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GPSolo eReport

GPSolo eReport October 2023

Loving-Kindness Mindfulness Meditation for the People of the World

Melanie Bragg


  • This mindfulness practice can help you maintain a state of equanimity—even in the face of frightening events—by cultivating feelings of love and compassion toward yourself and others.
  • While being threatened in a road rage incident, the author used this loving-kindness practice to keep her cool in the moment.
  • As you become more peaceful, you make the world a better place.
Loving-Kindness Mindfulness Meditation for the People of the World
Christine Rose Photography via Getty Images

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As we near the holidays and a time of Thanksgiving in our nation and as aware as we all are of the wars and political strife in our world, the need for loving-kindness in the world is paramount. Not only do we have to stay grounded in our personal lives and as lawyers dealing with people’s traumas, but right now, the world needs us to be grounded and strong in helping the world maintain peace.

Sometimes, it comes into focus abruptly. Just yesterday, I was dropping a fellow lawyer off after the Houston Bar Association board meeting, and we were parked in the metered parking lane by her building. A man raced up behind us and began to honk like there was no tomorrow. The light was red, there was no turn because it was a one-way street going the other way, and the next block had the same parking lane and was not passable. When my friend got out, the man was screaming and cussing and making a huge scene. When I pulled out, he raced up beside me and began screaming obscenities and telling me he was going to “*#+ me up!” I knew he could not get out of his car and get me, and his car was too nice to just ram into me, but if you could have seen his angry, red face, you would know he wanted to hurt me physically. Really bad. I got his license number and called 911 to report the maniac cruising the streets of downtown Houston. I thought, what if he had a gun? My life could have ended there. My friend and other witnesses saw it all, and they also called the police.

For me to keep my cool in the moment, I immediately began a loving-kindness practice in the situation. This fellow was really hurting about something that had nothing to do with me or the parking situation. I began to say to myself, “May he be safe, may he be healthy, may he be at peace.” I didn’t want that negative vibe in my body, and I didn’t want fear to overcome me, either. It immediately helped me stay in a state of equanimity, and the event did not ruin the rest of my evening. I kept sending him those loving-kindness affirmations when it came back to mind.

That brief encounter bolstered my idea for this month’s column—if this is how volatile Houston is today, can you imagine what it is like in Ukraine? Or the Middle East? The world is under immense stress, and what we diligent lovers of life and democracy can do not only to make things better for ourselves but for others in general is to incorporate into our mindfulness practices the art of loving-kindness. Loving-kindness meditation, often referred to as “metta” meditation, is a practice that involves cultivating feelings of love and compassion toward oneself and others.

Five Characteristics of a Loving-Kindness Meditation

Here are five key characteristics of a loving-kindness meditation:

  1. It Focuses on Positive Affirmations

    Loving-kindness meditation involves repeating positive affirmations or well-wishing phrases directed toward oneself and others. These phrases typically include statements such as “May I (you) be happy,” “May I (you) be healthy,” and “May I (you) live with ease.” I immediately felt better by focusing my thoughts on the loving-kindness affirmations for that man than I would have if I had ruminated on the fact that he wanted to hurt me bad. That is just so chilling and negative I almost hate to write about it.
  2. It Gradually Expands Its Group of Beneficiaries

    The meditation typically starts with oneself and then gradually extends to loved ones, acquaintances, and even to people you may have conflicts with. This gradual expansion helps in cultivating compassion for a broader range of individuals. That way, we can show ourselves loving-kindness and then begin to add the people of the world. The ripple effect of a multitude of positive thoughts influences the consciousness of the world.
  3. It Is Non-Discriminatory

    Metta meditation promotes unconditional love and compassion, without discrimination based on race, gender, or any other criteria. It’s about wishing well for all beings, regardless of their background. It’s really good to use this technique when you get an email rant from an opposing counsel or when a judge enters an order you know is wrong. Begin a new habit of replacing your angry, disappointed, judgmental, harsh thoughts with loving-kindness, even toward your opponents. It lessens their power over you and helps you form better arguments and assessments. It’s hard to think clearly when you are angry. Not only are you helping them, but you are helping yourself.
  4. It Emphasizes Self-Compassion

    Self-compassion encourages individuals to show kindness and love toward themselves, which can be a powerful way to heal self-criticism and self-doubt
  5. It Cultivates Positive Emotions

    The main goal of loving-kindness meditation is to generate positive emotions such as love, compassion, and empathy. This can lead to increased feelings of connection, empathy, and a sense of well-being.

Remember that loving-kindness meditation is a flexible practice, and the specific phrases or techniques used may vary from one tradition or teacher to another. The core idea is to develop a loving and compassionate mindset.

Loving-Kindness Meditation

Here is a simple loving-kindness meditation to begin your practice of expanding your loving-kindness thoughts out to the world.

Sit comfortably in a quiet place where you can be free from distractions.

Hold your spine neutral and tall.

Let your hands rest comfortably in your lap.

Close your eyes or gaze softly at the earth ahead of you.

Breathe slowly in and out through your nose.

Spend some time with attention on breath.

Without forcing, gently nudge your way into a longer inhale breath and a much longer exhale breath.

Let the breath get quieter as your body softens a bit and your mind, too, gets quieter.

(pause three to five breaths)

And now, at the center of your heart, imagine a source of radiant, soft, warm white light.

The light is alive, vibrating, pulsing.

Feel the light with your body, its warmth, its movement, its energy.

It’s the limitless source of love, positivity, and well-being within you.

And because it is limitless, you can share.

Invite before you someone with whom you’d like to share this light.

Someone you know. Someone you care for. Someone you love.

Sit them directly across from you.

They are sitting just as you are.

Their spine tall and neutral.

Their hands in their lap.

You can see them breathing.

You can sense the rise and fall of their chest.

And now, because you love this person so much, you decide to send them four wishes.

As you send them your light, you say silently to yourself:

May this person have happiness and all the causes of future happiness.

As you send them this wish, you also imagine light traveling across all space and time from your body to theirs—filling them up with light.

(pause two to three breaths)

And then you say to yourself:

May this person be free from their pain and suffering and all the causes of their pain and suffering.

And as you send them this wish, you equally send them more light.

The light now fills their entire torso with well-being.

(pause two to three breaths)

And then you say to yourself:

May this person never be separated from joy. May they always be immersed in joy, never touched by pain.

Again, imagining more light sent over with this wish.

The light has now filled up their arms and their legs.

(pause two to three breaths)

And then you say to yourself:

May this person live always in a state of contentment, free from all their grasping and free from aversion.

And as you send over more light with this wish, it fills up their neck, it fills up their head.

Their entire body is now glowing with light.

(pause two to three breaths)

Because of all the well wishes you sent, your loved one, your friend, is now glowing.

You see them, having received your wishes, and you understand that they are happy, free from pain, joyful and content.

Their light is so bright that it bounces back to you.

Your own light, now, is even brighter.

Rest now in the presence of this light.

And rest in the sensation in your body.

How does it feel to see your friend so happy and so free?

Recognize that it’s by sharing with others that we experience fullness.

Recognize that you are whole, you are perfect, and you have everything that you need.

Send this loving-kindness message to the people involved in politics, wars, and generally those who are suffering both near and far. You will find that you are more peaceful, which makes the world a better place.

Until next time . . . namaste. Please let me know if you have any tips, sources, or experiences with mindfulness you want to share at [email protected].

You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour. —Zen proverb