A comment today led me to realize I’ve mentioned the lovingkindness chant a number of times but haven’t really talked about it. I picked up on the chant when reading Jack Kornfield’s A Path with Heart in the mid-90’s. There are other, longer, versions but I like the simple yet complete version he used:
May I be filled with loving-kindness,
May I be well,
May I be peaceful and at ease,
May I be happy.
(Bantam, 1993, p. 20). The Buddhist way is to say it first for yourself, then for your loved ones, then for people you don’t like, then for the world and finally for all sentient beings.
I chanted off and on for some years but the chant really came to life for me in the months running up to the war in Iraq. I didn’t want a war but I was also disturbed by the vitriol in the anti-war efforts. I decided I wanted to try a different road, to be FOR peace instead of against war. So I began to say the lovingkindness chant every day for half an hour to an hour. Mostly I said it for President Bush, next for Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, and some for Congress and all others in decisionmaking roles.
It’s amazing to feel what it does for your heart regardless of who you say it for but even more amazing is how it opens your heart to someone you dislike or with whom you disagree. My heart was softened toward President Bush. That didn’t mean I liked him or changed my mind about policies but I felt him as another part of All That Is, I felt him as a beating heart and I have never again been able to hate him or to condone being hateful about him.
I was so impressed by the shifts I felt that the chant became more and more part of my practice. Eventually I noticed that I spent very little time chanting for myself and, out of some sense that it’s better to be altruistic, I emphasized saying it for others. It occurred to me that leaving myself out reflected thoughts of unworthiness. I began saying it almost exclusively for myself. I also changed it to an affirmation: “I am filled with lovingkindness, etc.”
The more I say it the more I realize that my heart opens and feels vibrant regardless of who I chant for. It creates a loving vibration in the web regardless of who it’s chanted for. It’s one of my favorite practices for changing my energy to that of being peace.
See also: Salzburg, Sharon, Lovingkindess: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness (Shambala, 1995).