In the centuries after the Historical Buddha, his followers developed a way to cultivate love step by step, until it includes all beings…
It uses different categories of people:
our most loved ones
those we have had some difficulty with
and all beings.
The general idea is that we begin with those it is easiest to feel love for, and go from there, patiently, and gradually.
Metta Bhavana – Loving Kindness Meditation
To begin with, I sit upright, and relax. I close my eyes and allow myself to settle, becoming more calm, relaxed and harmonious.
I let go of thoughts, feelings, and sensations.
I observe how the breath is flowing in smoothly, and flowing out easily; free and harmonious.
Now I see a wonderful sun over my head, shining with warm, golden light.
This bright light of loving-kindness is streaming throughout my entire being. I can feel it; I feel well, and I am happy.
I. First person: Now I imagine one person who I love the most.
I see the warm, golden light of loving-kindness streaming to that person.
This wonderful bright light is flowing through this person. This beloved person is surrounded by this light of higher love and kindness.
I can see the smile on their face. This beloved person feels well, and is very happy.
II. Second person: Next, I imagine one person who I like and respect.
… (as above)
III. Third person: Next I can see one person toward whom I have a neutral relationship. … (as above)
IV. Fourth person: The last person I think of is one whom I have had difficulties, or someone who I dislike. … (as above)
Now I see all four persons together, with the sun above them, and I see them all receiving the same amount of this warm golden light of loving-kindness.
They all feel well; they are all smiling, and they are all shining, and happy.
Then I let them go in peace and happiness.
Now, once more I see the warm sun above my head, and once again I am filled with feelings of happiness and well-being.
If necessary, at this point, I practice equanimity meditation:
Now, I allow myself to feel calm, and peaceful.
To conclude, I take a deep breath, and exhale slowly. I come back to the here and the now, and slowly open my eyes.
May all beings be happy.