What is love? Well, it’s complicated. But, at its core, it revolves around relationships — relationships with ourselves and with others. It’s difficult to love others if we don’t first learn to love ourselves.
If anything shines a light on the human condition, it’s relationships. They can be nourishing and fulfilling, bringing us the highest of highs. But, on the other side of the coin, there can also be conflict, difficult dynamics, and loss that can result in the lowest of lows.
We can train our minds to be best prepared to deal with the rollercoaster of emotions that life, and love, brings. And with love meditation, or self-love meditation, we can begin cultivating more harmonious relationships with the important people in our lives —including ourselves.
To enjoy healthy relationships with others, we should first learn to love ourselves
Meditation helps us to deal with the rollercoaster of emotions love can bring
Try 8 meditations for love and relationships
First thing’s first: in order to share our love with others, it’s important to learn how to direct it inward. Our capability for self-love is often intertwined with how we love others. So if we can treat ourselves with gentleness and compassion, we’re better equipped to extend that same quality of mind to the people around us.
“If a really close friend was having a tough time, there’s no way we’d speak to them the way we speak to ourselves in our mind,” says Andy Puddicombe, Headspace co-founder and former Buddhist monk. “If we can start approaching our own thoughts and feelings with the same soft and gentle approach we’d extend to someone else, then all of a sudden meditation starts to flow and feel so much easier.”
Self-love can be cultivated by focusing on strengthening our self-esteem. And much of that depends on the storylines we carry about the type of people we are; storylines that are often shaped by our upbringing, background, and how we have been loved — or not — by others. True self-esteem comes from a peaceful mind that no longer identifies with negative thoughts and feelings rooted in the past. Instead, through meditation, we recognize thoughts for what they are: passing.
During meditation, it’s natural for the mind to wander and engage with old forms of inner-dialogue that we’re so used to entertaining. When this happens, we can fall back on a technique called noting to help calm and quiet the mind. When a distracting thought arrives out of nowhere, all we do is take a moment to gently acknowledge it: “Oh yeah, thinking.” Or, “Oh yeah, feeling.” Having noted it, there’s a sense of having dealt with it, and this makes it easier to let it go and return to the breath that keeps us anchored in the here and now. When it happens again, which it will, we use the same approach. We are repeatedly training the mind to release old thought patterns and storylines. And that’s how we make space for a healthy self-esteem to grow.
With practice, we can start to apply the same technique in our day-to-day lives: to not let our thoughts or feelings have undue influence over our minds and actions. Noting helps us create a little bit of distance between ourselves and what we think and feel, meaning we don’t get so involved in it all. Ultimately, this creates a more restful, confident state of mind — the foundation for nurturing a harmonious relationship with ourselves and others.
When it comes to cultivating and strengthening relationships with the people we love, some elements are beyond our control. We cannot control how others will think or act toward us. What we can control is how we relate and respond to them. By meditating, we create the space and conditions in our mind that are conducive to developing healthy, kind relationships.
Through consistent practice, we increase awareness of our thoughts and feelings and find a stability of mind that isn’t reactive when triggering emotions arise. When we’re more aware of how the mind habitually behaves, we’re less inclined to engage with any potential conflict or blame-game. Instead, we become more skilled at understanding someone else’s point of view. That’s because meditation also increases our compassion. In fact, one study found that 3 weeks of Headspace increased compassion by 21%.
And another crucial element of a healthy relationship, empathy, can also be nurtured through meditation. Because when we sit with the mind, we learn to be less judgmental of our own thoughts, which, in turn, helps us to be less judgmental of the thoughts and actions of others. As Andy puts it, “Empathy does not require that we have been through the same thing as another person, simply that we meet them where they are now.”
And while sex and meditation may at first seem like unlikely partners, research shows that meditators report better sexual desire, sexual arousal, sexual satisfaction, and overall sexual function than non-meditators. A calmer, less stressed mind has more space for intimacy.
There are many techniques we can use when meditating for love and relationships, including visualization meditations, where we can picture our partner as the beneficiary of our practice, and specifically loving-kindness meditation, where we direct goodwill to ourselves, and then to others.
Looking for more meditations for love and relationships? The Headspace app offers members several courses and single meditations for relationships, including:
Self Love single meditation. Tap into the love that’s always been available to you.
Kindness course. Foster feelings of compassion towards yourself.
Difficult Conversations single meditation. Move towards a calmer mindset before a tough talk.
Relationships course. Achieve greater harmony with others and yourself.
Forgiveness single meditation. Find peace in working to forgive yourself and others.
Self-Compassion course. Practice treating yourself with unconditional kindness.
Loving Others single meditation. Explore ways to appreciate different relationships.
Self-Esteem course. Move towards a less judgmental inner life.
By learning to love ourselves, we also strengthen our relationships with others. Meditation can help us to cultivate harmony in our own minds, which we can then share with our loved ones and more fully enjoy loving relationships that enrich our lives.