Loving-kindness meditation (mettā bhāvanā) is a practice taught by the Buddha to both encourage and strengthen the ability to be more kind, thoughtful, gentle and loving.
To do this practice one sits in a comfortable posture, evokes a prayerful attitude and then thinks of oneself and wishes oneself well.
Then one thinks of a cherished person, a neutral person, a disliked person and finally all people and likewise wishes them well in turn.
Done with sensitivity and over a period of time, loving-kindness meditation gradually develops a deeper self-acceptance, a strengthened appreciation of those one already loves, a warm and growing interest in casual acquaintances and less ill-will towards those one previously did not like.
Of course, another way to strengthen love is to act with love.
The commentary to the Jātaka says: ‘A monk should develop love to himself and to all others, individually and generally.
The friendly should be suffused with friendliness, the hostile should be suffused with friendliness, and so should all those in-between.
Everyone, individually and generally, should be suffused with love and compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity, and one’s behaviour towards them should be motivated by the Brahma Vihāras.’ (Ja.II,61).
Concerning the benefits of practising loving-kindness meditation the Buddha said:
‘If the freedom of the mind brought about by love is cultivated and enhanced, always practised, made one’s vehicle and foundation, strengthened, consolidated and properly undertaken, one will be blessed in these eleven ways.
One sleeps happily, wakes happily, has no bad dreams, is dear to humans, dear to nonhumans, cherished by the gods, protected from fire, poison and weapons, easily concentrated, has a radiant complexion, passes away peacefully and after death at the very least is reborn in heaven.’ (A.V,342). See Brahma Vihāra.
Lovingkindness-the Revolutionary Art of Happiness, Sharon Salzberg, 1995.