The name ‘Metta’ comes from the Pali (the language of the Buddha) for Loving-Kindness. It is considered to be one of the most powerful tools in meditation practice. At the time of writing, there were over 80 peer-reviewed publications attesting to the medical benefits alone, of this transformative practice.
Metta is a method of developing compassion. It was brought to mainstream attention from the Buddhist tradition but is referred to in the Chandogya Upanishad which may be some 300 years earlier. It is a secular practice that can be adapted and practiced by anyone, regardless of religious background or lack thereof.
Metta is about cultivating a universal and unconditional love; described as a benevolent love or ‘a love with wisdom’. It is not dependent on whether the meditator believes the recipient ‘deserves’ their love or not.
Metta is not restricted to friends and family; it extends out from close social circles to eventually include all the world with no expectations of anything in return. The process begins with loving ourselves, because unless we can accept and love ourselves unconditionally, it can be difficult to extend this to others. The meditation then goes on to include those who are special to us, then the neutral, then the not-so-special and finally, all living things. Gradually, both the visualization and the meditation phrases blend into the actual experience, the feeling of loving-kindness which can be incredibly emotive. The regular (not necessarily daily) practice of Metta, for this reason can lead to deep transformative changes. Although unlikely to do any long-lasting harm, loving-kindness meditation can cause old emotional trauma or pain to resurface. These unresolved issues can cause subconscious and negative patterns (there is usually a recurring theme) of behaviour. Metta however, is not a replacement for psychological counselling or psychotherapy in those who require more supervised care. With that note of caution said, most practitioners describe a sense of immense joy and connectedness performing Metta. A simple practice of Metta meditation is described here.
This is a meditation of care, benevolence, humility, friendship, kindness and love. In this practice there is a softening of the heart and also the mind and the meditator develops a feeling of warmth both for themselves and others. Loving-Kindness is beneficial in relationships as this practice teaches to love, without the need to ‘possess’ the partner.
The power of this practice is the softening that leads to the breaking down of subconscious barriers. Passing these barriers lead us inwards initially, but in doing so, leads to meditator, over time, to see and love the ‘onenesss’ of all things and express this outwardly in their daily life.
You only have to practice Metta once to appreciate its truly transformative potential.
Article by Vikas Pandey
Click here for downloadable eBooks including ‘Loving-Kindness Meditation’ by Sujiva and ‘All you need is Kindfulness’ by Ajahn Brahm.
Click here for guided meditations including ‘Loving-Kindness Meditation’ by Diana Winston (University of California).