9613471581_f75214eeb4_zOf all the mindfulness practices I have taught to children (and adults!), the Loving-Kindness Meditation is by far my favorite. The words are precise, like poetry, and their positive meaning is undeniably powerful. In fact, I use a variation of the Loving-Kindness Meditation as a closing blessing for every one of my classes.

The proof of the Loving-Kindness practice isn’t just anecdotal. The effects of this meditation have been studied scientifically, as well. A Stanford University study found that after just a few minutes of Loving-Kindness Meditation, feelings of social connection and positivity toward strangers increased. A Duke University Medical Center study used the Loving-Kindness Meditation with chronic low back pain patients and found significant improvements in pain and psychological distress, lasting even after the study had ended. If the patient practiced their Loving-Kindness Meditation one day, they felt less pain and anger into the next day. Barbara Fredrickson  found that Loving-Kindness practice increased daily experiences of positive emotions, increased mindfulness, a sense of life purpose and social connections, while symptoms of illness were decreased. What an amazing gift to share with the children in your life – a simple path to inner peace and connectedness with the world in just a few minutes a day!

Part of the meditation’s power lies in its personal nature. You start by sending yourself a wish for your own well-being:
“May I be happy. May I dwell in my heart. May I be free from suffering. May I be at peace.”
Repeat these sentences several time (either silently or whispering to yourself), your inner voice speaking to yourself as if speaking to a beloved child. Send yourself feelings of loving-kindness. What does loving-kindness look like? What does it feel like? Opening your heart to yourself, you begin to recognize the positive energy you create within and around yourself. When your heart is full, when you are at peace, you will be able to send those same feelings out into the world.16679757344_e102887bfa_z

Next, you send feelings of loving-kindness to someone you love. Let the image of this cherished person fill your mind, or imagine your special person is sitting right next to you. Smile with your eyes and send loving-kindness to them:
“May you be happy. May you dwell in your heart. May you be free from suffering. May you be at peace.”
Repeat the words to yourself several times. Just as you want joy and love, so do other people. So, with each repetition, open your heart to share your loving-kindness.

Now invite someone else to share this peaceful feeling. This time, imagine a person who doesn’t seem happy: a classmate, a bus driver, an aunt. It could be a stranger you passed at the store or someone you saw on the news. You can just picture them in your mind or invite them to sit beside you, too.
“May you be happy. May you dwell in your heart. May you be free from suffering. May you be at peace.”13093869055_66e534fccc_z
Again, repeat the words, sending your heart’s loving-kindness to this person in need.

Finally, begin to spread the idea of loving-kindness to the entire room. Fill the space with your heart’s energy. Then allow it to spread past the walls, filling your neighborhood, your town, state, country…fill the entire world with the loving-kindness that fills your heart.
“May all beings be happy. May all beings dwell in their hearts. May all beings be free from suffering. May all beings be at peace.”
Repeat the Loving-Kindness Meditation a few times. Notice that as you spread your heart’s loving-kindness to the world, you feel your heart continue to be full. It’s like a candle’s light – the flame isn’t lessened by lighting other candles.

To read more about starting a Loving-Kindness Meditation practice, I recommend the following resources:
10% Happier – Dan Harris
Real Happiness and Lovingkindness– Sharon Salzberg
Just Say Om – Soren Gordhamer

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