Experiencing a lovingkindness meditation was the final session of my twelve week mindfulness course. I knew from the syllabus to expect it, still I dreaded it. The thought of expressing any kind of “love” toward myself terrified me. I spent too many years crippled by shame and self-loathing to spend any amount of time “blessing” myself. As I approached the last session, I became more and more anxious and angry.
Welcome to Mindfulness Monday! Where we learn some easy ways to be more present “in the moment” at our jobs, in our homes, with our families and friends.
Learning to recognize God and what He has for us in each divine moment He offers. We acknowledge the belief that God is with us always.
We confess His presence is available to us, lifting our spirit and helping us with power and grace. Learning the art of “stillness” so we can hear His voice and view ourselves, others and our surroundings through His eyes.
what is a lovingkindness meditation?
During any mindfulness course the practitioner teaches various ways you can practice mindfulness, and I have shared a few here on the blog for Mindfulness Mondays. Mindfulness is not magic, but as I state every week, a way to create awareness of our surroundings, ourselves, our emotions. By doing this, we remain in the present, which has many benefits for ourselves and our relationships. If you are unfamiliar with mindfulness, please read this post.
Experiencing a lovingkindness meditation in mindfulness is meant to enhance our compassion for ourselves and others. It generally begins with “self”, then moves to a loved one, a stranger or acquaintance, a difficult person and then to “all”. Specifically we learned to say things like “May I be safe”, “May I be healthy”, “May I be happy” and “May I live with ease”. Then you think of each person and change the pronoun to suit. At first glance I found it silly, especially since I never asked for any of those things for myself. The instructor sensed my resistance, trying to offer encouragement by saying I could just focus on someone I really loved. I thought about my dog.
a closer look at lovingkindness meditation
Needless to say, I was glad it was all over. I continued my mindfulness practice and enjoyed developing new ways to explore remaining present in my days. Mindfulness improved my prayer and quiet times with God and helped me see Him in the moments of each day. I always loved nature and spending time outdoors enjoying God’s creation, and mindfulness revealed even more of God through His creation to me. But I never went back to that one lesson on experiencing a lovingkindness meditation. Until one day, a Christian friend brought it to my attention as a healing tool for trauma that the Lord used in her life.
She experienced trauma as a child in an abusive home and lived with shame and self-loathing all of her life. Dealing with increasing anger and anxiety, she took a mindfulness course. The course changed her life in a big way; she was able to release her anger, shame and hatred for herself. Replacing those things with forgiveness of others and herself in addition to compassion which she never felt before. While the entire mindfulness course contributed to her results, she attributed the change to having experienced a lovingkindness meditation.
A Compassionate Prayer
Where I struggled with the wording of the lovingkindness meditation, she saw the prayer-like quality in it. She saw the cultivation of care for oneself and others in our close circles, but also for those in our world. Beside my own trauma response, I focused only on it feeling “Unchristian” to pray for safety, happiness, health and ease. She saw it as requesting these good things in the presence of a compassionate God who deeply loves us and others in the world.
Challenged to reconsider my stand, I prayed that God remove the prejudice from my thoughts and open my eyes to the value of this practice. Over time, I reconsidered the “good wishes”. Don’t Christians regularly pray for safety? (Lord, please keep Larry safe on the job today.) How about happiness? (Lord, Kim is struggling with grief, please restore her joy.) They do pray for health (Lord please heal Linda’s cancer.) And Christians even pray for ease. (Lord, please bring relief to Betty’s chronic pain.) I began to see the power in experiencing a lovingkindness meditation.
a step towards healing
Clearly, my own trauma response of shame and self-loathing kept me from seeing the value of his particular mindfulness practice. While I could now see how beautiful a lovingkindness meditation requested deeply personal things for others in the presence of God, I struggled with applying it to myself. I decided to consult another dear Christian friend who not only teaches mindfulness, but uses it as part of her ministry to sex traffic victims.
She compassionately understood my reaction and struggle with lovingkindness towards myself and helped me to see it as a trauma response. At the same time, she gently opened my eyes to my need for self-compassion as a step towards my own healing. Sadly I rejected self-compassion and lovingkindness as inappropriate for good Christians. I recently discussed self-compassion as it relates to Christianity in this post. After much wrestling, I finally understood God was choosing to bring emotional and spiritual healing to me through this practice.
taking a few tentative steps
The first time I attempted the lovingkindness meditation on my own at God’s leading felt awkward. I started over a few times before feeling comfortable enough to make it through the entire practice. It helped to have a brief Mindful Check-in, which you can learn here. Once I welcomed the emotions I felt, I spent a few moments in prayer asking God to make His presence real in that moment. Then I followed the simple steps.
I can only say amazement and peace filled my heart afterward. It felt like years of self-loathing, shame and self-neglect fell away. For the first time I actually felt loved by God and felt compassion for myself. It took weeks of returning to this practice, journaling and sorting through memories and emotions, but I emerged stronger and healthier. I forgave others who had harmed and neglected me and began caring for myself. Learning to notice triggers and protective behaviors and responding with compassion to myself. I also became more compassionate to others, even those I did not know very well.
how to do a lovingkindness meditation
If you are interested in experiencing a lovingkindness meditation, it is a simple process. I encourage you to at least give it a try because it truly is a beautiful practice. It centers you on the presence of God, receiving and giving a blessing to others. Use your own words if you like, I still prefer to use the ones I’m sharing with you, but have changed it up now and then. Don’t get hung up on the actual words.
The Lovingkindness Meditation
- Begin with a Mindful Check in. This helps identify difficult emotions. Don’t try to dismiss them, just sit with them. Be aware of how they feel in your body.
- Prayer. Center your thoughts on God’s presence and receiving His lovingkindness for you. Ask the Holy Spirit to open your heart to Him.
- Begin with Yourself. Speak these words in your mind or out loud: “May I know God’s love”, “May I know God’s rest,” “May I Know God’s peace.”
- Add someone close to you. Think of one person close to you and speak the same words over them, replacing the pronoun “I” with their name.
- Add a stranger or acquaintance. Now think of someone you may not know at all, but have seen or someone you barely know. You don’t need to know their name. Speak the words of blessing over then using the correct pronoun or their name if known.
- Add a difficult person. Now think of someone that you struggle with in general or someone with whom you are currently struggling with. Speak the same words over them using the correct pronoun or their name.
- Lastly add “everyone”. While it is nice to bless everyone, everywhere, I generally stick to “everyone” in a particular location. Think of a location like work, church, school or other group, and speak the words of blessing over them using the correct pronoun.
- End in Gratitude. Thank God for drawing near to you, blessing you and blessing those you mentioned.
Experiencing a lovingkindness meditation
Experiencing a lovingkindness meditation brings healing and an increased intimacy with God. It allows time to pause, sit in His presence and know His love, rest and peace. Then taking what we receive and speaking that blessing into the lives of others is deeply life-giving. You cannot help but grow in love and compassion for others if you are speaking blessings into their lives. You will find it easier to forgive and offer grace in difficult relationships and encounters.
“I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn you.”Jeremiah 31:3
Ultimately, for me, the lovingkindness meditation opened the door for me to allow God into places of my heart that I withheld. I was able to release years of blocked emotions and begin to receive and offer forgiveness. Most important of all, God’s healing love began to reach into my brokenness and redeem the pieces for His glory.