Buddhist psychologist Lorne Ladner leads a meditation on giving and receiving love, a loving-kindness meditation with themes of connection, gratitude, and warmth.
[00:00:00] Lorne Ladner: Let us start by getting comfortable, to bring ourselves into the present moment, and to help us ease any extraneous, discursive thoughts.
Just for a moment we’ll focus on our breath. As you breathe in, be aware of the present moment, the sensation of breathing in.
As you breath out, be aware of the present moment, the sensation of breathing out.
And while we’re noticing the breath, notice it in your body as well. Notice the movement of your rib cage as you breathe and the subtler movement of your abdomen.
Thinking of someone who loved you
Now, we’re going to shift our attention and I’ll ask you to bring to mind one person from your childhood or early years who was kind to you, who loved you.
It could be a relative, family friend, teacher, or coach, but just think of one person who you felt at some point loved by.
Now think of that person and what their facial expression was like when they were feeling that towards you and how they looked at you. In your mind’s eye see the look in their eyes, the look on their face.
See what their body was like, what their posture was, their gestures.
And take a moment to empathically resonate with what they were feeling.
You can also think of their behaviors, what they were actually doing. But the key here is to focus on the feeling, how they were feeling towards you.
And just for a few more moments, open your heart to take that feeling in. So as you’re thinking of their facial expression, the look in their eyes, their body posture, their tone of voice, their behaviors towards you, when they were feeling love for you, let your own body resonate to that and feel it in your own body.
Then take a moment to notice what are those feelings–when they were feeling their love for you–feelings of concern, joy, warmth, affection, or whatever other feelings that were connected to that.
Still thinking of that, shift a little bit your focus, so you’re still imagining them there–or remembering the look in their eyes, their behavior, their emotions of love–but then also focus on what you feel as you remember that.
You may notice feelings of safety, feelings of warmth, feelings of being loved, feelings of gratitude, appreciation, or your own warmth.
Let that resonate in your body–whatever feelings connected to that loving connection–let them resonate in your mind and your body. Because as our mind focuses on receiving love it’s the nature of our human body–mammalian bodies–that we resonate to that. So let your body do that.
Maybe you can have feelings of fullness, warmth, safety, or contentment.
Thinking of many people who have loved you
And then the next step in this contemplative meditation, you want to stay with those kinds of feelings, but expand them to other people. So just let yourself bring to mind a few other examples–or as many as you feel like–of other people who’ve loved you, who have appreciated you, who have cherished you.
And again, just for a few moments, bring to mind their body posture, their facial expressions, the looks in their eyes, and how they were feeling. Let yourself empathize with how they were feeling: cherishing you, feeling warmly towards you, feeling concerned for you.
And don’t push yourself. If it’s just one or two people you bring to mind for now, that’s fine. Or if you want to even include those who felt that just for moments for you, then there are probably many people who had moments of feeling warmth, concern, kindness, cherishing, or appreciation towards you.
And if you have a resistance to that, notice that too, that it’s hard to take it in and that’s okay.
Be gentle with your own resistance, just notice it. Is it easy for me to take in that people have loved and cherished me or do I have blocks to feeling too vulnerable?
And just notice, that’s okay.
This is awareness.
And even if I feel some hesitance still, I know on some level that those people felt warmly towards me or cherished me, appreciated me. It’s still true.
I can be gentle with myself. If I have awkwardness around vulnerability, I can be gentle with that as well.
Just for another moment, to the extent that you’re willing and open, let yourself take in various people who have appreciated you, have cherished you, or have felt love or compassion for you.
Let that resonate in your body and in your mind. And again, notice from your own side, how that may be connected to feelings of warmth or safety.
Again, if it’s also connected to some feelings of hesitance around vulnerability, just notice that also and be very gentle and accepting that that’s part of your experience.
Just let yourself be filled up to the extent that you can with all those feelings and images.
Looking at one person with love
Just experiment with letting these feelings overflow. Let’s start gently, so now think of one person in your present life. I’m going to ask you to just imagine looking at them now with love. Feel love in your heart for them, for one person.
It could even be a pet, it doesn’t matter, an animal or a person, whatever’s easiest for you. Start out easy, then imagine looking at them in your heart and feeling love for them, cherishing them, and caring for them.
Think of them receiving that, seeing it in your eyes. So what you received now you imagine them receiving that. They’re feeling safe. They’re feeling cherished. They’re feeling warmth as you’re giving that from your body, from your mind, in your facial expression, in your gesture.
And notice how it feels for you. If you imagine they are actually feeling that, receiving it, how would it feel for them? How does it feel for you?
Just expand that a little more. If you could actually give them a sense of safety, happiness, flourishing, well-being, joy, and goodness they could carry with them all the rest of their days and night, how would that feel? How does that feel?
Something they can carry on forever. That’s giving love.
Notice this sense of interconnectedness.
The love I received and the love I give are not independent. They’re interdependent.
Expanding your love
If you want to stay with just one person that’s okay–or one animal or whatever–but if you want to expand it out, then just play with that for a moment. So imagine that same exercise with others, where you imagine you feel love for them and they feel loved, they feel protected, saved, cared for, or cherished.
And if you expand that out a bit, then notice how that feels. Notice what you feel in your own body and mind as you imagine them receiving feelings of safety, love, well-being, flourishing, or of being cherished. How does that feel?
One more time, just connect back. So whether it be from that one person you started with or the other people you may have thought of, there are so many moments of love, connection, and warmth that we receive.
One last time, let’s play for a moment with expanding, sending that outward.
Imagine that you’re sending that loving energy outward.
Wherever somebody feels unsafe, may they feel safe.
Wherever somebody feels lonely, may they have a friend or loved ones.
In families where people are in conflict, may they let go of conflict and feel loved by each other and safe with each other.
Where people are sick and afraid, may they feel comforted and healed.
Where people are struggling, imagine giving them supportive friends.
Even where people are in conflict with each other, where they feel hatred or anger, may they feel love for each other and for themselves.
Commitment to love
We can conclude this meditation with a commitment to love. I’ve cultivated some love in my own being. I’ve received some love in my life. Whatever others do I can’t control that, but may my commitment be love.
That’s what I’ll strive to bring to the context of my family, neighborhood, workplace, town, state, country, planet, and universe. I have a choice, right? My commitment is that’s what I’ll strive to contribute.
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