Loving Kindness Meditation
(Four Immeasurable Minds)
The Four Immeasurable Minds (a.k.a Four Unlimited Minds, or Four Brahmaviharas (brahma = divine, vihara = abode)) are the four aspects of true love: Loving-kindness, Compassion, Joy, and Equanimity.
1. Loving Kindness is the intention and capacity to offer joy and happiness to yourself and others. The intention is that the person be happy, peaceful, content, light in body and spirit, safe and free from injury, feel loved, and feel connected. Having the capacity means you understand someone and have the skill to actually bring them joy and happiness. Loving-kindness is not attachment. Attachment is a way of using someone else to manage our own emotions. Attachment causes us to try to control others so that we or they will never feel suffering. True loving-kindness does not try to control.
2. Compassion is the intention and capacity to relieve and transform suffering and lighten sorrows. The intention is to bring freedom from all forms of suffering – freedom from anger, fear, despair, hatred, confusion, worry, anxiety, and all unwholesome mental formations. Compassion is not pity. Pity involves a feeling of superiority to others. The reality is that we are deeply connected with others and compassion involves an understanding of that.
3. Joy is well-being, gratitude, peace, and contentment in the mind in the here and now. In regards to others, it is the intention and capacity to rejoice when others are happy. Joy is not comparison. When we compare, it can easily lead to a superiority complex("I am better because I have more") or inferiority complex("I am worse because I have less").
4. Equanimity is non-attachment, non-discrimination, non-judgment, letting go, loving all equally, accepting ourselves as we are without conditions, giving ourselves and others space to make mistakes, to experiment, to be ourselves, to be happy, to be sad, or to experience whatever it is that we are experiencing. It is neither cold nor indifferent. Nor does it mean that we do not see differences between things. We still see and understand that everyone has different skills and capacities, and yet we accept others as they are.
The meditation on the Four Immeasurable Minds can be practiced during sitting meditation and is intended to cultivate these states of mind in ourselves.
This meditation is especially useful when you are feeling down. Practice it once in the morning and once at night and in a week or two you will feel much happier.
For more detail on the Four Immeasurable Minds, see Thich Nhat Hanh’s book - “Teachings On Love”.