The ego in us sees the danger, threats, differences, and division all around us. For many of us, seeing what is "wrong" with a person or situation has become a strong and ingrained habit pattern of the mind. This habit pattern distorts and skews reality, making it a hostile and fearful place.
Loving-kindness meditation counteracts that egoic habit pattern by offering us a way to see, and connect with, the good in all life. It helps us see reality more clearly, with a larger, more balanced, and more accurate perspective. As a result we feel more connected to people and animals; we feel a sense of unity and belonging with all of life.
Loving-kindness meditation also helps us explore, experience, and know how true love feels in the body and mind. True love is goodwill of an unconditional nature that contains no wanting whatsoever. Energetically it can feel like a soothing warmth, a vast and spacious stillness, or pleasant tingling sensations.
Along the way, you may also experience what often masquerades as love such as lust, craving, and wanting. These impermanent mind states are also worthy objects of your awareness and investigation. They lack the peace, tranquility, and contentment of true love. They seek to possess people, states, and things, or want others to behave in certain ways. They have a restless quality to them, and can quickly morph into other disturbing states such as hatred, anger, jealousy, and loneliness to name a few.
Knowing what these egoic versions of false love feels like, helps you to better identify what true, unconditional, boundless love feels like. By comparing and contrasting them, you will no longer confuse one for the other. Of course, you may not feel any of this right away, or for some time. As always, just be patient and do the practice. If you do the practice, you are bound to succeed.
How To Do Loving-Kindness Meditation
To do Loving-Kindness Meditation, start by grounding your awareness in your heart space, the space in and around your heart. By keeping your attention here, you will eventually start to notice what it feels like for your heart to be open, allowing your inexhaustible love to pour out, and what it feels like when your heart is closed. Knowing this difference will help you keep your heart open more and more. If you don’t feel anything there at first, don’t worry. Just feel what you can feel in your heart space and know that your sensitivity will increase as your practice deepens.
After grounding your awareness in your heart space, you then give gifts of love to different beings and life forms. To get our goodwill flowing, we offer little phrases of kindness to ourselves, a beloved benefactor, a beloved friend, a neutral being, a challenging being, and then to all beings and all life. It is helpful if the phrases are simple and few in number.
There is nothing special about the phrases used in the guided meditations. As long as you keep the phrases simple, feel free to adapt or modify them, or come up with your own. Use whichever phrases work best at helping you feel the warm glow, soothing peace, and energetic tingling of unconditional kindness.
Connecting with the felt reality of loving-kindness is so important, that when you feel it strongly, you can drop the words altogether and simply feel the love flow out of you and into those to whom you are freely offering that love. The phrases are there to help you open your heart and get the love flowing. Once you can feel the love flowing, the phrases are no longer required.
Of course, if you are new to loving-kindness meditation, I suggest you keep things simple: use the phrases offered until you are more familiar with how the meditation works and more confident in what you are doing.
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