I truly believe that unconditional love is the magical key to unlock unlimited goodness: freedom, happiness, peace, togetherness… And that love must start within ourselves.
Once we are able to truly love and accept ourselves just as we are, we can then spread that love out into the world around us.
In the eighth chapter of Thich Nhat Hanh’s Making Space, he speaks of metta meditation– metta meaning loving kindness. Metta meditation is a way to deepen our self-understanding; to observe the happiness and goodness within ourselves just as well as the anxiety and negativity. It allows us to see the valuable nature of the former and the destructive nature of the latter. It allows us to gain a clear understanding for our own thoughts and feelings, and cultivate a love for ourselves first, followed by a love for others.
To do this, Nhat Hanh tells us to sit still, calm the body and the breath, and recite the following meditation:
May I be peaceful, happy, and light in body and spirit.
May I be safe and free from injury.
May I be free from anger, afflictions, fear, and anxiety.
In the beginning, we’re to say “may I be.” As our practice matures and we become able to love and care for ourselves, we can replace the I with he, she, or they. “First on someone you like,” suggests Nhat Hanh, “then on someone neutral to you, then on someone you love, and finally on someone the mere thought of whom makes you suffer.”
One of my personal goals for this year has been to practice unconditional love, so this chapter really spoke to me. I plan to practice the above meditation every day – multiple times a day, if I feel so inclined. Soon enough, I have a feeling the words will come to me like second nature, and I’ll be filled with more peace, happiness, and light than I can even imagine.
+ What do you do to cultivate love for yourself and others?
This post is part of our Book Club series, featuring Making Space: Creating A Home Meditation Practice by Thich Nhat Hanh.