Our world today is in desperate need of love.
The love of listening.
The love of speaking up.
The love of understanding.
The 2600 year old practice of loving-kindness meditation (or Metta, from the Pali, meaning benevolence, loving-kindness, friendliness, amity, good will, and active interest in others) is a radical act of being that cultivates compassion and connection with oneself, others and the world around us. In this time of turmoil, the temptation toward anger can at times become overwhelming and all-consuming. It can blind us to the struggles of others and rob us of the energy needed to fight.
There are many ways to practice Metta. What follows is how I choose to at the moment. You need to find what works best for you.
Loving-Kindness is meant to be done in the easiest way possible. This means beginning with phrases that are personally meaningful.
Traditional phrases include:
- May ___ dwell in safety
- May ___ be safe
- May ___ be happy (and healthy)
- May ____ be free of afflictions
- May ___ be free from suffering
- May ____ be at peace
- May ___ have an easy life.
- May ___ be free from danger
- May ___ have mental happiness
- May ___ have physical happiness
- May ___ have ease of well-being
Choose the phrase or phrases that resonate most deeply with you today.
Begin in a comfortable seated position or lying down, whichever feels more natural to you. Close your eyes. As you feel ready, bring your awareness to your breathing and making it one fluid movement, in and out. Recognize all of the physical sensations you are feeling and then let those fade away.
Envision yourself in a beautiful space. (Mine is a forest clearing, by a waterfall. There are birds in the trees, sunlight filtering through the leaves, the faint sound of distant wind-chimes, and a gentle breeze carries a sweet, floral scent) As you sit there, focus on yourself and everything that makes you. Begin to say, from the depths of your heart, “May I….”. Repeat these wishes to yourself.
Next, think of someone in your life who you love dearly. Invite them into this beautiful space you have created. Feel them there with you and say to them “May you…” Repeat those words to them.
Now, think about someone in your life who you don’t have any strong feelings about. Invite them into this beautiful space you have created. Feel them there with you and offer the wishes, from your heart to theirs “May you…”
Then, think about someone in your life you’re unhappy with. It may be challenging to invite this person who has done harm into your space and wish them well. Imagine them as a child who still has the chance to learn and change that behavior. When you are ready, to the best of your ability tell them “May you…”
And finally, notice the feeling of kindness, friendliness and warmth that has grown within you. Begin to extend it to more people. Our family, friends, acquaintances, teachers and strangers. Anyone you have ever met, those who are no longer here, everyone you will still meet, to every being on this planet. One by one, invite them into this space. “May you all…” “May all beings…”
Focus on the feeling in your heart and give yourself a moment to think about how, as we go about our days, we can choose kindness. When you’re ready, open your eyes
The first few attempts, you may feel little or no change. That’s okay. I have it on good authority that it does get easier with time. Keep trying, you’ll get there.
As it may be difficult, if not impossible, to follow these written instructions with your eyes closed. If you’d prefer, this is a fantastic spoken guide from meditation teacher, Manoj Dias.