What is Loving Kindness? (Metta Bhavana)
Love. They say it makes the world go round. But what is exactly is this thing we call love? For most of us, this word immediately brings up thoughts of romantic relationships; perhaps the feeling of floating through life with a new partner by your side, or more toxic feelings associated with a painful breakup. But what if we took a step back and looked at the broader picture?
Love is all around us. It could be love for a child, a friend, a colour, a song or simply loving and accepting yourself. Love is a feeling, that can be felt for just about anything or anyone. It simply sits in our heart and given the chance it can grow, expand and shine light to others. Think about it, what have you felt love for today? Have you shared this love with others?
The Loving Kindness (Metta Bhvana) meditation is a great way to plant seeds of love and compassion and begin to let these radiate through you in your everyday life. ‘Metta’ meaning ‘love’ can be cultivated (Bhavana) within your heart, and by doing so you can experience many of the positive benefits such as:
- An increase in positive and a decrease in negative emotions
- A decrease in chronic pain
- A decrease in migraines
- An increased sense of empathy
- Increased social connection
- Decreases in biological markers of ageing
So, loving kindness can have a positive impact on our emotions and our physical health? Yes. A study in 2013 looked at this link and found that positive emotions, positive social connections and physical health all affected each other in an upward spiral, hooray! In the study there were two groups: a loving-kindness meditation group and a control group. The results were measured by baseline vagal tone (a physiological indicator of well-being), and found that the loving kindness meditation group showed an increase in positive emotions.
How to practise loving kindness..
.1. Sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes and begin by focusing on feelings of peace and love within yourself. Let this feeling grow within you, you may wish to visualise it as a golden light, or perhaps and green glow and let it flood throughout your body. If you prefer you can use a phrase such as ‘May I be well and happy’ which you can repeat to yourself.
2. Think of a good friend and all of the qualities that you love about them. Imagine sending love to them, spreading the glow from your heart to theirs, or again using a phrase such as ‘May ‘friends name’ be well and happy.’
3. Think of someone neutral to you. You may not know them very well, perhaps just someone you pass each day. Imagine sending these feelings of love to them, either through visualisation of by again repeating the phrase ‘May ‘name’ be well and happy.’
4. Think of someone who you really dislike, a.k.a an enemy. Now imagine sending love to them using the same techniques. This may be the hardest stage to do, but it will get easier with time.
5. Finally, think of all four people together, extending your love to all of them, and then expanding this love to your town, your county, you country and so on until it covers the whole world. Imagine love spreading to everyone, everywhere and relax into this feeling. When you are ready you can gently open your eyes.
Loving kindness can also be applied to situations in everyday life. For example, have you ever come across someone who just seems to be seething anger from every bone in their body? Instead of retaliating, and letting them wind you up try imaging sending love to them instead. Note how good you feel, letting their anger go and bringing light to the situation instead…You never know, perhaps all they needed was a little love.
By Jadine Hocking for ‘go meditate!’
LINK TO STUDY: CLICK HERE
If you would like to practise cultivating love and compassion why not come along to Falmouth Tm and Meditation Group? You can contact Kellie Gilmour @ falmouthTMmeditation@live.com
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