing in mind, body, spirit psychology. They are the authors of the bestselling books The Happy Map: Your roadmap to the habit of happiness and Manifesting Mindset: The 6-step formula for attracting your goals and dreams and founders of Authenticity Associates Coaching and Counseling. They are passionate about combining the best of holistic and traditional approaches to health and happiness. If you are interested in learning the answers to the most frequently asked questions on how to decrease stress and increase happiness sign up for their free video series.
Lutz, A., Brefczynski-Lewis, J., Johnstone, T., Davidson, R. (2008). Regulation of the neural circuitry of emotion by compassion: Effects of meditative expertise. PLoS ONE, 3(3), e1897