Welcome to this week’s edition of The Source!!! Let’s talk metta loving kindness.
The primary purpose of Buddhist meditation is to train the mind to slow down and ultimately, be still. The Buddhist term for meditation is bhavana, or “mental cultivation,” and the three most well-known bhavanas are:
- samatha—tranquility, and
This week let’s explore metta.
In metta bhavana, you concentrate on sending out metta, translated as unconditional loving-kindness, to all living beings. In metta meditative exercises, my personal technique is to start with directing thoughts of benevolence, love, and compassion inward.
Although self-directed loving-kindness was never specifically instructed by the Buddha, I have found that starting the meditation this way quickly engages and empowers me by providing a very clear object of attention. I have asked Master metta practitioners, Buddhist monks, and even His Holiness, The Dalai Lama, if self- directing metta is acceptable in starting a metta meditation, and they have all assured me that other Buddhist writings imply that it may be an appropriate start to the practice.
The 13th-century, Sufi poet Hafiz wrote, “I am a hole in the flute through which the Christ breath flows.” And if you can see yourself as conduit of metta—not the flute and not the breath— but simply as a hole, a channel, a conduit, an empty pathway, then you can flow unconditional loving-kindness in and flow it back out without becoming attached to it.
We use our breath as the vehicle to transport metta first into our heart and then back out to others, using your heart as a point of reference for gradually radiating loving-kindness outward.
First, you take a long, slow deep breath in of metta and feel it fill your heart. Then you flow it back out to those you deeply respect, such as your most revered teachers or life guides.
Next, take a long, slow deep breath in of metta and feel it fill your heart, then radiate loving-kindness to your loved ones—those living and those who’ve left this earthly realm.
Then take a long, slow deep breath in of metta and feel it fill your heart, and then radiate it out to your friends. Then take a long, slow deep breath in of metta and feel it fill your heart, and shower it onto someone you know who may be suffering.
Next, take a long, slow deep breath in of metta and feel it fill your heart, and then send it to someone with whom you have a grievance. (I often do that one twice to expand my capacity for forgiveness, acceptance, and compassion.)
Then take a long, slow deep breath in of metta and feel it fill your heart, and radiate it out to all sentient beings on the planet.
Notice that as you continue to expand your circle of loving-kindness, you direct metta to your most intimate relationships, to your enemies, and finally toward all beings on the planet. At a certain point in the practice, you realize you are simply a conduit of love, that your heart is just bursting with metta, and you’ve got enough love inside for the whole world!
It’s at this point that I take a long, slow deep breath in of metta, feel it fill my heart and then radiate that love out into the universe, sending it to every corner of the galaxy.
I stay in that space, breathing it in from every nook and cranny of the cosmos and then radiating it back out so it has no limits.
I can sit in a space like this for 30 minutes, opening my heart, feeling gratitude in every cell of my body, flowing forgiveness, and feeling self-love. . . self-compassion . . . self-forgiveness . . . ripple through me.
I have found metta meditation to be a very nourishing practice. Both first-time meditators and seasoned meditators alike appreciate its simple sweetness and its powerful softening ability. If you are holding a grudge, carrying around anger, overwhelmed with sadness, or find yourself pointing fingers, the metta bhavana will transform you to a healing state very quickly.
The ancient Buddhist teachings suggest that one should master metta bhavana before moving on to any other type of meditation. Interesting, right?
Always start with your heart. I recommend that you take your time cultivating this practice. Start with just five minutes, get comfortable there, and simply slow each phase of the process down until the conduit of your heart flows in and out in slow motion. Over time, see if you can stretch it to 10, then 15 minutes—the perfect amount of time to receive the optimal benefits of a heart- opening practice.
After a few weeks of practicing this teaching, the metta meditation will become the gentle way you start your day. You’ll quickly notice that your heart is more open, you are more tolerant of irritations around you, and you have a ripple of a smile flowing through every word, thought, and action. You’ll also realize that it is a pure present-moment experience to help you connect to your essence.
Keep meditating, and I’ll see you in the GAP. Namaste. -davidji