Compassion is the virtue of empathy for the suffering of others. It is regarded as a fundamental part of human love, and a cornerstone of greater social interconnection and humanism. The cultivation of loving-kindness is a popular form of meditation in Buddhism. Loving-kindness and compassion are closely linked to Buddhist notion that all living beings are inextricably connected (Compassion 2009).
Loving-kindness meditation (LKM)is a quiet, contemplative, mind-training practice used to cultivate positive emotions, such as friendliness, warmth, caring, joy, equanimity, and compassion. This practice begins with the meditator cultivating loving-kindness towards themselves, then their loved ones, friends, teachers, strangers, enemies, and finally towards all sentient beings. Through this practice, feelings of anger, resentment, and anxiety can be released.
This practice, in which one directs compassion and wishes for well-being toward real or imagined others, is designed to create changes in emotion, motivation, and behavior in order to promote positive feelings and kindness toward the self and others.
“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”(Dalai Lama).
Randomized clinical research has demonstrated that the practice of LKM has significant beneficial effects, such as decreased chronic low back pain, reduced psychological distress, reduced anger, and increased social connectedness. There is also evidence that through the cultivation of positive emotions with LKM practice, individuals experience decreased illness symptoms as well as an increase in a broader range of personal resources such as social support, purpose in life, and increased mindfulness, which predicted greater life satisfaction and reduced symptoms of depression (LKM social; 2008).