Metta Meditation

Metta, which can be translated from Pali as “love” or “lovingkindess”.  This meditation is often called compassion meditation or lovingkindeness meditation.  Metta meditation opens up our ability to see and experience what unites us as human beings and all things of earth.  It breaks down the barriers of isolation caused by the sense of separateness that doesn’t really exist except in our mind.

As Sharon Salzberg writes in her book, Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness, “Practicing metta illuminates our inner integrity because it relieves us of the need to deny different aspects of ourselves. We can open to everything with the healing force of love. When we feel love, our mind is expansive and open enough to include the entirety of life in full awareness, both its pleasures and its pains. We feel neither betrayed by pain nor overcome by it, and thus we can contact that which is undamaged within us regardless of the situation. Metta sees truly that our integrity is inviolate, no matter what our life situation may be. We do not need to fear anything. We are whole: our deepest happiness is intrinsic to the nature of our minds, and it is not damaged through uncertainty and change.”

Quite simply, the metta practice is the practice of gently repeating phrases that are meaningful in terms of what we wish, first for ourselves and then for others.

As you sit comfortably with your eyes closed, imagine what you wish for your life. The four classical phrases that you either say out loud or think silently during the practice are typically:

May I/you be free from danger.

May I/you have mental happiness.

May I/you have physical happiness.

May I/you have ease of well-being.

Choose three or four phrases that express what you most deeply wish for yourself and repeat them over and over again.  If you find your attention wanders begin again.

Begin the first week directing them towards yourself and then as the weeks progress you can begin to direct them towards different people in your life as follows:

  1. Start by directing the phrases to yourself.
  2. Next, direct the metta towards someone you feel thankful for or who has helped you.
  3. Now visualize someone you feel neutral about—people you neither like nor dislike. Direct the thoughts to that person.
  4. Next, direct the thoughts to someone you don’t like or who you are having a difficult time dealing with.
  5. Finally, direct the metta towards everyone universally: May all beings everywhere be happy.

If for any reason you find yourself wanting to come back towards yourself follow your intuition and do so.  There are no “rules” about the time-frame of when to begin directing them outwards.

I spent a month on each one until I hit # 4.  Then had to go back to #1 for a week, then back to #4 for 3 days, back to #1 for a week and so forth until I could be kind to myself and authentically offer lovingkindness to those I was angry with.

Benefits Of Lovingkindness Meditation

Like other types of meditation, lovingkindness meditation brings so many amazing benefits to our lives such as:

  • Reducing stress and anxiety
  • Lifting our mood and producing more positive emotions
  • Increasing feelings of hope
  • Decreasing physical and emotional pain
  • Reducing anger
  • Increasing positive social emotions toward new people as well as loved ones
  • Activating empathy
  • Improving social connection
  • Increasing self-love and how we feel about ourselves

Practicing this meditation ultimately changes how we relate to ourselves and others; we start to feel less isolated and more connected. According to Sharon Salzberg, “When we practice it, we acknowledge that every one of us shares the same wish to be happy, and the same vulnerability to change and suffering. We can shift the way we view ourselves and others—with kindness instead of criticism.”

For more in depth information on Metta Meditation read Sharon Salzberg’s book, Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness.  I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone who meditates, has been interested in beginning a meditation practice or if you would like to expand your open-heartedness in the world.