Have you ever noticed how the actions of certain people affect your mood for the whole day? Did you ever lose sleep because painful memories kept getting in your head? Do you criticize yourself and compare your life with others? These are all one or the other forms of suffering which shape our emotions and decides how we treat ourselves and others.
Metta meditation can help you to learn how to stop self-criticism and develop kindness and love. It teaches you the way of life! Keep reading to learn more about Metta meditation or loving-kindness meditation.
What is Metta Meditation?
The Pali word Metta translates to benevolence, loving-kindness, or goodwill. Maitri or Metta meditation is one of the four Brahma Viharas or the sublime states.
It is also considered an important segment of the ten paramis of the Theravada school of Buddhism. The concept of benevolence and compassion is mentioned in detail in the Metta Sutta of Buddhism and its mention in other religious texts such as Hinduism and Jainism.
Metta or loving-kindness Meditation is an ancient practice used to alleviate suffering and helps an individual’s clinginess to negative thoughts by cultivating love, compassion, and kindness for ourselves and others.
“Meditation is a process of lightening up, of trusting the essential goodness of what we have and who we are, and of realizing that any wisdom that exists in what we already have.We can lead our life to become more awake to who we are and what we’re doing rather than trying to improve or change or get rid of who we are or what we’re doing. The key is to wake up, to become more alert, more inquisitive and curious about ourselves.” – Pema Chodron
Our mind and heart are often in a state of confusion because of the fogged-up cloud of anxiety, fear, hesitation, and past experiences, forming a shield of self-protective habitual patterns.
These patterns restrict us from opening up to new people, new emotions, and new experiences as protective measures. Practicing Metta Meditation helps us lift from our fears and doubts and become selfless.
Selflessness doesn’t signify completely forgetting about oneself; instead, it means accepting and supporting ourselves for who we are.
The aim of practicing Metta meditation is to cultivate emotions of love, empathy, and kindness for ourselves as well as,
- Our families
- Our friends
- Our colleagues and neighbors
- Difficult people- people you dislike.
- All living beings
How to perform Metta Meditation?
Metta Meditation primarily involves the silent repetition of phrases that evokes a positive and warm feeling. Metta meditation is a step-wise practice that starts with loving oneself and taking a step further to love and wish happiness for our friends and family and then to a problematic level which requires wishing goodwill for everyone, including those who have wronged us.
This practice requires patience and time as one needs to become lightheaded to find the strength of letting go of all negative emotions.
Metta meditation can be practiced using two approaches.
Focusing on compassion – this approach is usually practiced by those suffering and wants to alleviate this suffering.
Focussing on loving-kindness – this approach is practiced by people who wish to cultivate happiness.
Metta meditation prayers
Metta meditation is the ultimate form of human generosity and emotions of kindness and love for everyone. Metta meditation is a means of self-healing by practicing forgiveness and unconditional, selfless love. To practice, metta meditation one can follow the steps mentioned below,
- Find yourself a comfortable seat and sit in an upright posture. Release all the stress in the body by loosening up your muscles and close your eyes.
- To find your focus, a common practice is to observe your breathing. Focus on air movement moving in and out of your body and simultaneous movement of your chest cavity. Take deep breaths followed by reciting a simple phrase such as,
May I be happy and peaceful
May my body be healthy and strong.
May I be safe and protected?
May I live with ease and joy?
Once you feel lightheaded and become more self-aware, think of a person you care about and picture themselves in your mind. Now, recite and repeat the phrases you wished earlier for that person as well –
May you be happy and peaceful.
May your body be healthy and strong.
May you be safe and protected.
May you live with ease and joy.
- The next step is to think of an acquaintance or someone like your colleague or neighbor and with the same prayer for them. Thinking of an appreciative quality of theirs can help you get a better focus.
- The most challenging step of Metta meditation practice is to wish goodwill for people you don’t like. These people might have hurt you, or they can be someone whom you don’t like for their certain qualities. Here you need to concentrate more and think of one good quality about them. Focus on that quality, try to think positively about them, forget their imperfections and repeat the same prayer for them.
- Lastly, one can end this Meditation by repeating the exact phrases for all the living creatures on the planet and wishing them goodwill and happiness.
What are the benefits of Metta Meditation?
Less self-criticism – repeating metta meditation phrases and prayers that help an individual to embrace all parts of ourselves. When we accept our imperfections and mistakes, we eventually forgive ourselves, and thus, self-compassion helps us reduce self-criticism.
Decreased stress and anxiety levels – the world is full of suffering and pain, especially for those who have stressful lifestyles. In many scenarios, anxiety or stress is triggered by the actions of someone, and practicing metta meditation can help control these feelings.
Improves social interaction – when we find a way to love and cultivate kindness for everyone around us, we develop positive emotions for people. When we stop judging people and criticize them and take a step forward to accept them, a healthy space is created, thus improving relations.
Meditation in all forms is a great way to find your true self and find a better way of living your life. With metta meditation, we learn that nobody is perfect. Therefore, we should not allow negative emotions like envy or hatred to get control of ourselves; instead develop unconditional positive emotions like joy, happiness, kindness, and gratitude.