After practicing loving-kindness meditations from all around the world, Kevin distills the process of generating love into five straightforward steps.
As we’ll discover later in this issue, Love may be something that goes beyond our human nervous systems. In fact, Love may be woven into the fabric of the Universe itself.
But for our purposes, in this meditation, we’ll be focusing on generating love within our own hearts, in our own nervous systems.
When I talk to meditation students and clients about loving everyone, many say, “Well, I can love my mother and my daughter, but I can’t love this person who wronged me, or that person who disagrees with my political views. I hate those people.”
The truth is, your ability to generate love within your own heart doesn’t depend on anything or anyone outside of yourself.
It may not be easy at first. In fact, you may try and fail many times. But the very act of trying is what makes you stronger.
Your body and mind grow when you try to do things that are a little bit beyond their capacity. When you go to the gym and try to lift a heavy weight, your muscle fibers tear, and then repair themselves in a stronger configuration. When you push your muscles beyond their capabilities, they literally grow and strengthen themselves, in order to adapt to your needs over time.
The same type of process happens when you meditate on generating Love in your heart. When you push your heart, mind, and nervous system beyond their capacity to generate Love, they literally grow and adapt to your needs over time. New neural connections form. This ability for your neurons to adapt and grow is called “neuroplasticity.”
In this way, the meditations in this Love Issue will increase your body-mind’s capacity to generate and experience Love. Every time we try to generate love, every time we practice, we strengthen the neural pathways of love in our bodies, and increase our capacity for love in our hearts and our minds.
So how exactly do we practice generating (and experiencing) love?
Through thousands of years of trial and error, spiritual practitioners around the world have developed methods that help increase our capacity to love.
I’ve practiced love-generating meditations from many different spiritual traditions, and found that there are three fundamental elements that are important in generating love… and that they tend to work best in the following order:
- Generate empathy, by observing suffering in yourself or in another living being
- Generate compassion, by wishing for the suffering to be relieved, and be replaced by peace & happiness
- Generate loving-kindness, by taking action to relieve suffering and promote peace & happiness
In this meditation, we will be practicing these fundamental processes in a simple and straightforward manner:
5-Step Love Generating Meditation
STEP 1: Bring to mind a person for whom it is easy to feel love: a loved one, a child, a parent, a sibling, a friend, or even a pet.
STEP 2: Generate empathy for this person, by imagining some suffering (maybe something that the person is struggling with, or some physical or emotional pain) that this person may be experiencing in her life. Sit with this suffering for a few minutes, and really try to imagine what it may feel like for this person.
STEP 3: Generate compassion for this person, by wishing for the suffering to be replaced by peace and happiness. Sit with this for a few minutes as well, really wishing for this person to be happy and at peace.
STEP 4: Generate love for this person, by sending love from your hearts to hers. Close your eyes and visualize a beam of love and light flowing from your heart to hers, bringing peace, love, and happiness from your heart to hers.
STEP 5: If possible, practice kindness toward this person, by taking action to alleviate her suffering, and to bring some joy and happiness into her life. In some cases this may be as simple as calling the person on the phone and saying “I love you,” or “I’m here for you.” In other cases, it may require more intensive action. In some cases, the best you can do is continue sending love from your heart to hers.
It is easiest to generate love when we hold in mind someone we consider to be a “loved one.” But we can practice generating love for other types of people as well. To really increase your capacity for love, try this meditation with the following types of people (in order of difficulty):
- A loved one
- A random acquaintance that you see every so often and don’t know very well
- Someone who annoys you, angers you, or has harmed you in some way
- Someone you seriously hate
- All conscious beings in the Universe
Good luck, and enjoy the love 💗