Loving Kindness MeditationOctober 7, 2013 Written by JP [Font too small?]
It’s relatively easy to recognize when you’re not getting enough exercise, nutrition or sleep. In the case of exercise and sleep, deficiency symptoms are usually subjective – fatigue, mood changes, shortness of breath, etc. A lack of nutrients sometimes presents itself physically, but can also be detected and/or verified with the assistance of diagnostic tests. On the other hand, social connectedness, an equally important aspect of wellness, is often overlooked. And, ironically, it may be one of the most common deficiency states affecting mankind in the 21st century.
A form of meditation known as LKM or Loving Kindness Meditation, aims to address feelings of anger, emotional distance and separateness that permeate modern society. But, beyond that, this simple practice fosters greater acceptance and compassion for oneself (and others) while simultaneously improving the ratio of postive-to-negative emotions (affective regulation). If this sounds like nothing more than a feel good, self indulgent exercise, note that over a dozen studies have established that the regular practice of LKM literally changes the body and mind in decidedly constructive ways. A few of the many examples reveal that LKM assists those living with everything from chronic back pain to post traumatic stress disorder and even schizophrenia. What’s more, long-term loving kindness meditation increases gray matter in key segments of the brain and likely slows the aging process by protecting telomeres from accelerated shrinkage. Perhaps that’s why one researcher recently stated that using LKM to extend compassion, “is not only good care; it may also be good medicine”.
Establishing a daily LKM routine isn’t complicated in the least. All you need to do is set aside about 10 minutes a day for a bit of reflection and the meditative action itself. The first thing you’ll need to do is compose a basic “metta” or list of core statements you’ll repeat during LKM. The metta I personally use is below in “Section 1”. You can adjust the words to fit your own goals and preferences.
Section 1 (Metta):
- “May I be fulfilled and happy.”
- “May I be healthy and strong.”
- “May I be protected and safe.”
- “May I be at ease and peaceful.”
Once you have your metta written down, commit it to memory. Now, you’ll want to sit in a comfortable position with your eyes closed – preferably in a quiet space. At first, you’ll silently repeat your metta while imagining or visualizing yourself. Next, you’ll follow a very similar process in sections 2 – 5. Specifically, in sections two, three and four replace the “I” in your metta with someone else’s name. If you don’t know their name, you can describe the person without explicitly naming them. Examples are provided below. Once again, imagine or visualize the person/people during each step of the process.
Section 2: Replace the “I” in your metta statements with the name of a person you like, love or feel gratitude towards.
Example: May Madeleine, my wife, be fulfilled and happy. Etc.
Section 3: Replace the “I” in your metta statements with the name of someone you feel indifferent or neutral about.
Example: May, Joe, the clerk at my bank, be fulfilled and happy. Etc.
Section 4: Replace the “I” in your metta statements with the name of a person you don’t like or by whom you’ve been hurt.
Example: May the stranger that cut me off on the road today be fulfilled and happy. Etc.
Section 5: In the final metta statements, substitute “I” with “all beings”.
Example: May all beings be fulfilled and happy. Etc.
While practicing loving-kindness meditation (LKM), allow yourself to experience any feelings that come about when you imagine the various people associated with this five part meditative process. This is all part of the transformative experience. So, give yourself permission to feel more than usual during the process itself. Then, in time, you may well notice that your actions and emotional responses towards yourself and those around you will change for the better during your non-meditative time.
Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!
To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:
Study 1 – Loving-Kindness Meditation for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder … (link)
Study 2 – Loving-Kindness Meditation Practice Associated with Longer Telomeres … (link)
Study 3 – Distinct Neural Activity Associated with Focused-Attention Meditation … (link)
Study 4 – Increased Gray Matter Volume In the Right Angular and Posterior … (link)
Study 5 – Non-Verbal Communication of Compassion: Measuring Psychophysiologic … (link)
Study 6 – Loving-Kindness and Compassion Meditation: Potential for Psychological … (link)
Study 8 – Loving-Kindness Meditation for Chronic Low Back Pain: Results … (link)
Study 9 – Loving-Kindness Meditation Increases Social Connectedness … (link)
Study 10 – A Pilot Study of Loving-Kindness Meditation for the Negative Symptoms … (link)
Loving Kindness Meditation May Increase Brain Gray Matter Volume
Source: Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2013 Jan;8(1):34-9. (link)
Tags: Brain, Meditation, Pain
Posted in Alternative Therapies, Heart Health, Mental Health