Thursday, February 19, 2015

Romancing Divine Love: Loving Kindness Meditation

By: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed

A regular practice of Yoga is a wonderful tool for romancing divine love. The awareness of the essential energy of divine love that pervades the fabric of the universe is unveiled through a consistent, dedicated practice of Yoga postures, pranayama exercises, meditation, chanting, and japa recitation. A balanced, comprehensive practice of all of these various Yogic techniques will ultimately lead a Yogi or Yogini into the inner sanctum of his or her own heart. Along the way, however, it is not unusual for a Yoga practitioner to contend with a wide assortment of negative beliefs and thought patterns. 

Many of the ancient and time-tested practices of Buddhism can be very helpful for uprooting negative thoughts, beliefs and samskaras. Loving Kindness Meditation, or Metta Meditation, as it is also known, was practiced and taught by the Buddha. The Buddha noticed that with the practice of offering thoughts of loving kindness to himself, and then to those around him, that he was able to supplant negative thoughts with more nurturing, sweeter thoughts of compassion and kindness. This act of loving himself and offering his love and compassion to others during the course of his meditation helped him to systematically cultivate a state of loving acceptance, which helped to calm and free his own mind from confusion and pain. 

A number of neuro-cognitive researchers, who focus their study on the interplay between the brain and emotion, have documented that the “doing” part of the brain is lit up during the practice of a loving kindness meditation. Essentially this means that practicing 7 minutes or more a day of a loving kindness meditation will help to offset the low energy of depression and get your mind and body primed for putting into action the plans that you have mentally envisioned for yourself and your life.  Supplanting negative emotions with positive emotions during the practice of a loving kindness meditation has also been clinically shown to shift the balance in the brain from a state of negativity to positivity, which helps to enhance the ability to learn and follow through on cherished dreams and goals. 

* Loving Kindness Meditation in a Nutshell

It is quite easy to weave a 7-minute session of a loving kindness meditation into the end of a Yoga class or personal practice. Simply give yourself a few extra minutes just prior to, or just after Shavasana. This meditation practice can also be done during Shavasana, if you are short on time. When you are ready to practice the Loving Kindness Meditation, come to an easy sitting position on your Yoga mat, on a chair with your feet flat on the floor and your spine comfortably erect, or lie back in Shavasana. If you are practicing this meditation while in Shavasana, you may wish to place a Yoga bolster under your knees for comfort and support.

Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. As you begin to relax, formulate three wishes for yourself that would support your highest good today. For instance, you may wish to be filled with ease, happiness and health. Choose three wishes for your life that support your well-being and happiness today. If you encounter resistance to offering yourself loving kindness, mindfully witness the resistance, while continuing to gently and compassionately offering yourself kind, loving thoughts for a minute or two. 

This Loving Kindness Meditation practice is like a series of concentric circles that radiates from your own core outwards. There are five steps. The first step is to offer yourself loving, kind thoughts. The next step is to offer those same loving, kind thoughts to those you love, and then to a group of people whom you feel neutral about. The final two steps are to offer loving kindness to a person or group of people with whom you are struggling or actively dislike, and then to the world at large.  

If you find that offering loving kindness to those you do not like is difficult, do not worry! This is very common. With patient practice, you will be able to internally offer loving and kind thoughts to those people you do not like, especially when you experience the benefit of practicing loving kindness in your own heart and mind.  When you have completed your practice of the Loving Kindness Meditation, bring your hands into Prayer Position at the front of your heart and bow your head in gratitude, before moving quietly into Shavasana or finishing your Yoga practice. 

Virginia Iversen, M.Ed, has been practicing and studying the art of Yoga for over twenty years. She lives in Woodstock, New York, where she works as a writer and an academic support specialist. She is currently accepting Yoga and health-related writing orders and may be contacted at: