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Metta (Lovingkindness)

Beyond affirmations...

The Attitude of Metta:

I think Metta is about the same thing Jesus was talking about when he taught Love, but we haven't a widespread understanding of this practice in our culture today. Metta is not just a feeling; it's a very active attitude; it's taking action, mental action:

  • to nurture in yourself the most constructive attitude possible, which can't help but have reverberations in all your relations in the world.
  • to send healing/nurtuing/protective energy to others.

Sending Metta:

Some of the ways the meditation can be phrased:

May all beings be free from danger,
May all beings be free from suffering,
May all beings enjoy physical and mental well-being,
May all beings be at ease.

Usually you start practicing the meditation directing metta to yourself ("May I be...") and then gradually move on to others. Traditionally you next send metta to a benefactor, then someone toward whom you feel neutral, and then someone with whom you have experienced conflict. You can also send metta to individuals or groups that you wish to focus on.

Metta to oneself

I enjoy sending healing energy to others. But I also do sessions of Metta when I focus compassion on myself and don't move on to others. This gives me practice in receptivity; in trusting that there's healing energy available in the universe, that I deserve to receive it as much as any other being. It's not easy. When I first tried it, I found myself sitting in my chair crying, meditating on my crying, discharging grief I’d had no idea what to do with, grief for my lost health. More recently I have needed to do more of this as I struggle with feeling guilty about not measuring up to the way "you're supposed to" meditate. I am amazed at the resistance my mind has to giving myself that nourishment, and to accepting it.

Pema Chodron (who uses the Pali, maitri) is very helpful to me in learning to be gentle with myself.

How Metta Works

The other Brahma-Vihara techniques

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© copyright Catherine Holmes Clark, 1999 & 2001; last updated 27 November 2000