The Gift of Loving-Kindness

World-renowned meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg reveals that we don’t have to make anything happen while practicing loving-kindness. With time, you’ll notice its benefits.

Image by VectorMine / Adobe Stock

Q. When I practice loving-kindness meditation, I can’t tell whether it’s working. I feel like nothing is happening. Shouldn’t I be feeling something?

A. The first time that I ever did loving-kindness practice was without a teacher. I was on a self-retreat and I thought it was a perfect opportunity.

I knew that it was done in successive stages and I began with a week of sending myself loving-kindness. All day long, I would go around the retreat building—sitting in my room, sitting in the hall—saying may I be happy, may I be peaceful, may I be liberated, and I felt absolutely nothing.

At the end of the week, something happened to someone in the community and I, quite unexpectedly, had to leave the retreat. Then I felt doubly bad—not only did nothing happen but I never even got beyond myself, which was really selfish.

I was running around in the flurry of having to leave. I dropped a jar of something, which shattered into a thousand pieces. The first thought that came up was: “You are really a klutz, but I love you.” And I thought, “Oh wow! Look at that.” All those hours where I was just dry and mechanical and I felt like nothing was happening. It was happening. It just took a while for me to sense the flowering of that and it was so spontaneous that it was quite wonderful. So: Not to struggle, to try to make something happen. Let it happen. Let your mind rest in the phrases, and let the phrases be meaningful to you. It will happen.

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