My experience has been that although mindfulness meditation helps me to feel more joyful, an equivalent amount of lovingkindness meditation has an even greater effect on my sense of well-being.
Imbuing the mind with kindness insulates us from negativity, so that unskillful thoughts and emotions can’t easily take hold. It improves our emotional resiliency, so that challenging circumstances are less likely to drag us down. And it also helps us to feel greater contentment and happiness.
It’s not just formal sitting meditation practice that has this effect, though. Many other activities in daily life can become opportunities to cultivate metta. Here are a few suggestions to help you increase the amount of kindness in your life.
1. Mirror Meditation
As you’re looking in the mirror in the morning—while shaving or putting on makeup or fixing your hair—wish yourself well. Look at the face you see before you, and recognize that here is a being who wants to be happy, and who often finds happiness elusive. Repeat the metta phrases of your choice. Something like, “May I be well. May I be happy. May I find peace.”
2. Eating and Drinking
Practice gratitude. As you’re eating or drinking, recall that other beings made it possible for you to do this. The coffee you’re drinking or the cereal you’re eating have been grown, harvested, transported, and processed by many, many thousands of beings. The machinery used to do that growing, harvesting, transporting, and processing also involved many tens of thousands of beings. When you start to consider things like the clothing, the road systems, the housing, the electricity, etc., needed for those people, then you realize that you’re literally being served your breakfast by millions of people. So say “thank you,” and wish those beings well.
3. Driving or Walking
Whether you’re driving, walking, or taking public transport, any traveling you do is an ideal opportunity to wish others well. You can simply repeat “May all beings be well” as you see travelers and pedestrians passing by. But you could try giving up your seat on the bus, or letting someone merge into traffic, and notice how that makes you feel.
Remember that every being you meet at work wants to be happy, but generally isn’t very skilled at finding happiness. This being human is a difficult thing. See if you can at least not make it harder for others to be happy, and perhaps make it just a little easier. Try telling yourself, “This person is doing the best they can with the resources available to them,” and notice how it changes your feelings about them.
While cruising the aisles of your local supermarket, send salvos of metta towards other shoppers. When you’re in the line for the checkout, keep up a constant stream of well-wishing: “May you be well. May you be happy. May you be kind to yourself and others.”
6. Watching the News
There are people on the news who are suffering, and they’re the obvious recipients of your lovingkindness. The same applies for those who have done positive things. But there will also be people you might normally feel angered by—politicians from rival parties, criminals, people waging war—and it’s important to wish that they become kinder. Our harboring ill will toward them doesn’t affect their lives at all, but diminishes our own sense of wellbeing.
7. Hitting the Hay
Traditionally, the practice of lovingkindness is said to help promote good sleep and prevent insomnia. Lying in bed is a lovely time to wish yourself and others well. Wish yourself well, with particular focus on anything you have to rejoice about that day. Then wish yourself well with a focus on anything painful and unresolved from your day. Send lovingkindness to any feelings that come up. And wish others well. You can send kind and loving thoughts to family, to friends, and to people you’ve encountered during the day.
Slipping these extra minutes of lovingkindness practice into your daily life will bring you closer to an emotional tipping point where you feel unusual amounts of joy and wellbeing.