Many contemplative practices are structured to focus on a practitioner’s specific strengths and qualities. For example, in some traditions, tranquility meditation is used to train the mind toward a calm and focused mind. This is followed by analytical meditation, which focuses the minds ability inward toward the very nature of the self .
Metta bhavana, or loving-kindness meditation, is a method of courting compassion. It comes from the Buddhist tradition, yet can be adapted and practiced by anyone, regardless of religious affiliation; loving-kindness meditation is essentially about cultivating love.
Loving-kindness, or metta, as it in called in the Pali language, is unconditional, inclusive love, a love with wisdom. It has no conditions; it does not depend on whether one “deserves” it or not; it is not restricted to friends and family; it extends from the personal to include all living beings. There is no expectation of anything in return. The ideal is pure love, which everyone posseses in spades. We begin by loving ourselves, for unless we have a measure of this unconditional love and acceptance for ourselves, it is difficult to extend it to others. We then include those special to us, and, ultimately all living beings. Gradually, both the visualization and the meditation blend into an actual experience of loving kindness.
The focus of this meditation is one of care, concern, tenderness, loving kindness, and friendship — creating a feeling of warmth for oneself and others. In practice, Loving Kindness is a softening of the mind and heart, allowing for an opening toward deeper levels of the feeling and pure love. Loving kindness has no desire to possess another. It is not sentimental, nor an obligation. It comes from that selfless place we all hide deep within. It does not dependant on relationships, on how others feel toward us. The process is first and foremost one of softening, breaking down barriers that prohibit us for connecting with others and ourselves.
To begin take a comfortable posture. A focus of this meditation is to feel good, so allow yourself to feel relaxed and comfortable. Focus on the solar plexus, your ches and the area around your “Core“. Breathe in and out from here as if you are breathing from the heart while simultaneously experiencing what is happening there. Focus your mindfulness only on the sensations of your Core.
Breathe in and out from the Core. Feel any areas of mental blockage, numbness, self-judgment or hatred. Drop beneath that to the place where we feel a sense of strength, health and safety for ourselves. Continuing to breathe in and out, using either these traditional phrases or ones you choose yourself. Meditate on them several times.
May I be free from inner and outer harm and danger.
May I be safe and protected.
May I be free of mental suffering or distress.
May I be happy.
May I be free of physical pain and suffering.
May I be healthy and strong.
May I be able to live in this world happily,
peacefully, joyfully, with ease.
Next, move to a person who most invites a feeling of pure unconditional loving kindness. The first person that comes to mind is usually someone we consider a mentor, benefactor or elder. It might be a parent, grandparent, teacher, or someone toward whom it takes no effort to feel respect and reverence, someone who immediately elicits the feeling of care. Repeat the above phrases for this person.
Move now to a person you regard as a dear friend and repeat the phrases again, breathing in and out of your Core.
Finally, move to a neutral person, someone you neither like nor dislike. As you repeat the phrases, allow yourself to feel tenderness and loving care for their welfare.
The next step is to move to someone you have challenges with — hostile feelings toward, or some level of resentment. Repeat the phrases for this person. If you have difficulty doing so, you can say before the phrases, “To the best of my ability I wish you goodness and peace.” If you begin feeling ill will toward this person, return to your Core and let loving kindness arise again. Then return to this person in mediation.
Let the phrases spread through your heart, mind and body.
Now, radiate loving kindness to all beings. Stay in touch with the warm, tender feeling at the center of your being, and begin to visualize a sense of all living beings. Traditional phrases are these:
May all beings be safe, happy, healthy, live joyously…..
May all living beings be safe, happy, healthy, live joyously…..
May all breathing beings be safe, happy, healthy, live joyously…..
May all individuals be safe, happy, healthy, live joyously…..
May all beings in existence be safe, happy, healthy, live joyously…..
Allow the phrases to be a conduit for the force of loving-kindness. Empower your imagination through these five phrases allowing them to touch the hearts of all life in the universe – unconditionally and inclusively. Stay with this feeling until you sense a profound interconnectedness toward all creation.
All females of all species (or the feminine principle of the universe within us all).
All males of all species (or the masculine principle of the universe within us all).
All awakened ones.
All celestial beings.
All animals .
The two pairs and the triad above are three more ways of including every being in the universe.
The essence of what makes Loving Kindness so powerful is that it has the power to encompass
everything and nothing at the same time. All that is necessary is an open mind and a heart filled with joy.
May all living beings everywhere, on all planes of existence, known and unknown, be happy, be peaceful, be free from suffering.
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