This practice focuses the attention on a silent repetition of certain phrases. It is known as Metta Meditation or as the Loving-Kindness Meditation or Loving-Kindness Prayer.
- Traditionally, the prayer is done for oneself and then for successively wider circles: those closest to you, then those who you feel neutral toward, those with whom you have difficulties and finally all beings.
- Avoid any tendency to rush the words.
- Sit in a comfortable posture. Begin to focus on the heart center, breathing in and out from that area. Anchor the mind on the sensations in the heart center.
- As you say or think the words, feel any area of mental blockage or numbness, judgment or hatred. Then “drop beneath it.” Continue to breathe in and out.
It begins with well-wishes for oneself:
May I be safe
May I be happy
May I be healthy
May I live with ease
Successive rounds typically direct the prayer to those close to you, then to those who you feel neutral about, and then to those with whom you have difficulty, and finally closing with:
May all beings be safe
May all beings be happy
May all beings be healthy
May all beings live with ease
Inspirational Perspective from Sharon Salzberg
I really do believe that one answer to the universal search for meaning and connection is lovingkindness — the practice of cultivating love, compassion, joy, and equanimity for ourselves and for all beings… When I teach lovingkindness meditation to students around the world, I usually try to qualify the term so that it doesn’t come off as sounding “saccharine,” or even “cheesy.” … The practice is not about an obligation to some platitude of kindness… Rather, lovingkindness is a deep knowing that every individual’s life is inextricably interwoven. We all want to be happy, in other words. Keeping this simple adage in mind as a universal, inarguable fact establishes a simple foundation upon which we can really connect with others. When we see each other’s vulnerability as something common, the idea of friendship as something manufactured slips away. Connection becomes something much larger, much less concrete, and much more powerful. — Sharon Salzberg
Separate the Sequence of Phrases into Multiple Practices, as Desired
The loving-kindness meditation sequence focuses on yourself first, and then you move down the list to different people within a category. You do not have to complete the sequence during every meditation session; sometimes you can sit with the feeling of one person throughout your entire practice or, as Salzberg recommended for me, break the sequence into four weeks to allow the love and compassion of the practice to slowly take hold. – Samantha Trueheart
Don’t Worry If You Don’t Get a Clear Picture
To practice metta, we simply repeat phrases to ourselves over and over at a comfortable pace while holding the image of the receiver of our lovingkindness in our mind. Don’t worry if you don’t get a clear picture, the strong intention to do so will be enough. Try to send the metta from your heart area; just imagine the thoughts coming from within your chest. – Bemindful.org
Neutral Person or “Familiar Stranger” Example
Think of someone that you rarely think about but that you’d recognize if you met. I always think about Paula who’s been cutting my hair for ten years. I like her very much, but I normally don’t think about her in between. So I like to think about her sometimes in the middle of blessing, because my relationship with her becomes a little dearer. Think of a person that’s a familiar stranger and wish for them, “May you feel safe. May you feel content…” – Sylvia Boorstein