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We must love ourselves before we can love others and offer kindness to the world around us. This month is about love, so what better way to expand our love for ourselves and others than by learning how to practice lovingkindness meditation and sharing the experience with our children.
Over the past week, I have been enjoying a meditation challenge offered by Sharon Salzberg. Her daily meditation recordings follow along with her wonderful book Real Happiness. I have been reading along and highly recommend this book. It provides simple meditation instruction, along with meaningful anecdotes. It’s not too late to get involved in this meditation challenge. Check it out and put it on the calendar for next year.
What Is Lovingkindness Meditation?
Also called Metta or compassion meditation, lovingkindness meditation is one of the most commonly practiced types of meditations out there. Quite simply, it is the practice of directing positive thoughts and well wishes to ourselves and others. It may seem odd at first, but you can easily learn it.
As you sit comfortably with your eyes closed, imagine what you wish for your life. The four phrases that you either say out loud or think silently during the practice are typically:
May I/you be safe.
May I/you be healthy and strong.
May I/you be happy.
May I/you be peaceful and at ease.
You repeat these wishes, directing them first to yourself and then towards different people in your life as follows:
- Start by directing the phrases to yourself.
- Next, direct the metta towards someone you feel thankful for or who has helped you.
- Now visualize someone you feel neutral about—people you neither like nor dislike. Direct the thoughts to that person.
- Next, direct the thoughts to someone you don’t like or who you are having a difficult time dealing with.
- Finally, direct the metta towards everyone universally: May all beings everywhere be happy.
Benefits Of Lovingkindness Meditation
Like other types of meditation, lovingkindness meditation brings so many amazing benefits to our lives such as:
- Reducing stress and anxiety
- Lifting our mood and producing more positive emotions
- Increasing feelings of hope
- Decreasing physical and emotional pain
- Reducing anger
- Increasing positive social emotions toward new people as well as loved ones
- Activating empathy
- Improving social connection
- Increasing self-love and how we feel about ourselves
Practicing this meditation ultimately changes how we relate to ourselves and others; we start to feel less isolated and more connected. According to Sharon Salzberg, “When we practice it, we acknowledge that every one of us shares the same wish to be happy, and the same vulnerability to change and suffering. We can shift the way we view ourselves and others—with kindness instead of criticism.”
Research also shows how lovingkindness meditation leads to positive changes in the brain. Just as performing acts of kindness gives us a natural high, sitting and practicing this meditation can cause the same changes in our bodies and minds.
To learn more about the science behind why we should try lovingkindness meditation, check out this article by Mindful Magazine.
How To Share This Practice With Your Children
After learning about all the benefits, don’t you just want to share some lovingkindness with your kids right now?
This type of meditation allows children to get in touch with their feelings. It can help guide them in sending positive and healing energy to people and kids in other places—even those who have hurt them like a bully at school. Children can develop a sense of power as they gain self-love and compassion for others. The practice is special since it goes beyond cultural barriers, economic situations, educational backgrounds, and geographic locations.
We can teach our children about lovingkindness by helping them send the four wishes to different people in their lives. Don’t be afraid to get creative and ask your children to come up with their own loving thoughts. They can also send their wishes to other favorite objects in their lives like a pet, television or book character, toy, or stuffed animal.
You can also go through the wishes by saying them to each other. One mother explained how she incorporated lovingkindness meditation into their bedtime routine. She says May You Be Happy and then the children repeat it back to her. They go through this process a few times, repeating the different phrases.
For more ideas, check out these creative lovingkindness meditations for children:
- Street Loving Kindness Meditations. Sharon Salzberg offers innovative ways to interact with the world around you through lovingkindness meditations on the go.
- Kid’s Meditation: One Path to Power. Send love and positive energy to parents and kids in other places.
How has practicing lovingkindness meditation with your children changed their behavior?