Loving Kindness meditation is an English translation of the Pali word metta. Pali was the language in the time of the Buddha, 2,500 years ago. Metta means love, friendliness, benevolence, and goodwill. Metta meditation teaches us how to be better friends to ourselves.
In real life, Loving Kindness Meditation can be used in many different situations. You can call upon it whenever you need to soothe yourself.
I used Loving Kindness to help me get through a very scary and frightening time.
It was October 23, 2012 at around 8:15 a.m. when my daughter Cara, then seventeen years old, had a terrible car accident. She was driving a different route to school because one of her friends, who had spent the night at our house, needed to stop home for her backpack. As she crested the little incline of the exit ramp, she noticed cars backed up below her, but she didn’t have time to stop. She rear-ended the car in front of her. She was going fast, maybe fifty miles an hour.
Cara fractured five vertebrae in her back (T1, 2, 3, 11, and L1). She was lucky to be alive. She was lucky to be able to walk. This was a scary time for everyone in our family. I slept on a cot in Cara’s room for months. The techniques I used during Cara’s convalescence are the techniques I learned during an eight-week Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) course I took in 2011, and some techniques from the Awakening Joy course that I had taken the year before. It wasn’t until 2014 that I became trained to teach MSC, and since then I have incorporated additional teaching to supplement an already robust curriculum.
Use Loving Kindness Phrases When You Need to Feel Safe
Loving kindness phrases are wishes. Traditional phrases include:
May I be safe.
May I be happy.
May I be healthy.
May I live with ease.
I like the idea of creating your own Loving Kindness phrases. When you are in a stressful or frightening situation, think about what you would most like to hear right then to help you feel better. You can also think of phrases you would like to hear every day for the rest of your life! Base your phrases around your universal human needs — core needs that would cause suffering if they were not met. Some examples of universal core needs from the Center for Non-Violent Communication are safety, stability, love, connection, trust, authenticity, peace, ease, and harmony.
Write down the phrases that would fill you with comfort and gratitude whenever you hear them, then practice focusing your attention during meditation on these phrases. For example, if you need to hear “I love you” every day and you want to morph that into a Loving Kindness phrase for yourself, it could look something like this: “May I know I am loved,” or “May I love myself just as I am.”
Find the words you need to hear and practice them mindfully and repeatedly in times of crisis or stress. Loving Kindness meditation heals from the inside out and makes even the hardest times more tolerable.