Loving Kindness: 8-Week Meditation Challenge #2
This week, try this simple Buddhist meditation known as the metta or loving kindness meditation to bring you into a calm state of mind. Not only does this meditation benefit your mindset, but by intentionally sending out kind thoughts, you will strengthen your compassion, relationships, and empathy for others.
Origin of the Metta Meditation
The term metta comes to us from Buddhist teachings. It has been used in many forms, including organizations that have chosen it as their trademark. For example, The Metta Institute, a program for those nearing the end of their lives, chose the word because:
METTA is an ancient Pali (Buddhist) term meaning loving-kindness, friendliness, benevolence and non-violence. It is a strong wish for the welfare and happiness of others. We chose it as our name because we believe it expresses the essential human quality that is most beneficial in the lives of those who are dying and their caregivers.
Now that you are aware of the word metta and its meaning, you will likely see it pop up all over our culture. Meditation based on the concept of metta simply aims to bring the feelings metta embodies - friendliness, benevolence, non-violence, and loving-kindness - to those who practice the meditation. I find most people feel at home with this meditation as it is straightforward, positive and easy. It is a great place to start if you are aiming to use meditation to benefit your daily stress and feelings toward the world.
Simple Steps for the Metta Meditation
- Start by finding a comfortable seated position with a tall spine. If sitting is hard for you, feel free to boost your hips on a bench, stool, or even a chair. Sitting against a wall is always an option for beginners.
- Close your eyes and take a few clearing breaths, inhaling slowly through the nose and exhaling gently through the mouth.
- Begin to breath only through the nose, paying attention to the rhythm of the breath and the sense of peace and calm it creates.
- Call to mind the image of one person (or a pet) that brings an immediate smile to your face. This should be someone you love dearly and have only positive feelings for. Mentally or out loud, say to this person, "May you be happy. May you be healthy and strong. May you live with ease."1 Pause to let these feelings come forth from your heart.
- If you are sitting for some time, you may continue to call to mind the images of those you love or who are in your thoughts. Repeat the phrase to each and pause to feel the impact of your words. If you are only sitting for a short meditation, continue to step six.
- Call to mind the image of yourself, perhaps as you are today or perhaps as you were when you needed tremendous love in your life. Hold the image clearly in your mind, and say to yourself, "May you be happy. May you be healthy and strong. May you live with ease."
- Finally, call to mind the image of someone who is least deserving of your love and affection. This may be someone who has harmed you personally or a figure who has harmed many. See this person clearly in your mind, and say, "May you be happy. May you be healthy and strong. May you live with ease." If you are sitting for sometime, you may repeatedly call to mind the images of individuals least deserving of kindness.
- Pause to let the benefit of the meditation sink in.
Benefits of the Metta Meditation
While many people believe sending positive thoughts and feelings will positively impact the world, I cannot claim scientific proof of this fact. I can tell you, however, that studies do show generating these feelings in meditation will bring a greater ability to sympathize and empathize to the individual practicing the meditation.2 These are skills we all need more of in life.
Personally, this mediation gave me the ability to do something years of traditional therapy couldn't provide: forgive openly without depending on another person's apology. By recognizing that all people need love, even when they don't deserve it, I healed many relationships in my life. Further, this meditation taught me I have a right to love everyone, and their actions should not take that right away from me. It has been a freeing experience.
Practice this meditation for five to thirty minutes a day this week. Watch the benefits unfold in your life or share them in the comments below. Thank you, and as I say at the end of every yoga class I teach, "May you be happy. May you be healthy and strong. May you live with ease."
1. You may use any variation of these words you choose. Phrases you may choose from can be found on the Metta Institute's website or simply by researching Loving Kindness or Metta Meditation.
2. Hanson, Rick, "Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom," New Harbinger Publications, 2009.
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