Updated: Feb 18, 2020
Metta is a Pali word which means "loving kindness".
Metta Meditation is one of the most helpful meditation to improve well-being, peace of mind, calmness and happiness and to help us become more resilient. Meditation practices work through repetition. This creates new habits in the mind...new habitual thought patterns. Mindful repetition of new internal experiences and emotional states reinforces experiences that we would like to have to help us feel happier and more peaceful. This is an invaluable skill in this age of fast-paced living and almost unrelenting stressful stimuli from the media.
Through regular loving kindness meditation people report experiencing greater emotional well-being, more positive emotions, less symptoms of depression. The meditation helps us flourish and thrive.
WHY METTA MEDITATION?
As we learn to express kindness and compassion toward ourselves, through practices like Metta Meditation, our capacity to experience positive emotions increases. This improves our ability to navigate challenging situations with more peacefulness and balance.
When we are happier we are able to offer more to those we care about. We are able to be better pet parents, doctors, caregivers, spouses, siblings, friends, and community members.
In mindfully attending to our own well-being, we are better able to make a positive difference in the world.
WHAT IS METTA MEDITATION?
Metta Meditation has been the topic of much research and is often referred to as "Loving Kindness Meditation". Metta Meditation is considered by many to be one of the most transformative single meditation practices when done on a regular basis with proper instruction.
While Metta Meditation is often taught as a traditional Buddhist or Yogic practice used to cultivate altruistic feelings, the human states and emotions it works with - happiness, compassion, joy and peacefulness - are universal. Its effects transcend religion and spiritual beliefs. With consistency, repetition and gentle daily effort, this practice supports an increased sense of peace and well-being.
On the Divine PowerHouse website I have posted some audio recordings you can listen to for free, or download to listen anywhere. One is an introduction to Metta Meditation. The other is a guided meditation.
The audio introduction to Metta Meditation describes the Four step of Metta Meditation: what they are, what they mean, and how they help us.
Research has shown that learning about metta meditation before doing it is statistically associated with an increased likelihood you will experience positive benefits. I recommend that you listen to this 12 minute introduction.
HOW TO DO METTA MEDITATION
In this practice, we recite specific phrases which carry good wishes while purposefully inviting positive feelings to arise and allowing ourselves to experience them.
Metta Meditation utilizes four concepts, or virtues, that increase our well-being. In this practice we are getting in touch with the qualities of equanimity, loving kindness, compassion and joy which support the capacity for basic (and extraordinary) human kindness.
The key to Metta Meditation, and what sets it apart from other mindfulness practices, is that here we are specifically working to allow the experience of the feelings of happiness, compassion, joyful well-being and peacefulness to arise in our bodies and in our mind.
HOW METTA MEDITATION WORKS
In brain research on Metta Meditation they have shown that the practice, when done properly in this way, activates the area of the brain which is the regulating center for cognitive control and emotional processing. This area is called the fronto-parietal cortex. Specifically, gamma brainwaves in this area increase. While there is still a lot to learn about the role of gamma brainwaves, they are thought to induce neuroplasticity. In other words, they are involved with helping the brain re-wire or reprogram it's old patterns into new ones.
So, quite literally, Metta Meditation seems to work by helping your brain learn how to think and feel differently. It helps your brain learn how to help you feel happier, more peaceful, and more compassionate...first toward yourself...then toward the people and events around you. Doesn't that sound nice?
FOUR STEPS TO GREATER HAPPINESS
"May I be Happy"
"May I be Safe and Free of Suffering"
"May I be Well"
"May I be Peaceful"
HOW TO DO METTA MEDITATION CORRECTLY... SO IT WORKS FOR YOU
First of all, this practice is best done when you are in a relatively calm state. If you are in the throes of significant mental afflictions or severe emotional turmoil, this practice can feel traumatizing because it puts you in touch with your inner landscape and can intensify your experience of those emotions if you are not well-equipped to refocus your attention. In those circumstances, I would recommend working with the the mindfulness practices I describe in the first two "Mindfulness for Stress Reduction" webinars. (If you were not able to attend one of my workshops, a version of these can be found as webinars on my Metta Pets website.)
For detailed instruction on Metta Meditation and tips for navigating emotional bumps in the road, listen to the Metta Meditation workshop recording (email me for details on how to get an audio recording: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Again, what sets Metta Meditation apart from other mindfulness and meditation practices is that we are specifically working to allow the experience of the feelings of happiness, compassion, joyful well-being and peacefulness to arise in our bodies and in our mind.
We are not just wishing these things with our minds or thinking about them as concepts with our thoughts, we are feeling them. We are allowing ourselves a few minutes to escape into a reality where we feel these states as if they are already present. We allow ourselves to let go of thoughts of the past or worries about the future and just be present with these feelings and enjoy the experience of them.
If you have trouble with this at first, I find it's helpful to ask yourself, "what does happiness feel like?" Then try to feel happy. Mirror the experience of "happy" in your body. What does happiness feel like in your mind? What does happiness feel like in your emotions? What does happiness feel like in your whole body?
Then relax, sit quietly with your back straight, and repeat to yourself over and over until you feel it: "May I be happy". As you wish happiness for yourself, you allow yourself to experiencing what happiness feels like.
Do the same with "safety", "joy" and "peaceful".
"May I be safe and free from suffering"
"May I be well (joyful)"
"May I be peaceful"
If it doesn't feel authentic, that's totally okay. Just fake it. Pretend, like you are an actor. You can think of it as if you are reminding yourself what these states feel like. Try to become the experience of the word or phrase. As you do this you are rewiring your brain and your emotional system.
This is a "fake it 'til you make it" practice :)
METTA MEDITATION SUPPORTS YOUR PEACEFUL LIFE
When we have cultivated these four immeasurable qualities, we develop more freedom from reactivity. We are better able to respond to the people and events in our lives rather than reacting to them out of habit. We are better able to respond outside of our pride, misunderstandings, hatred, cravings or jealously. This brings an ease of intimacy with others, an ability to have compassion for others, and greater acceptance of our own feelings as well as the feelings of others.
As we gain a more balanced perspective, we can live with more peacefulness in our mind. We can live our lives and our stories while engaging with others and allowing them their own stories. We no longer divide the world into good and bad, love and hate, in the same way because we have cultivated equanimity. We experience more ease and peacefulness in daily life and a greater capacity to maintain that even amidst challenging life events.
As we experience more peace in our day-to-day living, we also gain access to a more accurate understanding of who we are and how to engage with our experiences and with those around us in a way that brings more happiness. As our personal happiness increases we have a higher capacity to care for others authentically in a healthy way that places equal emphasis on our own well-being and the well-being of those in our care. This increases our ability to be resilient when facing challenging life circumstances.
This is the power of Metta Meditation.
GUIDED MEDITATION AUDIOS TO SUPPORT YOUR WELL-BEING AND SELF-CARE
With consistent practice, we can assist ourselves in cultivating a more peaceful state of mind which arises naturally amidst the chaotic circumstances of our life. We achieve greater well-being. To support you in a regular home practice, I have posted audios of a 12 minute recorded introduction to Metta Meditation and an extended guided Metta Meditation.
This extended Metta Meditation allows you to get into a state of relaxation by guiding you through a guided relaxation before starting the Metta Meditation. Getting relaxed not only feels nice (you could choose to just do this first part of the audio alone as a relaxation aid), it helps your brain settle down and get into calmer brainwave states like Alpha and Delta. These have very beneficial effects on your mental and emotional system and your ability to experience being calm in daily life. This longer meditation also offers a variety of phrases that relate to the four Metta Meditation concepts.