Heartfulness: Practicing Loving-Kindness meditation
By Danika Swanson
Our first two Mindfulness columns focused on mindful bodies, mindful breathing and mindful listening. In this third column, we will explore Heartfulness, a mindfulness
practice that involves sending kind thoughts to others.
Heartfulness, is based on Loving-Kindness Meditation. While it has its roots in Buddhist tradition, there is a lot of research that shows that this practice can increase well-being and positive emotions, cultivate compassion and empathy for ourselves and others, and help us feel more connected to the people around us – both loved ones and strangers. Something we could all use more of, now and always. In addition, research suggests that when people practice regularly, they start automatically reacting more positively to others, enhancing the quality of their social interactions and relationships.
Traditionally, the Loving-Kindness practice involves a simple repetition of three or four phrases wishing for someone to be happy, healthy and strong, and filled with ease/peace/joy. During these times, a wish for safety could be added as well. While the full practice includes directing these wishes to a series of different people starting with yourself and then expanding your circle outwards (to a loved one, then to someone you feel neutral about, then towards someone you might be having difficulty with, and finally to all beings everywhere), here we are going to keep it simple and focus on sending kind thoughts to someone we love.
You can use whichever words and phrasing feel most comfortable or natural for you, for example, “May you be…” “I hope you will be…” “I wish for you to be…” Note, if you say these slowly and include a mindful breath, it takes about 20 seconds, presenting a nice alternative to singing “Happy Birthday” while washing your hands and an easy way to integrate practice into your daily life!
Get into your mindful body. Place your hand(s) on your chest, your heart centre.
Close your eyes (or keep your gaze soft) and bring to mind someone you see regularly who makes you happy when you see them. It can be someone you live with, someone at school, a teacher or maybe even a pet!
Let your heart fill with kindness and repeat the following phrases, either out loud or silently in your mind.
May you be healthy and strong.
May you be happy.
May you be safe and sound.
May you be peaceful.
Take a few moments and let those kind thoughts flow from your heart to theirs.
When you’re ready, open your eyes and notice how it felt to send kind thoughts to that person.
Here are some resources to check out:
Sending Kind Thoughts | Loving-Kindness Meditation, from Greater Good Science Center: (1:46) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ccvFBGhBKg4.
GoZen! Loving Kindness Meditation:
Mindfulness Class for Kids! Ep. 5 by Mindful Schools, Sending Kind Thoughts (15:13) https://vimeo.com/402229991.
Danika Swanson is the consultant for the Spiritual and Community Animation Service at the English Montreal School Board and was trained by Mindful Schools to teach mindfulness to students from K-12.