Loving Kindness or Metta Meditation
I’ve been teaching Loving Kindness Meditation in my classes this week, in honor of Valentine’s Day. We can all use a little more love in our lives. In the light of the tragedy which occurred on Valentine’s Day, I thought I would dedicate this blog to providing specific and detailed directions for the ancient practice of Loving Kindness (Metta) Meditation.
So here are the specific instructions:
Sit quietly, and become aware of your body, your heart, emotions, thoughts. Get comfortable and relax as much as you can: hands, feet, belly, shoulders, face…
Begin by saying the words of Loving Kindness to yourself. You can use the words below, or write your own. You may also just allow any words of kindness to arise.
May I be happy.
May I feel peaceful.
May I be safe from inner and outer harm.
May I feel free from suffering.
Yourself: In the first stage, send Metta (Loving Kindness) to yourself. Begin by becoming aware of yourself, and focusing on feelings of peace, calm, and tranquility. Repeat the words – this may feel awkward or even forced at first; if you continue, the words may begin to resonate for you. Feel free to improvise and change the words so they feel more organic to you.
Many people report that it is difficult to send these wishes to themselves. Over time it will get easier. Traditionally, one spends days or even months sending the wishes of Loving Kindness to oneself. I have found it is often easier to begin sending the wishes to others and progress to extending the wishes to yourself. Below is a suggested progression – this is actually the traditional progression, beginning with oneself. Spend a few moments with each person, but try not to become rigid – allow the meditation to flow naturally. If you forget the order or if you don’t remember the words, it’s ok.
Then, bring to mind someone you admire or respect: perhaps a spiritual teacher or friend. Extend the Loving Kindness wish to this person you look up to – maybe someone who has been a mentor to you. Picture this person as vividly as you can in your mind’s eye, feeling the emotions this person conjures up in you.
May you be happy.
May you feel peaceful.
May you be safe from inner and outer harm.
May you feel free from suffering.
Next, think of someone you love (a child, a pet, someone it’s easy to love): the thought of this person makes you happy, makes you smile. Bring them to mind as vividly as you can, and think of their good qualities. Feel the affection you have for this person, your connection with your friend.
Then, bring to mind a neutral person: someone familiar but who evokes no particular feelings (like a person who works in a local store, or a person whom you routinely pass when you’re walking or driving.)
Send the wishes of Loving Kindness to a hostile person: someone who has caused you difficulty or pain. Initially, try not to pick the most difficult person in your life – for instance, an abusive father or spouse. As you practice this powerful meditation technique, you may gradually be ready to address this person, but I wouldn’t’ recommend beginning with them.
To finish, you might send the words of Loving Kindness to the entire world.
Have fun with it. Switch it up, if you like. Allow the meditation to flow as freely and effortlessly as possible. You can make a difference in the world and in yourself. Namaste.