If we ever hope to find peace and happiness and learn how to manage ourselves better during difficult situations, we need a daily practice which nourishes our brain and brings us back to the “center”.
For millions of people around the world, this is the practice of meditation. Several kinds of research has shown that city-living has been linked to depression and anxiety, while no one wants to admit it, but we all need some time off to cool our system from this fast-paced life. We are in a constant battle with internet trolls and people expressing their opinions in a fascist manner. Loving-kindness meditation also is known as LKM, is a form of meditation that emphasizes cultivating love and compassion for all beings, including yourself.
What is it exactly?
Loving-kindness meditation is a practice taught by the Buddha to develop the habit of selfless or altruistic love. This brings about positive attitudinal changes as it systematically develops the quality of ‘loving-acceptance’. Dhammapada – a Buddhist scripture, you can find the saying: “Hatred cannot coexist with loving-kindness, and dissipates if supplanted with thoughts based on loving-kindness.”
How does it work?
This meditation uses – words, images, and feelings to stimulate a loving-kindness and friendliness toward oneself and others. One has to recite a list of phrases expressing an intention, planting the seeds of loving wishes, over and over in our heart. As it turns out, science now backs what Buddhists have long known about this powerful ancient practice.
While one can get started with a single short session of this Loving Kindness Meditation of about 10 minutes; this can kick-start a positive ripple effect, leading to increased positive feelings of social connection and positivity towards strangers.
How to practice?
- To begin, take as comfortable a position as possible – sitting or lying down.
- Take a few soft deep breaths for your body to settle.
- Bring your attention to your breath, and begin to say your chosen Loving Kindness phrases in rhythm with you breathe.
- Understand the meaning of what you are saying, feel it without trying to force anything.
Why to do it? (As proved by Science)
- Positive Thinking: A study by ‘National Center for Biotechnology Information’ in 2001 showed that practicing seven weeks of Loving Kindness Meditation increased multiple positive emotions including love, joy, contentment, gratitude, pride, hope, interest, amusement, and awe. These positive emotions, then had a ripple effect on the participants, decreasing their depressive symptoms.
- Improve Self Criticism: Research shows this critical voice can be tamed through practicing Loving Kindness Meditation. While it reduced self-criticism and depressive symptoms, Loving Kindness practitioners also experienced improvements in self-compassion and positive emotions which were maintained three months post-intervention.
- Being Compassionate: Being more compassionate has a host of benefits, including improved health, well-being, and relationships. The revered Dalai Lama believes – “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries; without them, humanity cannot survive.” Loving Kindness Meditation may be one of the most effective practices for increasing compassion.
- Reduces Chronic Headaches: While meditation isn’t usually thought to be a remedy for debilitating migraines, research shows it can help. A short session of Loving Kindness Meditation intervention was shown to immediately help reduce pain and alleviate emotional tension associated with chronic migraines.
The goal of loving-kindness meditation is to cultivate friendliness in a fashion until it’s a mental state that arises effortlessly. At that point, you’ll find it increasingly natural to greet all living beings with kindness and friendliness once you start meditating. Start with a small, but daily, commitment to it. If you commit to it just five minutes each day, you are much more likely to make it a habit, and you’ll start to see benefits soon enough. And as they say, “Every day it gets a little easier… But you gotta do it every day — that’s the hard part. But it does get easier.”
Omkar Kulkarni is a self-proclaimed art appreciator, a certified film reviewer and someone’s favorite human being.