There’s a lot going on in the world right now.
From natural disasters to political tussles, and acts of violence it seems like there’s a new headline almost every day. And it’s not good.
But if you look a little harder, you’ll see something else. People donating their time, money, and resources to charities and rebuilding efforts for causes of all kinds. People giving up what they have for others simply out of the goodness of their hearts. A change of heart that gives someone else equality when there was none. And people rising above their challenges to find peace.
This is the light of humanity and it’s a light which can’t be put out. It’s a light, which, whether fortunately or unfortunately, shines brightest when it becomes dark. This is a light you hold within you and it can’t ever be broken. No matter how dark things may seem, and no matter what is going on within or around you, you have the ability to light up your corner of the world and transform it from the inside out with the power of loving-kindness.
When the World Seems So Dark: How to Find Strength Through Loving-Kindness
Love creates a communion with life. Love expands us, connects us, sweetens us, ennobles us.
Love springs up in tender concern, it blossoms into caring action. It makes beauty out of all we touch. In any moment we can step beyond our small self and embrace each other as beloved parts of a whole.
– Jack Kornfield
Whether you’re struggling with anxiety or depression, recently lost someone or something close to you, struggle with past trauma, or are simply dealing with the challenges of everyday life, love is a light within us which can heal wounds, calm anger, and cleanse the spirit. And loving-kindness is this energy of love in action when we express kindness and caring towards ourselves or another.
But how do we cultivate loving-kindness? It’s easy to talk about but just remembering to be more caring doesn’t really work out in practice. There are many ways to cultivate loving-kindness, but the simplest and easiest to practice is the traditional Buddhist practice of loving-kindness meditation (or LKM for short).
Loving-kindness meditation, also sometimes referred to as meditating on compassion or love, is a type of meditation that involves cultivating love and compassion for all beings, including yourself.
LKM is a formal meditation practice, but I’ve adapted a simpler version of the practice you can use on the fly as you encounter various challenges throughout your daily life.
How to practice loving-kindness meditation (3-minute practice)
Before beginning the practice, take a moment to turn your attention to your breath. The breath is powerful because it has a real effect on our state of mind, short and shallow breathing making us feel more panicked while slower and deeper breathing calms and relaxes.
Once you’ve done that for a few moments (even ten to twenty seconds is enough), follow these simple instructions to practice this simple “everyday” version of loving-kindness meditation:
- Generate love (one minute): Imagine someone close to you such as a friend or family member that you love deeply (respect is even more powerful). Keep an image of the person in your mind and send them feelings of love and compassion for one minute. Imagine those feelings of love growing.
- Send that love to yourself (one minute): Imagine sending those feelings of love and compassion for the person to yourself for one minute while repeating the mantra (or something like it) “Be kind. Be compassionate. Be loving.”
- Send this love to another (one minute): Lastly, send these feelings of love from yourself to someone you’re experiencing challenges with. Only do this last step if your challenge currently involves another person. If it’s an internal challenge within yourself you can stop at step two.
Each section is made purposely short and simple so that you can practice as you go about your day, but you can lengthen it if you’d like to practice longer in a more formal setting.
This simple everyday loving-kindness practice is great for dealing with personal challenges, difficulties with others, and problems that arise simply as a part of living your everyday life. Take a few minutes each day to generate love for yourself and others and experience the power within you to bring light where it once was dark.