How to practice Loving Kindness and the meditation practice of Metta

By Rachel | 19th August 2019
Meditation practice of Metta, guests sitting outside under a tree in the nature park, Albir Spain, at La Crisalida Retreats

The meditation practice of Metta, also often known as loving kindness, is centuries old and is practiced world-wide. Read on to learn how to practice Metta at home.

Understanding meditation

Meditation techniques are intended to help us quieten our minds and develop new levels of awareness. This can help you to gain a healthier perspective on your life. Sometimes, people can become frustrated when learning how to meditate as a common misconception is that we should be able to turn off our thoughts, just like we turn off the TV. This isn’t the case, as meditation teaches us how to observe our thoughts and feeling without judgement. Meditation isn’t about learning to be a better person, a new person or even a different person it’s simply a process of being able to create a clear and emotionally calm mind. You can read our sister article on meditation and what happens when we meditate if you are new to meditation to learn more.

What are the benefits of meditation?

As we learn to meditate and practice it, we can bring both physiological and psychological benefits into our lives. In our article on how to relax and rejuvenate you can read more about meditation and how it can help you to relax and learn to connect with a deeper part of yourself. This can help you change your relationship with yourself and others in a more positive way. Science has shown that meditation reduces the activity of the amygdala, which is responsible for the fight and flight response in your body. This can help us deal with anxiety and depression and bring more wellbeing and a sense of peace into our lives.

On a physical level, studies have shown that meditation can reduce your heart rate and have positive effects on your blood pressure. It can even improve memory loss and has been known to reduce pain. Our article on meditation to de-stress and rejuvenate teaches you how to take a more balanced approach to looking after yourself. Through learning the practice of relaxing, we can also learn to let go and not judge ourselves.

To learn how to practice meditation there are many different techniques such as mindfulness, focusing your mind on an object, repeating a mantra, or even focusing your mind on an activity like the rhythm of your breath or a series of movements like Tai Chi. It can be overwhelming to know where to start. You can find a link to an article here that explains different types of mediation techniques so you can try the one that appeals to you.

In this article, we teach you about the beautiful meditation practice of Metta, which is a popular meditation practice that develops different aspects of loving kindness. If you would like to learn more about how to do this practice and bring greater harmony to your life, then read on.

What is Metta?

Metta is a popular meditation that teaches the practice of loving kindness and is often known as the loving kindness meditation. It has its roots in Buddhist philosophy and it has been said the Buddha himself used to practice it. It can be used as a meditation or it can also be used at the end of your usual meditation.

This type of meditation begins by directing loving kindness towards ourselves. Then, step by step, we expand those thoughts and feelings outwards to include both those we know and don’t know. As we progress through the different stages of the meditation practice of Metta, we give ourselves the opportunity to let go of resentment and blame, as well as times or people that we find hard to forgive. In this moment of letting go we allow ourselves to connect with a deeper, wiser and more compassionate part of our nature. It invites us to open our hearts and accept people and events inclusivity rather than exclusivity. By embracing all parts of ourselves we can gain better balance in our lives. When we achieve this feeling of non-separateness it can be a powerful insight which can make positive and long-lasting changes.

How to do the meditation practice of Metta

There are six stages of Metta. Usually, you can move through these at your own pace, as some steps can be more challenging than others. Here are some simple instructions to help you learn and practice Metta.

First, find a quiet, peaceful, comfortable place to meditate in such as the garden, or a quiet space in your house. Make sure that all distractions are turned off. Find yourself a comfortable position to sit in. If you haven’t tried a sitting meditation before you can find some top tips in our article love meditation – how to sit in meditation. However, it is good to know that this loving kindness mediation can be practised anywhere, anytime whether sitting, standing or walking. By practising being kind to yourself you can teach the mind to be more open.

Preparation

Close your eyes and take a few moments to focus on your breath, letting go of any tensions or distractions. I would suggest taking a few minutes to observe your natural breath before starting your Metta practice.

Once you are ready, set yourself the intention of practicing loving kindness meditation before moving into the first step outlined below.

Step 1: practice Loving Kindness towards yourself

You can have a flexible approach to this method and chose words that are relevant to you which will resonate at a deeper level with your mind. Start by wishing yourself happiness, good health, love, peace, harmony, strength or whatever you desire. You can say something like “May I be free, content, and peaceful happy and healthy…” or something along those lines.

Then invite yourself to be free from emotions that no longer serve you, “May I be free from stress, anger…” Be aware that each time you do the meditation the words can change.

Now wish yourself equanimity, kindness, joy and compassion, “May I appreciate and be grateful for what I have experienced and let go of any regrets.”

Finally, wish yourself success in your journey in life “May I grow wiser and have a more patient heart, be kinder to myself and allow myself to grow”.

Take a few moments and allow these words and feelings to gather inside of you, breathing slowly and deeply.

Step 2: practice Loving Kindness to a good friend

The next stage is practicing the Loving Kindness meditation on someone you know, a good friend, family member or someone who has helped you. You can spend time on just one person., do several people or even a group if you like. You can say something like:

“May you be free, content, and peaceful happy and healthy…”
“May you be free from stress, anger…”
“May you have success in your journey, be kinder to yourself and allow yourself to grow”.

Take a few moments and allow these words and feelings to gather inside of you, feeling them radiating outwards towards those people, breathing slowly and deeply.

Step 3: practice Loving Kindness to someone you feel neutral about

The next stage is practicing the Loving Kindness meditation with someone you feel neutral about. This can be a stranger or someone you pass everyday but don’t really know, like a local shopkeeper, or a doctor or even work colleagues.

You may say similar phrases as you did in Stage 2.

Take a few moments and allow these words and feelings to gather inside of you, feeling them radiating outwards towards those people, breathing slowly and deeply.

Sometimes this can be harder than you think, so be aware of any thoughts or feelings that arise. It can make you realise if you are judging someone or not or if you view them as positive or negative in your life. Be aware if there are some who are harder to extend loving kindness to than others, so that you can give yourself time to address this.

Step 4: practice Loving Kindness to someone you dislike

The next stage is practicing the Loving Kindness meditation with someone you dislike. Imagine someone you are having difficulties with or perhaps had difficulties with that day. It can be someone you know or even someone you had an altercation with. This can be quite difficult to do as you may have to work with layers of resentment or a grudge you may hold, feelings of anger or irritation with that person. If you find you cannot do it, you can go back to step one and practice wishing your self-forgiveness or letting go of resentment.

This is an interesting phase of the practice as sometimes it can be easy and sometimes it can be quite difficult. It’s a good mirror to also see where you are at with your feelings. Work gently with yourself to dissolve these feelings.

You may say similar phrases as you did in Stage 2.

Take a few moments and allow these words and feelings to gather inside of you, feeling them radiating outwards towards those people, breathing slowly and deeply.

Step 5: practice Loving Kindness to all living being

In the final step of the meditation practice of Metta direct Loving Kindness to all beings everywhere. This is when we have the opportunity to realise that we are all connected…we are all one.

You can say something like “May all beings everywhere be happy, healthy, peaceful.”

Take a few moments and allow these words and feelings to gather inside of you, feeling them radiating outwards breathing slowly and deeply.

Benefits of practicing Metta

There are many benefits of the meditation practice of Metta outlined in the Buddhist tradition such as falling asleep and waking up easily, having pleasant dreams, being loved by people and animals, becoming serene and have more clarity. Those are surely benefits that we all would like in our life!

Remember when you are practising the Metta meditation allow the words to arise spontaneously and use language that is resonates with you. Practice Loving Kindness meditation whenever you get the opportunity and you may well be surprised at the results.

Practice meditation at La Crisalida Retreats

Here at the retreat we offer a number of different types of meditation for you to try, in our morning meditation sessions. We also offer a weekly mindfulness workshop, to explore mindfulness in more depth. Read more about meditation at La Crisalida here.

Today and all days I wish for you to be free, content, peaceful and healthy.

Rachel

Rachel is a talented Pilates trainer, who leads workshops, meditation and other activites

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