Love Thy Neighbor … As You Love Yourself

March 2013

Sarah McLean

Sarah McLean speaks on love, daily affirmations, and positivity

Sarah McLean is the director of the McLean Meditation Institute, Sedona, Arizona. Sarah is facilitating the Soul Radiance: Meditation and Yoga Retreat at Unity Village, Missouri, May 2–5, 2013. 

Are you feeling overwhelmed and overcommitted? Do you have too much to do and not enough time to get it done? Are you dealing with health challenges or difficulties in your relationships at work or at home? Does caring for yourself take a backseat to daily demands?

I’ve taught meditation to thousands of people. At the start of each class, I ask the students to examine how they treat themselves. Many say they’re hard on themselves to meet the demands of their lives or to “do things right.” But getting angry or frustrated doesn’t serve them well when they meditate, and it truly doesn’t help anyone become more effective in their lives.

I remind them of the “Love Thy Neighbor” commandment. We all know it, yet the basis of this commandment is often overlooked: Loving thy neighbor is intrinsically connected with loving yourself. Maybe you’ve never been concerned about self-love, but it is vitally important. How you treat yourself, including how kind and compassionate you are toward yourself, can inform everything you say and do, and most certainly how well you love your neighbor.

Fortunately, a simple heart-based meditation technique, the “Loving-Kindness” meditation, used worldwide, can help you cultivate a new attitude. This practice will help you transform negative thinking into compassion and kindness toward yourself—and toward others. Here’s how to do it:

First, choose a phrase of kindness. Use one of these, or come up with your own:

  • May you be well, may you be happy, may you be free from suffering.
  • May you be peaceful and at ease.
  • May you be surrounded with loving-kindness.
  • May you be free from pain and suffering.
  • May you feel safe, cared for, and loved.

Next, set aside 20 minutes for your meditation. Begin with an open mind—leave any expectations or judgments aside.

Sit comfortably and relax. Breathe naturally through your nose. Focus on your heart center, noticing the rise and fall of your chest.

Feel what you feel—whether physical or emotional. When you notice your attention wandering from feelings to thoughts, gently return to your kindness phrase.

Think about one person you care about—your child, parent, partner, friend. Get a sense of his or her presence. Silently offer them the phrase of kindness. Imagine them receiving it for a few minutes.

Now with the same heartfelt intention, offer the phrase to yourself and fully receive it for a few minutes.

Next, identify a neutral person or someone you’ve met briefly. Get a sense of the person, and for a few minutes, offer the same compassion toward them.

Identify someone with whom you have difficulty. Get a feeling for their presence. For a few minutes, offer them compassion. If this is challenging for you, remember, it’s a practice.

Identify any living being you believe is suffering. Perhaps you heard about someone facing disaster or tragedy. Even if you personally don’t know them, sense their presence. Offer the same compassion to them.

Expand your blessing to include all beings in your immediate environment, extending it to the neighbors on your street, your city, your country and on earth.

Finish by bringing your attention back to yourself and keep your eyes closed for a few minutes. Slowly open your eyes.

As you practice this meditation, you’ll cultivate more kindness, equanimity and a compassionate heart for yourself and others.