WHAT IS METTÃ MEDITATION?
The word mettā is synonymous with the values of loving, kindness, compassion, friendliness, goodwill, and active interest towards others. Mettã is also synonymous with benevolence towards all living beings, joy at the sight of the virtuous, compassion and sympathy for the afflicted, and tolerance towards the insolent and ill-behaved. Mettã meditation fosters the cultivation of love. During mettā meditation, we promote a powerful sense of loving-kindness, both for others and ourselves. In our culture, people sometimes find it difficult to direct loving-kindness towards themselves. They may feel that they are unworthy or unlovable. People are regularly amazed to find out that they have a capacity for loving-kindness, both for themselves and for others.
Why cultivate more love and compassion?
People often ask, “In a world fraught with so many angry, detached, and often cruel people, why would I want to be more loving and kind?” The answer is simple. Imagine you are sitting in a beautiful spot in nature. Maybe you are resting on a blanket in the grass looking out over a clear lake at snow-capped mountains. Flowers and pine trees abound. Birds are singing overhead, and the weather is perfect. If you are enjoying this spot in nature, and your thoughts are bounding with anger, frustration, indignation, and hate, then you are suffering. These thoughts are like poison. You are not at peace. However, if you are filled with a sense of connection to nature and people with love, compassion, and kindness in your heart, then you are at peace. Remember, if you can, being in love: it’s as if every cell in your body is bursting with joy. It is the thoughts and feelings inside of us that constitute our life.
Through the practice of mettā meditation, we cultivate a general “warmth of being.” We gain a deep sense of joy and peace when we achieve this state free of anger, indignation, and judgment. The practice changes our brain. It enhances and cultivates positive emotions while tempering the more negative ones. Ultimately, the most powerful insight that comes from mettā is a sense of non-separateness. This insight comes naturally through opening one’s heart and being inclusive rather than exclusive.
How can I try mettā meditation?
- Find a comfortable spot where you won’t be disturbed. Close your eyes and begin by taking five long, slow deep breaths to quiet your body and mind. Now draw your attention toward your spiritual heart in the center of your chest. Bring to mind someone you love very much and allow the feeling of love, compassion, and connection to fill your entire being. Now begin.
- Say silently to yourself: May I be peaceful, may I be happy, may I be healthy, may I be free from suffering. Repeat it once or twice depending on how much time you have.
- Next, think of someone you love and picture that person in your mind. Now fill their name in the space and repeat silently to yourself: May they be peaceful, may they be happy, may they be healthy, and may they be free from suffering.
- Next, think of someone else. It may be a neighbor or someone who serves you coffee each morning at the coffee shop. It is a reminder that every person has a life and story as important and varied as your own. Now fill their name in the space and repeat silently to yourself: May they be peaceful, may they be happy, may they be healthy, and may they be free from suffering.
- Next, think of someone you find difficult or challenging in your life. Keep in mind that people are not difficult because they like to be difficult. Rather difficult people are most often suffering. Sending them this sentiment allows us to expand our capacity for compassion. Now fill their name in the space and repeat silently to yourself: May they be peaceful, may they be happy, may they be healthy, and may they be free from suffering.
- Now, broaden the statement to include all of humanity and all life. May we all be peaceful, may we all be happy, may we all be healthy, and may we all be free from suffering.
Practice this mediation technique every day. You will be amazed by the benefits that ensue over time as you cultivate a profound capacity for more peace, compassion, and joy in your life.