Metta Meditation for Loving Kindness

When one first begins meditation, it may not be obvious that there are many, many types of meditation. As we've been discussing this month (National Mediation Month) in our blogs, one of the most immediately apparent benefits of meditation is that you just feel better. Moods become elevated and people feel better equipped to take on the challenges of everyday life. Today I'd love to discuss one type of meditation that can be used daily to begin to connect with others on a deeper level. This meditation is called Metta Meditation, or loving kindness meditation.

Metta is a word in Pali, the language of the original Buddha, and it means benevolence, loving-kindness, friendliness, amity, good will, and active interest in others. The benefits are widespread and include building a stronger sense of self-love, a greater amount of forgiveness toward loved ones, building compassion for strangers, and establishing a sense of oneness across humanity. As you can imagine, if everyone in this world worked to establish each of these traits, we would be living in a paradise!

In order to best introduce you to Metta Meditation, I've written down a script that includes the various steps we include when sitting on a mat. The specific words I write down are not as important as the process and the process works best when you are able to really visualize each step. Because of this, I recommend reading through the entire script and then sit down and mentally take this meditation part by part. If you only have 5-10 minutes, spend just a minute or two on each step before moving on. If you have more time, you can allow the mind to spend as much time as it requires to begin to process each piece. I hope you enjoy this process and that it quickly begins to help you find all the benefits described!

INTRODUCTION

Begin by sitting in a comfortable way, whether that be on a chair, on a bolster, or on the floor. Allow the spine to be upright with the hands comfortably on the knees. As you close the eyes, take a moment to begin to focus on the breath. Allow the inhales and the exhales to be long, comfortable, and full. Begin to feel the heart rate calming down. Begin to sense the muscles and the mind approaching a serene place where the state of meditation is possible. As you begin this meditation, release all control over the breath, simply letting the breath flow in and out at a natural rhythm.

PART 1: SELF

Now begin to imagine yourself sitting in front of you. Observe the emotional state, observe body language, and observe the mental state of yourself sitting in front of you. With kindness, begin to realize that no matter how many mistakes you have made, you have always tried your best in all of your endeavors. Begin to connect a golden thread from your own heart to the heart of yourself sitting in front of you. Through this golden thread, begin to send a few wishes to yourself. "May you find love. May you find happiness. May you find peace." After making these wishes, sit for a moment to notice how you feel.

PART 2: LOVED ONE

At this point, you begin to imagine someone sitting in front of you whom you love dearly. Begin to observe this person at the layers of body, emotion, and mental state. With kindness, begin to realize that no matter how many mistakes this person makes, he or she is always trying his/her best in daily life endeavors. Begin to connect a golden thread from your own heart to the heart of this person sitting in front of you. Through this golden thread, begin to send a few wishes to this loved one. "May you find love. May you find happiness. May you find peace." After making these wishes, sit for a moment to notice how you feel.

PART 3: STRANGER/INDIFFERENCE

Now you begin to imagine someone sitting in front of you who neither like nor dislike. This may be a bus driver, a waitress, a cashier, or even simply someone walking by on the sidewalk. Perhaps you know his/her name, but you don't know much about his/her story Begin to observe this person at the layers of body, emotion, and mental state. With kindness, begin to realize that no matter how many mistakes this person makes, he or she is always trying his/her best in daily life endeavors. Begin to connect a golden thread from your own heart to the heart of this person sitting in front of you. Through this golden thread, begin to send a few wishes to this stranger. "May you find love. May you find happiness. May you find peace." After making these wishes, sit for a moment to notice how you feel.

PART 4: DISAGREEABLE PERSON

Now you begin to imagine someone sitting in front of you who you have had a disagreement with in the past. If you are new to metta meditation, you don't need to pick someone who you hate with your whole being. Perhaps pick someone who is disagreeable and who brings feeling of stress to your body when you think about him/her. With kindness, begin to realize that no matter how many mistakes this person makes, just like you, he or she is always trying his/her best in daily life endeavors. Begin to connect a golden thread from your own heart to the heart of this person sitting in front of you. Through this golden thread, begin to send a few wishes to this disagreeable person. "May you find love. May you find happiness. May you find peace." After making these wishes, sit for a moment to notice how you feel.

PART 5: EXPANDING OUTWARDS

If you don't have much time for meditating today, you can begin to draw the meditation to a close at this point. However, if you do have more time, you can begin to expand your awareness outward little by little. As the awareness spreads out, imagine connecting more golden threads to all being who you encounter. With this golden thread, your heart becomes connected to the hearts of the others. You can choose to start with a circumference you are comfortable with. Perhaps today you expand your awareness to the area of your own house. Perhaps this awareness grows to your neighborhood, your town/city, or your state/country. If you still feel the urge to expand more, you may wish to connect golden threads with all beings in this world. Here we take a moment to remember that all humans are doing the best they can with the knowledge and the experiences they have. Begin to send a few wishes to all beings connected to your heart. "May you find love. May you find happiness. May you find peace." After making these wishes, sit for as long as you have time today. Observe any changes that have arisen in yourself at the levels of body, mind, and emotions.

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