I have recently taken up a meditation practice. The experience of sitting down to meditate is an incredible thing to allow yourself. Perhaps my own interest has made me hyper-aware, but as of late, I am continually hearing of different experiences that people are having with metta meditation.
You may recall my discussing this type of meditation briefly in the article on Matthieu Ricard. There, I refer to this practice as “loving kindness” or “compassionate” meditation. Aptly named, it is the process of focusing on expansion of love and the equalization of all living beings. Metta meditation asks that we wish happiness and well-being not only for ourselves, but for all living beings.
In the traditional, Visuddhimagga approach, one journeys through a set of steps that are meant to focus one’s energies. A set of phrases are used to guide us through and focus our intention. Traditionally, they read, “May I be safe, may I be happy, may I be healthy, and may I live with ease”. These phrases are repeated at the practitioner’s discretion, and are then focused outward.
Metta meditation begins with one wishing happiness and love for one’s self, then, onto a family member or close friend. These loving thoughts are then expanded onto a neutral person (one that does not yet warrant a positive or negative feeling), a difficult or negative person, and then all four of these beings are envisioned together. Finally, the practice encourages that we view all living beings in the universe and wish them the same love, health, and well-being that we would wish upon ourselves.
I have found this practice immensely gratifying. There is a calmness that I feel when I have begun my day with such positive thinking. It is in no way a cure all to any aggression or frustration that you may naturally feel throughout the day, but it definitely allows me to rightfully view each person that I interact daily with as the human being that they are. I encourage you to try this practice when you have a spare moment. If nothing else, you are spending 20 minutes to an hour with yourself, quietly focusing on love and positive thoughts.
A great tool for neophytes, YouTube is filled with numerous guided meditations to help maintain focus in your practice. Here is a list of a few of my favorite. Good luck!
Guided Loving Kindness (Metta) Meditation with Sharon Salzberg – 29 minutes
Stress-Free Guided Meditation – 20 minutes
Loving Kindness Meditation – 15 minutes
Guided Metta Meditation by Ajahn Brahm – 35 minutes
For further research, there is a video to Sharon Salzberg’s 2012 TED Talk, Transform Your Mind, Change the World. Salzberg is at the forefront of meditation research and is the founder of the Insight Meditation Society in Massachusetts.