It’s no secret that meditation has positive impacts on our thinking, health, stress levels and mood when practised regularly. In fact, research shows that when meditation is practised even for only 20 minutes a day it can have significant positive impacts on physical and mental health. Better yet, these 20 minutes don’t have to be practised consecutively. Learning to meditate can be challenging. It is hard to stay focused, know what to meditate on, etc. With so many options of imagery, meditations, and mindfulness out there it can be hard to find a simple starting point when things feel overwhelming.
I was first introduced to Loving Kindness Meditation, or metta bhavana, in a yoga class I was taking. Loving Kindness Meditation stems from the Buddhist tradition to cultivate love and compassion for yourself and others. It can be adapted and used by anyone in many situations.
One of the things I love about yoga is that it is kind, supportive and non-judgemental. Yoga focuses on progress not perfection, this is why it is called a practice. Each class I was encouraged to challenge myself to my own individual experience but not overexert myself or compare myself to others or to myself. If your body or mind just can’t get there a particular day, you accept yourself with loving kindness.
A few years ago, when I first began yoga I was sceptical about it as an exercise and as a spiritual/meditative practice for me. Even as a therapist, I struggled to understand the concept of truly clearing my mind. I entered a 10-week hot-yoga group and went twice per week.
A couple of weeks in, I was hitting my mental and physical wall. I have never considered myself athletic, let alone a yogi. After all, I was the girl in middle school who used to convince my gym teachers into letting my friends and I walk the track or skip gym class all together. And now here I was in upward bow, crane pose, or one-legged down dog.
So, how did I get there? Using Loving Kindness Meditation to help me through the challenging times. During the class the teacher taught us the Loving Kindness Meditation, and encouraged to silently recite it to ourselves whenever needed. She taught us that the meditation uses words and images to evoke feelings of love and kindness towards ourselves and others.
The Loving Kindness Meditation script
May I be happy, safe, healthy, and grateful for today.
May you be happy, safe, healthy, and grateful for today.
Since then, I try to incorporate this meditation into my own practice whenever I am feeling overwhelmed because that’s when I can be especially unkind to myself. If you have more time, you can expand the meditation to someone specific.
I would recommend expanding one cycle towards someone you are having difficulty extending loving and kind feelings towards others and see how this may change your perspective. Another great option is to have the beginning and ending cycles each focusing on yourself, bringing the meditation completely full circle.
Lianna Tsangarides is a licensed clinical social worker and has been working with youth and families since 2007.