What is love? Well, it's a complex definition that encompasses a wide range of emotions but, at its core, love revolves around relationships — relationships with ourselves and with others. It's difficult to love others if we don't first learn to love ourselves.
Of course, relationships can be both challenging and complicated. If anything shines a light on the human condition, it is 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 and difficult dynamics that can result in the lowest of lows. By trying a love meditation or self love meditation, we can begin cultivating more harmonious relationships with the important people in our lives (yes, including ourselves!)
A guided meditation for love
When it comes to cultivating and strengthening relationships with the people we love, there aren’t many factors within 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, and compassionate relationships.
If you are ready to begin focusing on strengthening your relationships with your loved ones, try this quick meditation that uses the visualization technique, in which you focus on a person or something more abstract to hold your attention.
Take a moment to settle your body into a comfortable position. Open your eyes into a soft focus, becoming aware of the space around you. Breathe in deeply through the nose and out through the mouth. Choose an out breath to close the eyes and allow the breath to return to its natural rhythm. Settle into the space around you and become aware of the physical senses and sounds within that space.
At this time, bring the mind back to the body. Gently begin scanning the body from head to toe to get a sense of how it feels. Acknowledge any strong underlying emotions and moods. As you become more aware of any sensations and feelings, be clear in your mind about the intentions of this practice — by doing it, you can potentially improve the lives of those around you. Gently bring your attention back to the body and breath and rest your mind wherever you feel the rise and fall sensation the strongest.
Now, it’s time to lean into the visualization. Imagine a speck of sunlight in the middle of your chest. Maintaining this image should not be difficult. Simply notice it. Next, remember a time when you’ve done something that’s been appreciated by another person. Remind yourself how that person looked, or what they said in acknowledgment. Remind yourself of the feeling experienced as a result of a simple act of kindness. With that feeling, allow the speck to expand in every direction, increasing to the size of a small marble ball, then a golf ball, and so on. At this point, let go of the act of kindness image. Just stay with the present visualization and breath. Once you’re ready, let go of that image and let the mind rest in that space and do whatever it wants to do. Gently bring your attention back into the feeling of weight in the body. Open your eyes and pause for a moment before returning to your day.
Why self-love is essential
First things first: in learning to share our love with others, it’s important to learn to share it with ourselves. If we can treat ourselves with gentleness and compassion, we are better equipped to extend that same quality of mind to the people around us.
Self-love can be cultivated by focusing on strengthening your self-esteem, or the thoughts we tell ourselves about the type of people we are. True self-esteem happens in the moment and comes from a peaceful mind that no longer identifies so strongly with passing thoughts and feelings, and instead recognizes them as just that — passing.
In essence, if you are looking to explore self love meditation, try a guided meditation for self-esteem. You can find a 30-session course on Self-Esteem (available to subscribers only) in the Headspace app.
For a quick pick-me-up self-esteem meditation, try the following meditation which uses a technique called noting. This technique can give you a clearer sense of direction and confidence as your mind becomes burdened with thoughts or feelings during meditation practice. As you’re focusing on the practice, it is natural for the mind to wander away. Whether it’s a thought or a feeling, take a moment to gently acknowledge it. Imagine your mind holding a feather, and extending it toward the thought. Imagine the thought being protected by soft crystal glass. Noting is the moment in which the feather softly touches the crystal glass. Recognize the mind has wandered, gently place the feather on the object of wonder, and regather your focus.
This exercise, voiced by Headspace co-founder Andy Puddicombe, helps us recognize that we are not our thoughts. We're not our feelings. We are not what we look like, what we wear, what we do. It helps us to see that there's something beyond all of that, beneath all of that. It's almost like a quiet confidence which underlies all the busyness and the noise of the mind. It may sound incredibly simple, but what it does, it starts to create a little bit of distance between ourselves and the thought, ourselves and the feeling so we don't get so involved in it, and it creates a more restful, confident state of mind.
Listen to this free self-esteem and self-love meditation
Try a short meditation to cultivate self-awareness
To begin a short meditation, seat yourself in a comfortable position on the floor or on a chair. Start out your practice by looking forward with eyes open while taking in the space around you. Once you are ready, inhale deeply through the nose and exhale through the mouth. On the exhale, close the eyes and allow the breath to return to its natural rhythm. Bring your attention to your weight. What does the body feel like pressing down? How do your feet feel against the floor? How do your hands feel against the legs?
Bring attention back to your body, and begin scanning from the top of the head toward the toes. Just observe the subtleties of your body and breath without adjusting anything. In your own time, count the breaths as they pass, until you get to 10, then repeat. As distractions start entering your mind in the form of thoughts and feelings, acknowledge them and return to the breath. When you’re ready, allow your mind 10 seconds to let go of all focus and not worry about distractions. Let them all come.
Once you’re ready, bring attention back to the body. Become more familiar with the space around you and the feeling of your body against the chair or floor. Notice the sounds and smells. In your own time, gently open your eyes and notice how you’re feeling. Remind yourself that these patterns of thought build up over a long period of time. Acknowledging and accepting them is a process.
How a Headspace meditation practice can help you cultivate more compassion and love
Try out the 30-day self-esteem course and the 30-day relationships course (available to subscribers only) in the Headspace app with a focus on learning to love and respect yourself and strengthen your relationships, respectively. The self-esteem course trains the mind to create space and observe negative chatter instead of trying to brush it aside. The relationships course encourages us to focus less on self-critical chatter in order to achieve greater harmony in our relationships with others, as well as ourselves.
If you are interested in other types of self-care, there are numerous meditation topics to choose from — everything from stress and relaxation to sleep, focus, and more. Sign up for free today, and start experiencing the powerful benefits of meditation.
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