In this article, we’ll explore loving-kindness in detail, and we’ll also provide you with a step-by-step loving-kindness meditation routine so that you can practice compassion and forgiveness to become more mindful.
So let’s get down to the serious business of honoring and loving ourselves unconditionally, shall we? In life, we tend to be hardest on ourselves, feeding ourselves a regular diet of the shoulda, coulda, woulda’s—mental chatter about regrets from our past.
This feedback loop of negativity does not serve our higher good. When you understand the role of karma in turning these thoughts into physical symptoms of either health or illness, you can make a conscious decision to thrive by sending lovingkindness, compassion, and forgiveness to yourself first and foremost, then paying it forward by doing the same for the people around you.
This positive energy you give to yourself and others boosts your immune system! We all have our idea about the nature of karma. For some, the word has a more fear-based connotation—it signifies the negative repercussions of our thoughts and actions: “What goes around comes around.” “You reap what you sow.”
Fear-based karma is always being afraid of the big “gotcha” that may be waiting for us right around the corner. Karma is a Sanskrit word that means action and denotes a cycle of cause and effect that takes place in our lives—pure and simple. Our past actions condition our soul, planting the seeds of memories, desires, and intentions.
When love-based, karma can guide us to the fulfillment of our soul’s higher purpose. Love-based karma is a gift that brings you lessons for your soul’s personal growth and will continue to bring these lessons back around until you have learned them. It may take a lifetime or many lifetimes, but it is certainly a most worthy endeavor to pursue.
Fear-based karma, however, is always about judgment, and how consequences are doled out to you or others based on your actions, whether positive or negative. Past karma is what it is, and we can burn off negative karma from our past starting at this moment through our loving-kindness, compassion, and forgiveness toward ourselves and others.
Going forward, there will no doubt be karmic episodes in our lives that will not Honor our higher good. We’re all human, after all. As much as we try to do our best in any given situation, our “best” may cause pain or heartache to others and certainly ourselves.
Who hasn’t regretted choices that may have been hurtful? However, as we mindfully and with full intention travel our committed spiritual journey, we will experience less frequent challenging or difficult karmic episodes. If we’re awake, we will know in our hearts what the soulful, life-affirming choice in any given moment is; however, momentarily lapses of reason will continue to be part of life.
Know that you can always press the reset button. Starting today, you can consciously choose love-based karma for your highest good. Any experience, positive or negative, can teach us important lessons. We can choose to learn from our actions and how they impact not only ourselves but for others.
Whether we are the transgressor, or someone else has committed transgressions against us, in soulful self-care, we would never hope that the offending party gets their karmic due. Rather, we can reach into our hearts and send loving-kindness, compassion, and forgiveness to ourselves or the other person or parties.
We need to own any shade we throw at others, as well as stop wishing bad karma onto those who’ve hurt us. That will only cycle back around to us. As NFL great Don Driver said, “Don’t get mad. Don’t get even. Do better. Much better. Rise above. Become so engulfed in your success that you forget it ever happened.”
You are in the process of becoming the best version of yourself that you can be, and you will use any difficult situations to autocorrect and set yourself back on the divine course of self-love and self-empowerment. We can karmically cleanse afflictions, provocations, insults, and injuries to ourselves and others by practicing loving-kindness, compassion, forgiveness, acceptance, and gratitude in all we think, say, and do.
And make amends where possible, even if only in your mind. In every moment of every day, we can be cleansing our karma through present-moment awareness of our thoughts and actions.
I. In your life, try some or all of the following:
- Send love and light toward everyone, no matter what they’ve done.
- Ask yourself what your motives are, no matter what’s happening, and make certain they’re coming from a place of loving-kindness. Commit to no hidden agendas or control dramas, both signs of a puffed-up ego.
- Have an attitude of gratitude for everything, both positive and negative. However, do put a damper on negativity wherever and whenever you can. Negativity creates angry energy that comes back to you—a karmic boomerang if you will. Feel it and release it.
- Keep this in mind: a life filled with acceptance is a life free of unnecessary emotional suffering.
- Practice forgiveness. Although difficult, it is one of the most important practices for manifesting love-based karma. Forgiving yourself is as important as forgiving others. Guilt is toxic—reliving mistakes over and over. Love yourself. Forgive yourself. There is not one human being anywhere who has not made mistakes.
Karma is not something complicated or philosophical. Karma means watching your body, watching your mouth, and watching your mind. Trying to keep these three doors as pure as possible is the practice of karma.
II. Let’s Practice Loving-kindness:
Have you ever wondered what would happen if you continuously viewed others as just an extension of you? (Which they are!) Every encounter, conversation, conflict, and loving bond is you, facing your reflection.
Would your actions change if you always accepted the “outside” as your internal mirror? Stop looking to the environment, and every aspect of your life will become an intimate introspection.
Naturally, one must maintain a divine delicate balance with this practice. It could be easy to “overdo” and take on things that are not ours, or misinterpret the length, width, and depth of reflection seen as expressed through self.
Sometimes what we see in another exists in self on the most minuscule of levels or vice versa. Let your uber-consciousness guide you here.
III. Loving-kindness: Spirit Is Love
Our intention as spiritual beings having a human experience is to learn, manifest, heal, and love at the “soul level.” This is true self-care. Fulfillment, growth, and well-being happen at this level of our being. Please recognize your power of love to heal because spirit is love. The common denominator in all healing is love. Healing is the application of loving to the places in us that hurt. The nature of the universe is love, and our natural human state is love.
Love is our core nature. We feel so good when we give and receive love because this is what the spirit does! Spirit is not fearful. The spirit is not hurtful. Spirit has no agendas. And spirit doesn’t engage in any control dramas.
Spirit is pure unadulterated love. When love (spirit)—the most powerful force in the universe—is applied to hurt, we heal, expand, and transform on all levels of our being: mentally, physically, emotionally, energetically.
And when we miss this opportunity to heal through spirit, that’s okay. Simply know that you’ll continue to experience the same type of “problems” over and over again until you learn the lessons being presented to you.
Though the life experience often feels otherwise, these lessons are always positive and serve as catalysts for our growth and fulfillment to higher levels of consciousness or being. View any challenges in your life as blessings and notice how, as you overcome them, you grow spiritually.
IV. Loving-kindness: The Heart of the Matter
Our heart chakra is the energetic center of loving-kindness and compassion.
Positively affirm right now:
- Forgiveness open my heart to a flowing reservoir of love and compassion.
- Affirm something like: I am love, and I am loved.
- I am delighted and joyful for the unfolding of others to their full human potential.
- Compassion open my heart to embrace all of creation as my earthly family. As I willingly let go of the past, I forgive myself and others.
- I love unreservedly, unabashedly, unconditionally! Western medicine has typically seen the heart as a pump, beating on average seventy-two times per minute, roughly 100,000 times per twenty-four-hour period.
Our heart sends anywhere from five to twenty-five quarts of blood through 60,000 miles of blood vessels every minute and helps in circulating more than 100 million gallons in a lifetime. And we’re learning so much more every day.
Neuroscience tells us how the heart begins beating in the fetus before the brain is fully formed—indicating that the heart is the beginning of life in physical form. It also has discovered over 40,000 nerve cells in the heart alone, indicating that it has its independent nervous system, sometimes called the heart-brain or brain in the heart.
Our heart has an electromagnetic field 5,000 times greater than that of the brain, and our heartbeat frequencies can be measured up to ten feet beyond our physical body.
Each heartbeat creates an electromagnetic wave that washes over every one of the sixty trillion cells in our body, and every single one of these cells—from the tips of our toes to the crown of our head—is being vibrated by our heart.
With each heartbeat, all our hearts are talking to one another in electromagnetic pulses. We’re immersed in each other’s heartbeats. If you lovingly talk to your own heart, you’ll “auto-magically” know how to talk to others, often without having to even say anything with your mouth or brain.
This validates spiritual teachings that our energy fields are constantly intermingling with each other, enabling healing (or toxic) thoughts to be in constant exchange with each other. This also explains the expression “good vibrations,” as in good energy flowing outward.
The heartbeat’s electromagnetic field might also explain why we may sense bad vibes after only just entering a room. In the same way, this may be why some people can cheer us up or calm us down by just being present. Good energy may flow outward from and surround these persons, and they may have mastered the ability to send these good vibrations out into the universe.
Since the heart’s energy field is greater than the brain’s, energy and information sent from the heart to the brain can have a profound effect on our brain function, heightening intuition, creativity, and feelings of well-being. It’s now well-known that this state of harmony or coherence between the heart and the brain helps us manage stress, boost creativity, and manifest peace of mind!
There has now been a tremendous amount of medical research exploring the heart’s ability to metabolize harmony, peace, and love. Studies indicate that we humans possess incredible healing capabilities when we learn to open our hearts.
Studies at the Institute of Heart Math—a world leader in technologies for synchronizing our hearts with our brains—asked people to focus on feelings of love and appreciation whenever they began to feel angry or frustrated. After one month of this practice, the study participant’s levels of DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone), the antiaging hormone, had increased 100 percent.
Their levels of the stress hormone cortisol decreased 23 percent. It was also found that 80 percent of these people experienced slowed breathing rates and their hearts became synchronized with their breathing. In control groups, there were no physical or hormonal changes.
The researchers’ conclusions have proven the tremendous implications for our health and well-being. With feelings of love, our inner systems synchronize. This affects our immune system, our hormones, our cognitive function, and so much more.
V. Loving-kindness: The Seat of the Soul
With this powerful coherence starting in our heart rhythms, many posit that the heart may be considered the conduit through which consciousness enters humans at birth. This scientifically validated heart coherence supports many spiritual teachings that our heart is the seat of our soul.
This also speaks to humanity’s ultimate and healing intention to join our coherent heart energies into one unified love-based consciousness. We can train our brains to become exquisitely mindful and supportive of the heart energy intentions of love.
Our coherent hearts in concert with proper brain development help us to attain our purest expression of love and, ultimately, of knowing God.
VI. Loving-kindness: Opening Your Heart
Follow this simple practice to shift your outward flow of loving energy, moving away from your fears and toward your affirmation of all that is positive and onward to your field of pure consciousness—that field of pure potentiality and infinite possibilities in your life. Sit or lie down.
Make sure you’re comfortable. With eyes closed and breathing deeply, gently place your palms against your heart center in the middle of your chest. Bring all your attention to your heart center.
Now, as you breathe, send loving energy directly into the center of your chest. Gently and tenderly hold the breath here to a count of four. As you breathe out, sense your breath moving into your palms.
Each time you breathe in and out, feel the love and warmth being exchanged between your heart center and your hands. With your attention and intention on this exchange, feel a sustained and expansive warmth and tenderness.
Begin to slowly move your hands away from your chest, keeping your focus on the love-filled energy being transmitted between your heart and your hands. Stay with and intensify these feelings of warmth and love you feel within this space.
Continue to slowly widen this space, keeping your focus on this powerful and expansive love-filled energy. Now, with your love-filled wingspan, imagine broadcasting these feelings outward to anyone you choose—including yourself, of course.
Sending out this positive heart-filled love energy to others and the whole of creation is balancing and raising your vibration. High vibration energy of this kind is one of the greatest healing mechanisms ever.
For you, and everyone surrounding you. You are affecting the collective consciousness; you are affecting the Earth.
After trying this practice, there is a natural progression to this next one: Try hugging someone lightly (heart to heart, left side to left side) and tune into the energy between you.
Gently and delicately, send this person your heart vibrations filled with love and warmth. This type of energy exchange can relax and revive you, and deepen your communion with others. It releases oxytocin, the love hormone, into both you and your heart-hug recipient’s mind-body physiology.
Other practices for opening the heart include: breathing in your own or someone else’s pain and breathing out love and peace.
With each breath in, inhale the pain, then exhale love. You can also radiate your brilliant spiritual light. First, bathe in the beautiful radiant being of light that you are.
Imagine a brilliant light in your heart center that is shining upon everyone and everything. If experiencing a conflict or difficulty with someone, consider this bright light as a sort of spotlight.
Keep broadening the area upon which your spotlight shines, until finally, it illuminates the truth behind the conflict. Look closely at the conflict, express gratitude for it, and explore what it has to teach you.
VII. Loving-Kindness Meditation:
One of the best ways to open your heart and soul is the loving-kindness meditation, a technique taught through the ages as a balm for the soul. Developed from the Buddhist tradition and now used by everyone, this meditation reaches deep inside the soul and evokes feelings of love, compassion, peace, and acceptance of all things.
It unleashes the power of unconditional love, one of the strongest forces on Earth. It heals wounded things. If you practice love with intention and truly use this energy on thought and deed, transformation is yours.
Buddha taught us that the mind is naturally radiant and pure, and it is this radiance and purity you access when you practice loving-kindness. Anger, greed, gluttony, resentment, rumination, and depression are all manifestations of pain.
The more you cultivate love, the more these difficult feelings subside, and positive feeling rises. The vibration you put into the world as you love will come back to you in ever-increasing waves of peace joy. When we put love first, we see rather than look.
We include rather than exclude; we commune rather than chatter. And, we care rather than remain indifferent. The world needs this badly. When we put love first, we invoke the blessings of the word Namaste. The word means, “the spirit in me honors the spirit in you. We are all one.” That is a short, powerful prayer.
It’s a beautiful word to say and hear. Say it yourself as you have moments of peace and exhilaration throughout your day, whether you are meditating or just finished your daily chores.
Let’s do a Loving-kindness meditation:
- Sit or lie down in a comfortable position, with your spine reasonably straight. Gently close your eyes. Bring attention to your heart chakra, emanating from the center of your chest. Breathe in and out through your heart center.
- Witness the inflow and outflow of the breath. Feel it. Track it as it moves into your lungs and up your chest. The heart, mind, and body will begin to soften and release any held stress.
- Begin with loving-kindness thoughts directed toward yourself. If you sense blockages or negative feelings, imagine dropping beneath them to the place where your only desire is to care for yourself and be safe and well.
- Breathe deeply, slowly, and consistently until your body calms, your thoughts slow. You can use phrases such as, “May I be safe and protected from harm. May I be deeply joyful? May I be peacefully at ease?, And May I be healthy and strong.” Or, make up your own. Use whatever thoughts strengthen and calm you. Express your hopes for yourself and your life.
- Gently repeat the phrases again and again, letting the feelings that arise move through your being. Do this for one minute, five minutes, or twenty minutes, whatever time allows.
- If your mind wanders off, don’t worry. Gently witness your lapsed attention, and bring it back to focus on the loving-kindness phrases. Be there for yourself. Be in the moment with these positive statements, feeling their vibration resonate through your whole being.
- Now think of someone in your life about whom you care deeply: a parent, spouse, dear friend, or teacher. Visualize this person and now direct loving-kindness their way: “May you be safe, be joyful, be at ease, be healthy and strong.”
- Make up your own. Repeat the phrase again and again as time permits. You are a broadcaster of energy. Tune in to the broadcasting of these feelings, this energy. Feel them move out of you, traveling toward their recipient and once the landing, transforming life. Give your feelings and thoughts wings.
- Next, consider someone who is having a hard time in his or her life right now. Feel their presence. Now offer loving-kindness to this person: “May you be safe, be joyful, be at ease, be healthy and strong.” Say to them whatever loving words come to your mind. Providing support and strength to someone struggling is one of the deepest satisfaction you might experience. And paradoxically, the more strength you give out, the stronger you will grow. How many lives have been saved by a kind word or thought delivered at just the right moment?
- Now think of someone in your life who plays a more neutral role, whether it be a cashier at the grocery store, a bus driver, a clerk at the dry cleaner, or a gas station attendant. Imagine being with this person, and feeling his or her presence.
- Now, offer loving-kindness to this person. “May you be safe, be joyful, be at ease, be healthy and strong.” Every life you touch matters—for them and you. This is how you grow your community, your sense of place in a large, sometimes seemingly indifferent world. It is never cold and uncaring if you are in it.
- We’ve come this far. Now we’re ready to expand our loving-kindness outward toward all of creation. Send out your boundless love without reservation: “May all living beings be safe, be joyful, be at ease, be healthy and strong.”
- This unbounded loving energy can deeply heal and transform you, your friends, your acquaintances, your community, your region, your country, your planet. This lovingkindness is for the smallest bug in the lifecycle of a forest to the leaders of the G8. This is a great reach for the whole. Practice. Then practice again.
- Gently come out of this meditation, taking this energy with you as you go about your daily activities. Use this practice anywhere: at the doctor’s office, a business meeting, or home. If you practice it among others, you’ll immediately feel a wonderful connection to whomever you meditate about.
- Deep love and affection will grow, along with healing benefits. Remember, when you give, you receive. When you share your powerful loving-kindness energy with yourself and others, you are boosting your immune system!
VIII. Have Compassion:
“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.”
An important partner to loving-kindness is the practice of compassion. With the high-level stress that surrounds us, what can we do to bring peace and harmony into our lives? We can begin by having compassion for ourselves and others—the ultimate sign of emotional maturity. I guarantee this richness will come around to reward you handsomely.
Compassion as a practice is where we’re able to have understanding, patience, and sympathy for distress—whether our own or someone else’s. We learn to not be so hard on ourselves and others. It’s so important to be kind because we are all carrying a heavy burden.
When we are compassionate, we are working on creating awareness within ourselves that we’re all doing the very best that we can from the level of consciousness that we’re in. When we try to understand where someone else is coming from—whether from a place of pain, hurt, anger, pride, low self-esteem—we automatically become less judgmental. And with this, we become more tolerant.
When we become more tolerant, we are more readily able to forgive. And with a forgiving heart, we may drop the burdens of anger, resentment, and sadness that contribute to our stress. When we learn how to walk in someone else’s shoes, we find it easier to open our hearts and love unconditionally.
IX. The Science Behind Compassion
Compassion is neuroscience’s latest frontier. Growing research shows compassion’s effect on improved health, happiness, and longevity. Compassion meditation lessens “mind-wandering,” galvanizes one’s attention, and encourages benevolence toward self and others.
And the real clincher? A study by Jordan Grafman at the National Institutes of Health indicated that brain imaging shows how the practice of compassion stimulates the same pleasure centers associated with the desire for food, water, and sex.
We can infer, then, that compassion is essential—like food, water, and sex. “We are seeing a revolution in how the mind works. As little as two weeks of practicing compassion with intention have a positive physiological effect on the body.
It can lower blood pressure, boost your immune response and increase your calmness,” says James Doty, MD, professor of neurosurgery at Stanford University and founder of Stanford’s world-renowned Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE).
CCARE is at the forefront of an emerging mental health movement that strives toward fewer pharmaceutical interventions and more emphasis on our innate natural healing traits such as empathy, altruism, kindness, and resilience. (Interestingly, Doty’s center was set up with the largest donation ever made by the Dalai Lama to a non-Tibetan cause.) Doty adds, “People are much happier and live a better life if they can maximize their genetic potential for being compassionate, and it has a significant contagion effect on others, motivating them to be more kind.”
Borrowing from Buddhist traditions, compassion practice uses mindfulness techniques, meditation, visualization, and breathing to develop non-judgmental awareness of our own as well as others’ distress and pain.
Not only does this calm the nervous system and boost feelings of contentment and self-worth, but it also fosters deep communion with others by focusing on our shared experiences rather than our differences.
X. Let’s Practice
Let’s put this into practice for a moment, shall we? Close your eyes, drop into your heart, and say to yourself, “May I and the whole of creation be free from suffering and its causes.” Repeat this to yourself for a couple of minutes. Brava!
You’ve just experienced the vast, beautiful mind of universal compassion, often referred to as the “Buddha mind.” You have poured innumerable blessings into your being and all sentient beings.
Just imagine if we could practice this all the time, allowing our compassion to become as expansive and all-encompassing as possible!
Also Read: How To Build Self-Esteem?
XI. To Forgive Is Divine
“Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” —Unknown
Are you good at playing the blame game? Good at getting down on yourself? When wronged, do you hold on to anger, resentment, and grudges? Do you think about seeking revenge or getting even? If yes, it’s important to realize that failure to forgive—whether yourself, or others—causes stress that is ultimately poisonous to your body, mind, and soul.
When we fixate on revenge, we become a victim who has turned our power over to someone or something else. As you hold on to these toxic thoughts, they affect you and your well-being—not the person that you feel offended you. Let go and let God, as the saying goes.
It is so important to not feel victimized. When you assume the role of the victim and fail to let go, your body continues recycling the same negative energy. You find yourself living in the past, unable to move forward, live in the moment, and experience joy.
This affects your bodily systems—immune, metabolic, hormonal, cardiovascular, neurological, and more. And do keep in mind that if you forgive, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you condone what happened. This is about catharsis and preventing that negative energy from becoming locked up inside you.
Forgiveness releases tension and stress, letting us feel at peace. This is about feeling strong and healthy. Mahatma Gandhi said it best: “Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” Let’s be strong and resilient beings, and have a forgiving heart. Our wholeness depends on it.
Steps to forgiveness:
1. Give yourself some quiet time.
Consider a grievance or punishing grudge against yourself, someone else, or an offending event that has taken place. Consider the details without becoming emotionally charged. Deep breathing can help with this. Stay as detached as possible, as if watching the event on a screen.
2. Holding this image in your mind, have the intention to forgive, and release the hold—
whether sadness, disapproval, or condemnation—that the offense has on you. Say out loud or to yourself: “I forgive myself/ [the person who hurt you] for the pain/anger/bitterness that I/they caused.”
3. Visualize how exhilarating it will feel to no longer have this affliction haunting you and constricting your energy.
Talk about taking a load off your shoulders—and your heart, along with hormonal, nervous, and immune systems—very freeing indeed!
4. Kiss and make up with yourself or the person that you’ve hurt, or who has hurt you.
Ask for or offer forgiveness. Yes, it’s daunting. But keep in mind that you’re coming from a place of peace, love, and understanding. Stand where your feet are and come from a place of inner strength.
You may need to offer forgiveness energetically if it cannot be done in person. And you may even send or ask for forgiveness from those who may have left this earthly plane. It still counts.
- Fortify your strength and resolve by asking for help from the depths of your soul, a higher power, nature, your fellow human beings, or whatever source you draw your power from.
- Tune in to every nuance of change in your thoughts, feelings, and relationships, with patience and awareness. Forgiveness encourages change and great healing to take place. Please do not rush this process. Bathe in it. You’ve created an energetic shift within yourself and your surrounding environment.
5. Do consider how you apologize.
I’m a huge fan of replacing “I’m sorry” with “Thank you.” Instead of saying, “I’m so sorry I’m late,” say, “Thank you so much for waiting for me.” Do you feel the energy shift? Or, instead of saying, “I’m sorry for being such a mess,” say, “Thank you for always loving and caring about me.”
You’re not only feeding yourself this wonderful positivity but as others receive your gratitude instead of your negativity, there is the potential for improving relationships.
In addition, take responsibility for your actions when you apologize and do not accept passive apologies that show the offending party does not take responsibility for their actions.
For instance, instead of saying, “I’m sorry, this offended you,” say, “I’m sorry I was offensive.” Or, instead of saying, “It was just a joke,” say, “Some things should not be joked about.” And do remember, forgiveness does not mean that you condone what happened or are saying that it’s okay. It may never be okay.
But by forgiving, you release the constriction of energy surrounding your being and your heart, as well as the person or event, and you can move onward. Instead of living in the past, you’re joyfully free to live in the present.
Related: Healthy Body, Healthy Mind