Loving-Kindness for the Difficult People in Your Life

With loving-kindness meditation, we can learn to respond with love (rather than react in frustration) to those who stress us out or anger us.

So, last time we worked on sending love to our loved ones through our breath. This week we’re going to do a loving-kindness practice for the challenging people in our lives.

Managing how we deal with the people who stress us out or make us angry is no easy task. But as we’ve learned, it’s possible to use the breath as a tool. We can also depend on loving-kindness practice to serve as a kind of release for that stress and anger, too. These approaches can help us respondto people instead of reactto them. And when we’re responding versus reacting, we have a lot more choices at our disposal. 

Loving-Kindness Meditation for the Difficult People in Your Life

Watch the video:

Listen to the practice:

Loving-Kindness for the Difficult People in Your Life

  • 7:24

Read the practice:

1. Get into a comfortable upright position with our back, head and neck aligned and our feet grounded. And if it feels right, feel free to close your eyes. 

2. Begin to breathe in and out through your nose. Let’s inhale long, slow and deep through the nose, filling our stomachs with air. And then exhale, pushing all that air out. Squeeze your stomach in as you do. Expanding the belly now, inhale deep again. And then exhale, pushing all that air out.

3. Now settle into your own nice, natural breathing pace. No effort needed here. Just make sure you’re breathing in and out through your nose. We’re going to engage our imaginations again.

4. Bring to mind some people who stress you out or make you angry. It could be family members, friends, co-workers or clients, people in your community, people in politics, people you just meet on the street. Whoever it is, whoever stresses you out, we’re going to be the bigger person and send those people love. 

5. Simply focus on using your breath to send love to these challenging people in your life. These people may trigger our anger or cause us stress, but we don’t have to allow that to overtake us. We’re not “fixing” this problem. We’re just sending these people we’ve identified some love with the breath. 

6. With every breath, send your people some love. We all know that what we put out there comes back to us tenfold. Sending love to those who are a source of stress or anger, then, is a highly effective way to release those feelings. It also completes the loop in another way: now you’re sending love out into the world. How about getting thatback tenfold? Let’s focus again on releasing that anger and sending love to those difficult people with our breath. 

7. As always, if distractions arise, it’s cool—never beat yourself up. Just acknowledge your distraction and then redirect yourself back to the breath and the job you’re doing right now: sending love to the people who stress you out or make you angry. Really visualize this—however it looks and feels to you. We’re sending these people love with the breath. Remember, it’s a great release. 

8. If you get to three breaths and find yourself distracted, don’t beat yourself up. Just acknowledge the distraction and redirect yourself back to the breath for another try. We’re attempting to extend the time we can keep our minds focused, but it’s less of a battle with ourselves than it is a play. We’re simply focused on sending out love to those people who are challenging for us.

9. Now let’s invite ourselves slowly away from the breath and back to the body. Just wiggle toes and fingers. Roll your ankles and wrists. Do a neck roll both ways just for a gentle stretch. And then slowly blink your eyes open and come back to your senses.

In addition to practicing this loving-kindness further over the coming week, I have another challenge for you: Whenever thoughts of anybody come into your mind that really upset you, try to pause and catch yourself. Try to relax, sit down, and take a deep breath. And if you can, try to send them love with your breath. 

I’m not saying it’s going to work right away, but eventually you’re going to be able to train yourself to release that stress and anger that can grip us in these moments. And you’ll find you’ll also be able to send out love to people almost constantly—even those who stress you out or make you angry. This doesn’t ever mean you don’t have to address a situation that’s at hand. It means you’re finding ways to do so in a loving manner. 


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About the author

Atman Smith

Atman is a co-founder of the Holistic Life Foundation. He served as Director of Youth Programming for ten years, Director of Fundraising for five years, and currently serves as the Director of Development. Since 2001, he has been teaching yoga and mindfulness to a diverse population including underserved and high-risk youth in Baltimore City Public Schools, drug treatment centers, wellness centers, and colleges.