Loving Kindness Sitting Meditation
Begin by ‘fully arriving’. Arrive by lighting a candle or visualizing lighting a candle. As you are lighting it form an intention. Some suggestions might be to ‘may I be free from unwanted thoughts & feelings’ or ‘May I be filled always with kindness & with joy’ or may I be in charge of my mind rather than it be in charge of me. Do a quick scan around the body from feet to head inviting as many named parts as you wish to be even more relaxed. Do this scan to draw your mind away from everything that has no place in your loving-kindness practice. Now that your attention and you are fully present, we can begin the practice of ‘loving-kindness meditation’ or ‘compassion meditation’ also called ‘Tonglen’.
(Tonglen is Tibetan for 'giving and taking' (or sending and receiving) and refers to a meditation practice found in Tibetan Buddhism. Tong means "giving or sending", and len means "receiving or taking".
Tonglen is also known as exchanging self with other).
Make a short list of the following people or sources:
*(1) Yourself currently or any time in your life when loving kindness would have been a blessing.
*(2) Those people, animals or an individual for whom you feel warm sincere Love or care.
* (3) Those people, animals or an individual who raise up feelings of compassion in you.
* (4) Those people, animals or an individual for whom you have relatively neutral feelings.
* (5) Those for whom your emotional response is not at all positive.
By learning to extend loving Kindness & Compassion to ourselves and others we become more loving, kind & compassionate. The list begins with self, you are the most important person on the list. In this practice your raise up tender feelings of compassion within your heart for yourself and for the others by creating in your mind memories or images that prompt you into being compassionate. As you move through the list it perhaps becomes harder to stoke the fire of compassion within you. With practice you will gain the skill necessary to have compassion for all who prompt an emotional response (pleasant or not so pleasant). While it looks like we are being magnanimous towards others the primary beneficiary is ourselves, in giving love, in sharing compassion we experience it and are ultimately transformed by it. In raising compassion within ourselves we raise the collective compassion of human consciousness on earth.
Loving Kindness Sitting meditation using the list you have created as your focus.
*(1) Bring to mind events from your past or present life where loving-kindness or compassion would have been a blessing.
Repeat the following or similar:
‘I Breathe in all my pain and suffering from that time (or currently), breathing it into that place within me where I feel compassion. (In that place it is no burden to me, in that place the suffering is beyond personality, ego and our programs that can prompt a suffering response. That place is the home of the blessed self, in that place nothing is impossible, perhaps we might say the kingdom of heaven that is within all of us. Then breathe out ‘compassion’ for yourself or and ‘Loving Kindness’ or love kindness and compassion or whatever combination feels right for you.
(Repeat at least three times).
*(2) Next bring to mind a person from your list for whom you feel love/deep care for and do the same as above with the IN breath & the OUT breath. (Repeat at least three times)
*(3) Next bring to mind a person from your list for whom you feel love and do the same with the IN breath & the OUT breath. (Repeat at least three times)
*(4) Next bring to mind a person from your list for whom you feel neutral and do the same with the IN breath & the OUT breath. (Repeat at least three times)
*(5) Next bring to mind a person from your list for whom your feelings are not so positive and do the same with the IN breath & the OUT breath. (Repeat at least three times)
Now return first to yourself the first focus and follow on with each of the other people and repeat:
*May I Patrick (for example) be free from all suffering, *May I (Your name) be free from the source of all suffering.
*May I (Your name) know happiness. *May I (Your name) know the source of all happiness,
and so on with each person from your list.
To conclude say:
‘May all beings everyplace be free from suffering. May all beings everyplace be free from the source of all suffering. May all beings everyplace know happiness. May all beings everyplace know the source of all happiness.
Naturally, the questions come to mind, what is the source of all suffering and what is the source of all happiness?
The shortest answer I can give you is ‘attachment’. Attachment to all some or one of this list possessions, achievements, reputation including our past life and anticipated future life. More specifically it is not the items on the list here themselves that cause suffering but our thinking about them. So, the happiness I guess is non-attachment. There are books and books written on the subject I have read a few and this is the best short summary I can create for you.
Loving Kindness – growing it within.
For this meditation exercise recall a hugely positive event in your life when you were filled with awe, love, compassion, affection or joy. Explore the event and enhance it using your five senses. Increase any pleasant scents, tastes, sights, sounds or feelings associated with that time/event. Then let go of the five sensory explorations and just hold the positive emotion that has been created within you most probably in your heart area. As you inhale imagine that emotion like a spark an ember glowing more brightly and as you breathe out feel or imagine each cell and atom of you being immersed & bathed in loving-kindness compassion type energy. Continue for five minutes initially. You can prolong the experience with practice.
Loving Kindness on the Spot Meditation.
You might choose to do this practice each time you become aware of or come across the suffering, distress, pain, fear of another person, group of people, the suffering of a place, an animal or a whole bunch of people or animals.
Go inside and find a bodhicitta moment (a moment of absolute stillness) where even for a second there is silence stillness in the mind. Inhale the distress of the person, place, or animal that is experiencing suffering, inhale with a compassionate heart & the intention of lessening their suffering and exhale to the recipient Compassion/Loving Kindness or whatever seems to be an appropriate ‘antidote’ for the situation. Continue this for perhaps five rounds. End by saying: ‘May this person X be free from all suffering, may X be free from the source of all suffering. ‘May X know happiness; May X know the source of all happiness. Use their suffering to deepen your own ability to be compassionate to self and others.
Loving Kindness for when you are suffering.
If you are in pain or distress, toothache or anxiety, name the state for example toothache or anxiety over my exam. Acknowledge it, accept it as a fact and then choose to use it as the basis for an act of compassion. Use the suffering to deepen your own ability to be compassionate to self and others.
Sit quietly in a place where you will not be disturbed for a few moments. The session might go like this … “Here I am with this rotten toothache, I acknowledge there are many all over the earth with toothaches at this time as an act of ‘loving kindness’ an act of ‘compassion’ I choose to lessen their pain by breathing in the pain and suffering from all of those people, I have no desire to increase my own suffering, but as I already am suffering I choose this opportunity to bring compassion to others who are suffering. I breathe their pain and suffering into that place in me where I ordinarily feel compassion. In that place it can be transmuted into a gentle pain free loving energy which I breathe back to all those who are suffering from toothache” Take your focus away from your own suffering (the toothache) to the others who are suffering. You can easily feel compassion for them because you know what it feels like, your heart your sympathy and compassion will like as not naturally go out to them.
At the end say: ‘May all beings everyplace be free from suffering; may all beings be free from the source of all suffering. May all beings everyplace know happiness, may all beings know the source of happiness.’
This is one of the most useful and transformative practices I have ever learned. I can not say enough about how this meditative practice will bring tolerance, acceptance, kindness and of course compassion to your life.
Pema Chödrön is a Tibetan Buddhist nun based in Nova Scotia, Canada. She is the principal teacher at Gampo Abbey.
A most wonderful inspiring gentle humble teacher of Tonglen. She can be found on YouTube and has published many books which are readily available from the usual sources and are also available on Audible.com
Coolbagh, Clashmore, Co. Waterford, P36 VK31 Ireland