In our previous post, which was about the Harvard Grant Study, we mentioned that altruism was one of a handful of characteristics associated with good a successful life. We didn’t do much with the topic until Debbie wrote a post on her own experience with altruism, which came to the front and grew while taking care of her mother, who has Alzheimer’s disease.
Looking back at the book written by George Vaillant on the Harvard Grant Study, we saw that he also had elaborated very little on altruism. He had a few comments on it, but nothing like the space given to other resilience-promoting characteristics.
Both of us thought of giving an account of “Loving Kindness” practice, since a major goal of that kind of meditation is to induce people to love themselves and also to love others. There is reason to see Loving Kindness Meditation as a way to increase your altruism. This suggests that it might be a manifestation of altruism that has been evaluated with fairly well-controlled research.
What You Can Gain by Practicing Loving Kindness
Here is a short list of examples of benefits of training in Loving Kindness:
1. Reduction of chronic low back pain and accompanying irritability.
2. Lengthening of telomeres, which indicates less biological aging.
3. Reduction of self-criticism.
4. More positive feelings and fewer negative ones
5. Greater improvements than training to be more compassionate.
6. Increases in social connectedness.
7. Relief from symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
How To Do Loving Kindness Meditation
We did a search on Google Scholar and found that there have been many studies on loving kindness, and there was a consistent pattern of Loving Kindness Meditation leading to good results, often better than alternatives.
Our search showed that there are many variations on how to practice this kind of meditation. This suggests that you can be somewhat flexible in the small details of how you choose to do it.
Begin by scanning your body and letting go of any tension you experience. Continuing to breathe in and out and use either one of these traditional phrases or ones you choose yourself. Say or think them several times.
May I be free from inner and outer harm and danger. May I be safe and protected.
May I be free of mental suffering.
May I be happy.
May I be healthy and strong.
May I be able to live in this world happily, peacefully, joyfully, with ease.
Now pick someone who you find easy to apply these phrases to and repeat the exercise.
Next apply them to a neutral person, someone you neither like nor dislike, and then move on to someone you don’t particularly like and have hostile feelings toward.
Take your time do not try to rush your mind and heart.