Luckily, there’s something we can do. According to the Dhammapada , the revered book of Buddha’s teachings and verses, “Hatred cannot coexist with loving-kindness, and dissipates if supplanted with thoughts based on loving-kindness”.
Loving-kindness is a meditation practice that cultivates friendliness, compassion, joy and equanimity. At the same time, it sets off a domino effect, toppling down negative emotions one at a time.
To stomp on hate and forever guard ourselves from it, here are basic steps of loving-kindness meditation:
Think of four people: a person you respect and look up to, a person you love dearly, someone you’re neutral to, and lastly, someone you dislike or “hate”. One by one, you’ll be sending love and kindness towards them.
But before that, you must start with yourself. Sit cross-legged on the floor, rest your hands on your knees, and close your eyes. Keep your back straight but relaxed.
Now, imagine yourself looking back at you. Your projected self is smiling, looking content and happy. Appreciate the good qualities you know you have and recall the times you’ve felt especially proud of yourself. Send yourself love and kindness. If it helps, say a mantra. It could be as simple as “loving-kindness”.
Don’t be surprised if this part doesn’t come easy. Sometimes, we are our own worst critics. Appreciating and loving ourselves may feel like the last thing we want to do, especially if we’re magnifying our own shortcomings or feeling bad about a mistake we’ve committed.
However, stay with it. Aside from love and kindness, acceptance is the point of this meditation.
Next, move to the first of the four persons you thought about, the one you respect and look up to. Visualise that person staring back at you, a warm and friendly expression on his or her face. Recall the qualities you love about that person. Remind yourself why you admire him or her. Just like what you did with yourself, send that person love and kindness.
Then, the person you love dearly. Out of all four, this would probably be the easiest. Enjoy the warmth and love you feel for this person. Direct positive vibrations towards his or her way.
For the neutral person, visualise him or her and send her love and kindness. Since you don’t know much about this person, just wish him or her well.
Lastly, to put it softly, the person you “like” the least. It’s okay if you feel strong animosity or hostility towards this person. Yes, it’s going to be difficult but you’re here to dissolve those negative feelings away and flush them out of your being.
So, take your time. You know you “hate” this person, but try to go against your personal judgement and find at least one good thing about this person. Once you do, focus on it. See that person from a positive angle, and then send him or her love and kindness, too.
Don’t worry if you struggle with loving-kindness meditation at first. Confronting emotions, especially bad ones, has never been easy. So, just be patient and keep on practising.