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The Metta Meditation or Metta Bhavana is a mindful connection practice stemming from Buddhist traditions. Metta is one of the more famous practices commonly translated as the “development of loving-kindness.” It can be translated in several ways, but the primary focus of metta meditation is to cultivate a feeling of care, friendliness, compassion, and kindness towards oneself and others. 

What is Metta Meditation

Metta is a Pali term that translates to “loving-kindness” or “benevolence.” The Metta Meditation technique focuses on cultivating feelings of love, compassion, and goodwill towards oneself and others. 

Origins of Metta – Metta Bhavana & the Brahma Viharas

The Brahma Viharas are known as the Four Divine Abodes or Sublime Attitudes being emphasized in Buddhist philosophy; it is through the cultivation of these that Buddhist traditions maintain a loving and wholesome way of relating to oneself and others. 

The Four Brahma Viharas are Metta (Kindness), Karuna (Compassion), Mudita (Sympathetic Joy – celebrating the joy of others), and Upekkha (Equanimity – a balanced and non-reactive state of mind). Metta is the foundation upon which one can cultivate the other states of being.

Benefits of Metta Meditation

Metta meditation will bring you several benefits and you put it into practice:

Cultivating Compassion

Metta meditation develops a genuine sense of compassion towards oneself and others.

Enhances Positive Outlook

The focus on positive intentions contributes to a more optimistic outlook on life.

Reduces Stress

Regular practice has been associated with reduced stress levels and increased emotional well-being.

Improves Relationships

 Cultivating loving-kindness can positively impact relationships by fostering empathy and understanding.

Increases Emotional Resilience

The practice can enhance one’s ability to cope with challenging situations by promoting emotional resilience.

How to practice Metta Meditation

Through Metta Meditation is a systematic cultivation of the feelings of love, compassion, and goodwill first towards oneself and then progressively outwards to loved ones, acquaintances, those with whom relationships are difficult, and further to those with whom there is no relationship eventually encompassing society as a whole.

The practice involves visualization as well as the cultivation of positive intention, which can be strengthened through the repetition of phrases or affirmations. Below, we have outlined a 5 step guide to practicing Metta Meditation. 

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Step 1: Set the space

Create a space for your meditation, preferably a quiet environment where you can allow yourself to come into a comfortable seated position and maintain a steady posture. Before beginning your practice of metta, bring yourself into a state of awareness of the physical body. This can be done with focused attention on the breath or in moving through a body scan. Invite yourself to come into a state of present awareness of your being without judgment and with openness. From this place, the practice of Metta is ready to begin.

Step 2: Metta toward the self. 

Begin by bringing awareness to yourself. If you are visual,  you can bring an image of yourself into your mind as you explore directing genuine feelings of love, kindness, and wellness to yourself. Commonly, phrases such as “May I be happy. May I be well. May I be safe. May I be free from all suffering.” are used to cultivate these feelings. You can also explore using your affirmations. Hold the sensation of the feeling you are trying to cultivate. You may also visualize these feelings as warmth or light, feeling the whole body bathed in this. Notice how it feels to direct this to yourself. At times, this may be easy, and at others, it may be somewhat difficult. Try to avoid any comparison or judgment while you allow yourself to sit with the feelings you are cultivating. Maintain this directed cultivation of metta towards the self for at least 5 minutes. 

Step 3: Metta toward a close friend or loved one. 

Once the feeling of Metta has been established in the self, you can begin to expand this feeling outward. Focus on a close friend. Choose somebody for whom you feel no sexual attraction, who is ideally within ten years of your age. Begin to move through the same steps of visualization and affirmation as you develop the same warmth and care for this person as you held for yourself. Maintain this directed cultivation of metta toward a friend or loved one for at least 5 minutes. 

Step 4: Metta toward a neutral person. 

In the next stage, Metta is cultivated towards someone whom you may feel somewhat neutral. This can be a colleague, someone you see regularly on a commute to work or at a coffee shop but with whom you have no existing deep relationship. Ideally, this is somebody you can imagine fairly easily but don’t have any strong feelings toward. Begin to move through the same steps of visualization and affirmation as you develop the same warmth and care for this person as you held for yourself. Maintain this directed cultivation of metta toward a neutral person for at least 5 minutes. 

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Step 5: Metta toward somebody difficult in your life.

For the next step, call to mind someone with whom you have a difficult relationship. This can vary from someone you perhaps don’t like very much to someone who has hurt you somehow. Be conscious here of working with somebody that you feel able to cultivate loving-kindness. Begin with someone you find mildly irritating before jumping into those who have caused significant hurt and trauma. Begin to move through the same steps of visualization and affirmation as you develop the same warmth and care for this person as you held for yourself. Maintain this directed cultivation of metta towards someone difficult for at least 5 minutes. 

Step 6: Metta toward all four people equally. 

Bring all four people to mind and begin to move through the same steps of visualization and affirmation. Developing warmth and care for all four people equally. Maintain this directed cultivation of metta towards someone difficult for at least 5 minutes. 

Step 7: Metta expands in wider and wider circles. 

From the place of holding all four people in loving kindness, gradually extend your focus to include others in your life. Begin to feel and visualize the cultivation of genuine love, care, and kindness out into wider and wider circles until it reaches all beings everywhere.  

The world needs more Metta meditation

The practice of Metta can be a powerful and transformative technique that has the potential to positively impact your day-to-day well-being. Metta Meditation has the power to change individuals, communities, and the world at large.

By fostering compassion, understanding, and goodwill, Metta contributes to creating a more loving, interconnected, and compassionate world, which we all need right now!