Loving-kindness Meditation with Elizabeth Hamilton

The four lines of this meditation outline the interweaving trajectory of a spiritual life: inviting loving-kindness to awaken, attending to whatever blocks it, opening to the fullness of the moment, and extending the wish for loving-kindness to pervade all existence.

Where the word loving-kindness is used, feel free to substitute compassion, empathic goodwill, or a similar word that resonates for you.

Let the body settle. Close your eyes, as attention turns to the sensation of breathing, especially in the palpitating chest center. Placing several fingertips there helps to attune awareness.

On an inhalation, picture or sense someone you care for, even a pet, just to get the juices of goodwill flowing. Breathe their image into the center of your chest, and on the out-breath silently say, “May loving-kindness awaken,” extending your wish for their well-being. Now envision yourself, on successive in-breaths, with awareness still centered in the chest, and silently say the following lines on the exhalations:

  • May loving-kindness awaken.
  • May whatever clouds loving-kindness be attended and healed.
  • May this moment be experienced, just as it is.
  • May loving-kindness extend to all.

Repeat these four lines several times. Then think of someone else you care for, and sense their image. Repeat the process with them in mind. On the fourth line, awareness can include those in the immediate vicinity.

Next, choose another person and follow the same procedure. Sometimes for other people, the first two lines are sufficient.

Finish by reflecting on all beings, repeating the lines, in dedication to this expanded sense of life.

This version of the loving-kindness meditation fosters multisensory awareness: sensing the pulsating touchpoint of the chest center, visualizing the person to whom the meditation is addressed, and experiencing the sentience to which each line points. The hub of awareness, chest-centered breathing, brings gentle attention to an area where separating emotions like anger and fear often reverberate—as do connecting qualities, like empathy and gratitude. They can be explored firsthand through this meditation.