Loving Kindness

TruthTalks News   •   January 20, 2017

Loving-kindness meditation is a form of self care, even self compassion. Families of drug addicted kids in particular stand to gain from this practice. Repeating age-old loving phrases to ourselves strengthens our weary hearts and reminds us that we are connected to something greater and we are a true source of love and compassion. Saying the phrases to ourselves during moments of quiet contemplation or meditation reminds us of our innocence and our good intentions, of our own loving hearts.

The original name of this practice is metta bhavana, which comes from the Pali language. Metta means ‘love’ (in a non-romantic sense), friendliness, or kindness: hence ‘loving-kindness.’ Bhavana means development or cultivation. The commonest form of the practice is in five stages, each of which brings the practitioner to a place where cultivation of his/her own loving kindness is possible.

For beginners, each stage should last about five minutes. The first stage, you feel Metta for yourself.  While you’re anchored in your breath, or in a felt sense of your body (let’s say against the chair) you start becoming aware of your breathing and focus on turning inward. You begin by repeating phrases to yourself such as, “may I be happy, truly happy” and you focus on these words and the sincere feelings for your own well being that accompany them.  You can use an image, like golden light flooding your body, or a phrase such as ‘may I be well and happy’, which you can repeat to yourself. I use 4 phrases in this segment as a daily practice of Metta for myself.  I repeat them over and over and over again.  I imagine myself in each state the phrase suggests.

My personal phrases are as follows (but anyone can choose any phrase that resonates) are:

May I be happy, truly happy.

May I be safe from inner and outer harm.

May I be healthy in mind and body.

May I be free to live a life of peace.

My daily practice involves saying Metta for myself. I haven’t expanded out to those I don’t like yet and there’s no pressure to do so. Cultivating a genuine love for ourselves is necessary before expanding it to those we dislike, even the vast and the world around us.

There are 5 stages of metta meditation and after sending the loving kindness phrases to ourselves, we can expand outward to more challenging individuals as follows….

In the 2nd stage of Metta think of a good friend. See them in your mind’s eye. Feel them in  your body. And repeat the statements for their benefit.

The 3rd stage of Metta, think of someone you do not particularly like or dislike. Your feelings are ‘neutral’. This may be someone you do not know well but see around. You reflect on their humanity and wish them well.

The 4th stage is challenging. You think of someone you actually dislike — an “enemy”, traditionally— someone you are having difficulty with. Trying not to get caught up in any feelings of hatred, think of them positively and send your Metta phrases to them as well.

In the final stage, first of all you think of all four people together — yourself, the friend, the neutral person, and the enemy. Then extend your feelings further — to everyone around you, to everyone in your neighborhood; in your town, your country, and so on throughout the world. Have a sense of waves of loving-kindness spreading from your heart out into the world and universe, to all beings everywhere.

By having a regular Metta practice, and really feeling into the words we are saying, feeling those words in our bodies, sometimes even envisioning ourselves as a young innocent child doing her very best…we began to forgive ourselves for what we didn’t know when we didn’t know it. We begin to feel a vague sense of self-compassion and empathy towards ourselves and those around us.