A simple and profound lovingkindness meditation to practice every day

What is lovingkindness meditation? Often presented as a complement to mindfulness meditation, most formal, guided lovingkindness meditations are rooted in an ancient Buddhist practice called metta (which translates as lovingkindness). Here we’re going to focus on a meditation you can use to familiarize yourself with the practice. Metta/lovingkindness lends itself to creativity, and once you’ve got the hang of it, you can easily adapt it to the feeling of the moment.

Lovingkindness meditation, even brief, naturally nurtures self-compassion as an open heart radiates kindness to others and the world.

This is a comprehensive lovingkindness meditation script. You can go through it slowly and stop and practice at your own rhythm. It can also be read out loud to lead others in a guided meditation; the reader will want to weave in pauses for contemplation.

The gift of lovingkindness

Sit comfortably on a cushion or a chair with your back straight. (If sitting is physically difficult, feel free to lie down instead.)

Relax into the meditation posture. Take note of being present in your body and your environment. Breathe. Take your time.

Notice how your body accommodates each breath. Settle in.

Turn your focus to the heart. Feel or imagine your beating heart with gratitude and warmth.

Call to mind a person (or pet) of past or present whose steady love and unconditional acceptance of you touches your heart in a special way. Allow yourself to experience their lovingkindness as if they were right near you, happy for your presence and grateful for you just as you are. Notice how this image eases your body and your mind.

Relax into this warm feeling of connection. Keep it simple. Allow thoughts to arise and evaporate and come back to the heart. Take your time.

Now put this lovingkindness and warmth that you are receiving into words. If helpful, you can imagine that these kind thoughts are what the person (or animal) you’ve called to mind wants for you and picture that they are wishing them with you. Adapt the words so they reflect your personal wishes and situation. Here’s one example:

May I be held in lovingkindness.
May I be happy and safe.
May I be healthy in body and in mind.
May I always have enough.
May my heart know peace.

Repeat the wishes at least three times, out loud or in your mind. Savor them. Take your time. Feel their ability to warm and open the heart.

Next, bring to mind someone who means a lot to you, someone in whose presence you can relax and be fully appreciated for who you are. Feel the goodness of this heart connection, feel your mutual gratitude. As you offer your well-wishes, imagine that the person is touched by them and experiences happiness and peace.

May you be held in lovingkindness.
May you be happy and safe.
May you be healthy in body and in mind.
May you always have enough.
May your heart know peace.

Repeat the wishes at least three times, out loud or in your mind. Appreciate the sincerity of the words. Feel their ability to warm and open the heart. Take your time.

Next, bring to mind someone you’ve met casually, someone you recognize but don’t really know. A school crossing guard, the person who manages the produce department at your grocery store, a neighbor you nod to. As you think of them, wish them well. Repeat the same words and imagine that they receive the full benefit of them. Gone, their aches and pains, material worries, concerns about the future. Imagine that as your wishes touch them, their hearts and minds are at ease.

May you be held in lovingkindness.
May you be happy and safe.
May you be healthy in body and in mind.
May you always have enough.
May your heart know peace.

Repeat the wishes at least three times. Appreciate the sincerity of the words. Feel their ability to warm and open the heart. Take your time.

(The next step is traditional, but if it’s too difficult for you, you can skip it.)

Now imagine someone you don’t care for. It could be someone you know personally or someone you know of and who triggers your antipathy. You may think of this person as unworthy of your kind consideration. As you evoke them in your mind’s eye, try to let go of your antipathy. It may help to imagine them as they were when they were a young, vulnerable child, before things became so difficult. Can you include them in your well-wishes?

May you be held in lovingkindness.
May you be happy and safe.
May you be healthy in body and in mind.
May you always have enough.
May your heart know peace.

Repeat the wishes at least three times. Appreciate the words. Feel their ability to warm and open your heart. Take your time.

Finally, include as many people and animals as you can in your wishes. Happy or sad, loved or neglected, in good health or in poor health, in all stages of life. Without making a particular effort to envision them separately, simply maintain awareness of the presence of all of these beings who share your planet and send them your wishes with a sincere and tender heart.

May you be held in lovingkindness.
May you be happy and safe.
May you be healthy in body and in mind.
May you always have enough.
May your heart know peace.

Repeat the wishes at least three times. Appreciate the words. Feel their ability to warm and open the heart. Imagine that your practice brings about deep healing for yourself and others. Take your time.

Now return to awareness of being present in your space, connected to all of these beings through your wishes. Maintaining this sense of presence to your best ability, simply sit. Wrap up your lovingkindness meditation with a sense of gratitude that might be expressed through a gesture–hands in the prayer position, a bow, the ting of a bell or whatever might feel appropriate.

Go deeper into lovingkindness

See our sister article Getting Started with Metta Meditation for a bit of background and an intro to research on lovingkindness meditation.

Renowned British meditation teacher and scholar Lama Jampa Thaye explains the importance of lovingkindness and how to relate to it in some of his accessible and illuminating Mind Talks. Here’s his teaching on Contemplating Lovingkindness.