What is loving kindness?
Loving kindness is more than just a nice feeling, it is a way of viewing the world and engaging with it, it can be cultivated over time into an emotional state of being. Kindness is deep within our nature, mixed into what it is to be a human who is part of the tribe. It arises in many forms, you can be kind in a giving sense, it is the currency of social contribution, it is part of our non-verbal language, though it is often true that this type of kindness comes with conditions and hidden meaning. There are always conditions that emerge from social bonding, like saying thank you when you are offered a cup of tea, there is the unstated condition of buying that pint back on the next round, everyday good manners and politeness, but it is no less kind just because it has conditions.
There is random kindness, opening a door, lending a book, giving a dollar to a homeless person, though again there can be a conditions or at least a feeling that you are doing good which makes you feel good. Not that I have a problem with such situation where everyone gets to win and having awareness of this does not diminish the good that is being done, just because kindness can be repaid so easily.
There is kindness of thought, that is thinking of the kindest interpretation of some one else's actions or words. So often people act out of fear, insecurity or inexperience, they do not know how their action is felt by another, therefore they are not wholly responsible for what they have done, until you tell them how you feel about their action. By thinking of the kindest version of their action, you are able to talk out of a place of love rather than your own hurt feelings, it is a practice that every teacher has to use.
You can also be kind to yourself, this is perhaps the most important and root source of kindness. As how can you be kind to others if you are not able to be kind to yourself, if you are not aware of how good kindness feels, why would you exercise genuine kindness to others and it is a muscle that needs exercising. The more you practice, the easier it becomes, it will turn into a reflex, that you instinctively turn to and use, so practice on yourself as much as possible.
If you are able to operate from a position of kindness, everything becomes downstream and easy, you can deal with indifferent officials, people walking in front of you, bad phone calls. When you combine it with loving kindness that is when it becomes powerful. People can spend so much time on empathy, they watch the news and feel the pain, that the news so adores, because they want your empathy, they feed on it, use it for the commercial gain of getting you to watch one more advert. However feeling the suffering of others costs you, especially when you are taking on the pain of others. That is what empathy is, feeling the pain of others and the mind can not tell the difference between your pain and empathetic pain.
Instead use your loving kindness, love feels good, sending your love is better than reflecting back someone else's pain. When you are practicing loving kindness, you are sending your love to the passing stranger, your friend, family and even the world, without judgment, a list of things they could be doing, or even the hint of criticism. Instead you are focusing on the feeling of wordless unconditional love, where you hope and believe that people learn their lesson in their own time and way, you think the best of them and their actions, you are kind in your thoughts about them, and offer your emotional support to them.
Do not take my word for it, experiment, see how you feel after doing it, either as part of meditation or pick random people walking down the street (you do not have to verbalise the feeling), and even an angry boss. If it feels good, do it some more, it can be become addictive, before you know it you are doing it all the time and if you do something constantly it becomes part of your character, who you are is the sum of your actions, nothing more or less, it is in your control. Which is a thought that makes me very joyful.
By spending time in love, you find it is not draining like empathy, instead it burns brighter the more you stoke it and feed it. It is the closest you can get to a perpetual motion engine, it generates it's own energy that is why love gives you strength, it seems to come from somewhere outside of yourself, and maybe once you have that strength, it will enable you to take action. Whatever that action is, even if it is to make a donation, or give someone who is homeless a smile it ends up being more productive than pained empathy which is draining. Loving kindness does not take much effort to sustain, once it is a habit, it is a slow burning comfort rather than the red hot passion of empathy. You can carry loving kindness effortlessly through your whole day where ever you go, from the meditation mat to a goodnight kiss and even into your dreams.