The practice of lovingkindness meditation is simple and pragmatic. You can try it this way: Sit comfortably and close your eyes. You are going to recite silently certain phrases that express your heart's intention to connect more deeply with yourself and others. Some examples are "May I be happy" or "May you be peaceful" or "May you find contentment." Say the words without anticipating any particular response. If you try to force a warm, cuddly feeling, it could be totally false. Just see what emerges from this particular way of paying attention.

We begin with ourselves because truly caring for ourselves is the foundation for being able to care for others. Repeat silently, over and over, "May I be happy. May I be safe. May I be peaceful. May I live with ease." It's fine to use any phrase or phrases that are significant to you.

After a few minutes, begin silently offering the phrases to someone you respect and love, a benefactor or good friend. "May you be happy. May you be safe. May you live with ease." Following that, choose someone you feel fairly neutral toward, as Rachel did with her dry cleaner.

Then make a bold shift and call to mind people you don't get along with, those you have hurt, those who have hurt you. This might call up an immediate surge of resentment or annoyance. Rather than giving up, go back to offering lovingkindness to yourself in the face of your anger, impatience and distress. Over time our anger begins to subside as we care for ourselves and again practice opening our attention to those from whom we're estranged. This part of the meditation can be hard, but it's the place where we deeply contact our innate capacity for lovingkindess. Venturing beyond our preconceived limitations, we see how much love we have within.

Finally, offer the phrases to everyone, without exception or distinction: "May all beings be happy. May all beings be safe. May all beings live with ease." The care and kinship Rachel felt toward her dry cleaner, we feel toward everyone. As the Japanese poet Issa said, "Under the cherry blossoms' shade, there are no strangers."

Instant joy: 35 little mood-boosting acts of kindness


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