“Wishing: In gladness and in safety, May all beings be at ease. Whatever living beings there may be; Whether they are weak or strong, omitting none, The great or the mighty, medium, short or small, The seen and the unseen, Those living near and far away, Those born and to-be-born—May all beings be at ease!” – Buddha
“Metta” is a term which comes from the ancient Indian language Pali, translating as lovingkindness, benevolence, or active goodwill. But more than just a term, metta is a practice and a meditation technique.
Metta meditation is thought to have been first taught by the Buddha, more than 2600 years ago. This traditional practice has endured and is common in many traditional Buddhist communities even up to to this day.
When practicing metta meditation, one begins by cultivating loving kindness toward oneself and then, in a sequence of expansion, towards somebody we love already, then somebody we are neutral towards, then somebody we have difficulty with, and finally toward all beings everywhere.
Science has demonstrated there are a number of health benefits of metta meditation including:
- Increases vagal tone which increases positive emotions and feelings of social connection
- Decreases negative emotions
- Decreases migraines
- Decreases chronic pain
- Decreases PTSD
- Decreases schizophrenia-spectrum disorders
- Activates empathy and emotional processing in the brain
- Increases gray matter volume
- Increases control over the relaxation response and stress resilience
- Slows markers of biological aging
- Makes you a more helpful person
- Increases compassion
- Increases empathy
- Decreases bias towards others
- Increases social connection
- Reduces self criticism
These benefits show that it’s no wonder the practice has endured so much time and is still so widely practiced.
How to Practice Metta Meditation:
- Find yourself in a comfortable seated position with the spine straight, heart open, and hands resting.
- Take a moment to connect with the breath and settle in
- Begin to visualize yourself. Sense and feel an outpouring of love and goodwill.
- Begin to repeat to yourself:
“May I be Happy and Peaceful
May I be Healthy and Strong
May I be Safe and Protected from Inner and Outer Harm
May I Live with Ease.”
- Next, as you feel ready, shift the object of your attention and mantra to someone you hold dear to you. Sense and feel your love and goodwill for them and repeat the mantra for them.
- As you feel ready, shift the object of your attention and mantra to someone you are neutral toward, perhaps a stranger or simply an acquaintance. Sense and feel love and goodwill for them and repeat the mantra for them.
- Next, as you feel ready, shift the object of your attention and mantra to someone you find challenging or have a difficult time empathizing with. Sense and feel love and goodwill for them and repeat the mantra for them.
- Lastly, as you feel ready, shift the object of your attention and mantra to all beings everywhere. Sense and feel your love and goodwill for them and repeat the mantra for them.
- Gently release the practice and go about your day with renewed wellness on a physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual level.
Given this is a concentration practice, should your mind wander, gently guide it back to the chosen object without self judgement. This process of letting go cultivates presence and mindfulness as you become aware of what you hold on to and what draws you out of the balanced present moment.
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