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Loving Kindness meditation

One of the hardest things about suffering is the feeling that we are trapped in our painful circumstances--lost, hopeless, and alone. We fear our suffering will go on forever, and that there is no way out of it. And when we don't know how to transform or heal our own suffering, we may find it difficult to be with and support others in distress.

Before we can extend compassion toward others, we must first feel love. If we find our own heart is wounded or walled up, the Loving Kindness meditation can help reconnect us to the source of love within. Once this love opens our heart and heals our pain, then we will be able to offer our genuine love and fearless compassion to others.

The actual practice of Loving Kindness

Sit quietly, and allow all the scattered aspects of your mind and energies to settle down. Acknowledge and embrace gently any suffering or struggle you become aware of. Now, remember a person from your life who once loved you very much. Imagine this person sitting in front of you at this very moment, extending his or her love to you once again. It's all right if you can recall only one happy memory with the person--make that memory of love your entire experience, and bathe in its healing warmth.

Feel the other person's love coming toward you like warm rays of sunlight, permeating your entire being, and especially filling and warming your heart. If there is an old barrier around your heart, see it not as a massive or impenetrable wall, but as fragile as a thin layer of ice. Let the love flowing toward you melt the ice of your old hurt or fear, warming and nourishing your heart.

As this healing love comes into you, you feel your heart overflowing with love and gratitude. You feel peaceful, whole, and replenished with love. Naturally, your love and gratitude goes out now to the person who evoked it, wholly and unconditionally.

Expand your love

Once this giving and receiving of love is flowing strongly, expand the direction of your love another degree. Imagine that on either side of this person in front of you are other people in your life whom you love and cherish, and extend the same love to them, fully and joyfully. Then consider that on either side of this central person are also people you don't know very well: co-workers, shopkeepers, neighbors, even strangers you pass on the street.

Extend the same love to them, fully and wholeheartedly. Expanding your love further, consider that on either side of the central person loving you are those who irritate you, those you've been angry with, or who seem to be your enemies. Extend the same love to them, fully and unconditionally, loving and accepting them exactly as they are.

Finally, expand your love to embrace all beings. Consider now that the whole space in front of you is filled with beings throughout the universe, all forms of conscious life, including the tiniest insects, and even those who have died. Now your love is boundless and unbiased, and it shines powerfully onto each and every one, extending happiness to all existence.

Maintaining the inspiration

As you conclude the practice, don't shake off the inspiration, awareness or limitless love it has aroused. Instead, as much as you can, continue practicing the essence of this meditation throughout your day, extending unconditional love toward yourself and everyone you meet.

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