2,600 years ago the Buddha taught a very profound practice known as maitri, or loving-kindness. This word actually stems from the Sanskrit word mitra, or friend, so another way to think about this practice is that we are discovering the very root of love for ourselves and others: friendship.

This particular practice helps us befriend ourselves and then covers some vast territory of offering our heart to the people we like, the people we don’t know very well, and even the people we have a hard time with. We are offering a gentle and loving presence to them all. Once you have offered that inwardly, befriending yourself, then you can express this same friendship to another being, on or off the meditation seat. You can engage this practice regularly as a way to encourage yourself to extend your heart to others.

Related: The Surprising Upside to Embracing Vulnerability