We know the benefits of meditation—lower blood pressure, mood regulation, stress reduction, even weight loss.
I love the idea of meditation, but it can be really intimidating to start. We live in a world where there is very little stillness, very little quiet and very little downtime—so the idea of sitting for meditation can seem very foreign and inconvenient. Throw in the fact that we might have to use a mantra or remember some complicated breath technique? Forget it.
This is why I love the Metta meditation so much. I have taught this one in yoga classes and continually come back to it in my own practice. It doesn’t require a ton of concentration, it can be as fast as I need it to be, and I always feel uplifted when it is done. Most of all, it is simple, straightforward and can be done anywhere—even in the car on the way to work or in the shower as we get ready in the morning. Metta means “loving kindness.” I think we can all agree the world can use a little more of that lately!
I don’t pretend to be an expert on Buddhism, but I do know that one of the basic tenets is that life is made up of suffering. This sounds like a bit of a downer, I know—but life is hard. We battle chronic illnesses, we lose loved ones, and we all quietly fight our own personal battles.
This is where the loving kindness comes in. The compassion. The love. The light we try to live in. This meditation lets us not only send love to ourselves, but to radiate love to the entire world around you. Sounds lovely, right?
Here’s how to get started:
1. First picture yourself—see yourself in your mind’s eye. Repeat to yourself: “May I be happy. May I be free from all suffering. May I be at peace.” If you are someone who is hard on themselves, really take time to enjoy these good vibes you are sending. Notice how it feels. Was it easy to send yourself this love? Keep repeating the words to yourself, at least three times. If you feel you need to hear it more, then by all means, continue. Take as long as you like.
2. Picture someone you love, who brings you happiness. Imagine them smiling, and you will probably smile, too. This might be your child, partner or parent. Repeat the same sentence, changing the pronoun as needed: “May he be happy. May he be free from all suffering. May he be at peace.” Notice how you feel here. This one probably feels pretty natural, as it is easy to send love to those who bring us joy.
3. Picture someone who has hurt you. Repeat that same sentence. Notice how this feels in your body. It may even bring a up a physical sensation, and it might not feel natural at all. Totally fine! Just continue to wish them peace. Let the love flow, even if it feels awkward or guarded.
4. Picture someone you are totally indifferent to. It can be a clerk at a grocery store or someone sitting next to you on the subway or bus on your commute. It can be hard to find someone who we have made no judgments about, but just take a few moments to think of someone. And, you guessed it! Repeat that same sentence.
5. Finally, my favorite part—picture the whole world. Animals, people, everyone—send them that love through the same sentence.
6. That’s it! Take a few deep breaths. Feel those good vibes wash over you. Notice the shift in your energy.
The Metta meditation is a great gateway to other types of meditation, because it is so simple and intuitive. It feels good. You can stay in it for as long as you like, which means you can do it quickly as you fall asleep in bed at night, or dedicate a full mediation time to it. It doesn’t matter if you don’t get the blessing exactly right, as people often have their own variations of it anyway. Just send the good energy with out worrying or getting to caught up in specifics.
With so much suffering in the world, we can often feel powerless. But we do have the power to shift back to compassion, love and peace–one breath at a time.
Author: Logan Kinney
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Photo: Flickr/Caleb Roenigk