Do you want to learn about how to fill your heart up with even more love, for yourself and other people? This is a Buddhist activity called loving-kindness. You can practice it when you’re having a really good day, or a really not so good day. You can practice it when it’s your best friends birthday and you’re going to send them a fun present, or you can practice it when you’re upset at someone and not sure how to stop being angry. Buddhism is a religion that teaches all about what to do with our emotions, how to work with them and be their friend, and how to have them help us every day.
Read this aloud once through so you can learn more about loving-kindness. You’ll imagine different people in your mind’s eye, and then you’ll say the phrase of words as you think of each of those people. It’s like sending virtual thoughts to someone else, and sending positive loving thoughts deeper into your own body. Thoughts have different resonances, or energies, and loving thoughts can help calm our minds and bodies, like a lake with clear water.
Now, you can begin. For each of the steps below, bring the person listed to mind and feel their presence as if they’re right in front of you.
Phrases to say for each of the people you imagine:
May you live in safety….May you have mental happiness, peace, joy….
May you have physical happiness, health, freedom from pain….
May you live with ease.
1. Begin by thinking about someone who has helped you; maybe they’ve been directly generous or kind, or have inspired you though you’ve never met them. When you think of them, they make you smile.
2. After a few minutes, move on to a friend. Start with a friend who’s doing well right now, then switch to someone who is experiencing difficulty, loss, pain, or unhappiness, someone that is going through something hard or sad right now.
3. Offer loving-kindness to a neutral person who you don’t feel a strong liking or disliking for: a cashier at the supermarket, a bank teller, a dry cleaner. When you offer loving-kindness to a neutral person, you are offering it to them simply because they exist.
4. Now offer loving-kindness toward a person with whom you have difficulty. Start with someone only a little bit difficult, and slowly work toward someone who maybe has hurt you more. Do not judge yourself if you still have any feelings of being mad, upset, or anger. Instead, see if your negative feelings might be causing you more suffering, more than helping. Out of the greatest respect and compassion for yourself, practice letting go and offering loving-kindness. Kindness is a great salve for many wounds, but it can also be a bandaid to help us right now.
5. Finish by offering loving-kindness to anyone who comes to mind: people animals, those you like, those you don’t, in an adventurous expansion of your own kindness.
by amanda alice uluhan, Director of Religious Education