In the past few weeks, I have had the opportunity to lead the Loving Kindness meditation in contemplative prayer groups. This meditation is especially helpful as we live and respond to ourselves, our communities, and the world during times of conflict and strife.
The Loving Kindness meditation invites you to imagine a variety of people in your life and then repeat the following phrases toward them:
- May you be filled with lovingkindness
- May you be safe from inner and outer dangers
- May you be well in body and mind
- May you be at ease and happy
These phrases are spoken to yourself, someone you love, someone toward whom your feelings are neutral (like a delivery person or someone who walks in your neighborhood), someone who has irritated you (such as a person who cut you off in traffic), and someone who has hurt you. Then the mediation invites you to send loving kindness even more broadly, to include the countless beings in the world.
The origin of the Loving Kindness meditation is in Buddhism. As a Christian, I appreciate the chance to pray with this meditation. It reminds me that all the great religions teach compassion, including Jesus who lived compassion in his daily life. Jesus taught compassion when he said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31)
This Loving Kindness meditation guides me into some much-needed self-compassion. I notice myself reciting the phrases in the middle of the night when I catch myself worrying excessively about my kids. Instead of fretting, I hold their image in my mind and I offer them loving kindness as I repeat the prayerful phrases from this beautiful meditation. The practice helps me see that God holds my children in love.
I’m struck by how the Loving Kindness meditation draws my attention toward the world. The prayer guides me to offer compassion to victims of violence and war. I offer compassion to people experiencing the anguish of injustice. I offer loving kindness to leaders who are cruel and oppressive to people. The Loving Kindness meditation invites me to see all people as beloved human beings who long to experience peace.