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Empathy and Loving-kindness: What Can It Do For You?

Health & Wellness

Empathy and Loving kindness: What Can It Do For You? image Buddha 300x199Today I want to write about something I came across when learning to practice mindfulness which I thought was extremely strange and funny at the same time. I am sure that many of you will smile when you read this as you might have experienced the same.

I actually want to talk about the “loving-kindness meditation”[1] and how it can impact us. The loving-kindness practice is actually an old Buddhist practice called “Metta Bhavana”[2] which exists since over 2500 years.

It is fairly easy to do as you simply need to direct ‘loving-kindness’ to yourself wishing you happiness, fulfillment, peace (as if you would give yourself a big hug) and then let the feeling envelope you in order to be subsequently able to wish the same to a good friend or dear person, then to a neutral person and finally to a difficult one, eventually opening up to all human beings. Really quite simple in theory but when I first had to do this, I actually found it quite ok to send these wishes to myself and my loved ones but neutral people and then people with whom I had difficult relationships proved to be really a challenge and even somewhat awkward. Funnily, afterwards, every time I saw the ‘neutral person’ or ‘difficult person’ again, I was kind of expecting something extraordinary to take place which of course never really happened… well, over time, as everything, it becomes easier with training and I actually found myself really wishing people happiness and even developing empathy towards persons I did not particularly like. Suddenly, I saw no apparent reason to dislike them anymore, which I thought was rather strange but actually a relief as it did not bother me any longer and I could focus my attention on something else.[3]

Empathy as we know is one major ingredient of building a trustful relationship with somebody else, be it at work or in private life. As soon as we are interested in another person’s life and issues, listening with attention and providing feedback will establish a solid foundation for any further interactions.  Being a coach and a leader this truly is essential as without it, the basis of a relationship would be missing, hence the trust.

In summary, for me personally, the loving-kindness meditation is an excellent tool for training patience, receptivity, and appreciation/empathy. It helps me stay open-minded and non-judging, thus facilitates my work in a multicultural and fast paced environment.

You might want to try it out for yourself:

“May I be well”

“May I be happy”

“May I be free from suffering”[4]


[1] See for example this site for a good explanation of what this meditation is all about : http://www.jackkornfield.com/2011/02/meditation-on-lovingkindness/

[2] See ‘Metta’ on Wikipedia : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mett%C4%81

[3] See also Charles A Francis’ site who has developed a variation of the loving-kindness meditation called ‘writing meditation’: http://www.mindfulnessmeditationinstitute.org/what-is-writing-meditation/

[4] Search Inside Yourself, Chade-Meng Tan, p.172.

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