Loving-kindness meditation is also known as metta meditation.
“Metta” means directing good will and love toward all sentient beings. This form of meditation aids us in developing an attitude of kindness and compassion, especially for the people we are on bad terms with.
Two years ago, I knew nothing about loving-kindness meditation. The only meditation I used to practice was the mindful meditation that solely focuses on one’s breath.
Back in 2014, I traveled to Nepal and spent some remarkable time at the Pokhara Meditation Buddhist center. Every day at 10:00 a.m. in the morning, I took a class from a Buddhist nun who taught us different kinds of meditation.
One of the practices that we did on a daily basis was the loving-kindness meditation.
This practice consists of drawing mental images of particular people, which brought tears to my eyes the first couple of days. When I taught it in my country last year, many people, like me, cried at a certain point. Some would fiercely change their face expression and become enraged. Others couldn’t even proceed with the exercise.
The reason is because metta meditation is intense.
It allows us to become aware of the feelings that we have for certain people. While we think that we have forgiven a person who hurt us, practicing metta meditation will often prove us wrong. We will realize that most likely we didn’t forgive that someone and we still hold grudges against him or her.
Metta meditation has different ways of being practiced. However, I will offer the one that I personally learnt in Nepal and which I believe is of great benefit.
To start off, sit in a comfortable position, with legs crossed, hands on your knees or your lap, straighten your back and breathe.
For the first 10 minutes keep breathing to calm down. Focus on your breath as it enters and leaves your nostrils.
Once you are calm, draw a mental image of yourself in a vast space. First, imagine your family standing on your right. Send them love and compassion. You can do this through smiling at them or through speaking words such as “I love you” or “I wish you love and happiness.” You can say to them whatever you see fit.
Then, imagine your friends, acquaintances and neighbors on your left. Again, one by one, do the same as you did with your family. Wish them happiness and love either by smiling or by speaking to them.
Now with you standing in the middle, your family on your right and friends on your left, imagine the whole wide world surrounding you in a circle. Animals, people, children, monks, celebrities—no exceptions—try to bring about all the people on this earth. Once again, send them love and kindness. Wish them well, unconditionally.
Now it is time to choose a person who did you wrong or someone you cannot forgive. He or she could be someone who hurt you, left you, or loathes you. Once you choose the person that you would like to forgive, have him stand right in front of you, keeping everyone else exactly where they are. Family is still on your right, friends are still on your left and the world is surrounding you.
As he or she stands in front of you, look in their eyes and remember what they did wrong. You can recall the bad times together or recall any particular thing that you wish to forget.
Whatever feelings arise during that process, don’t neglect them. If you feel like crying, cry. Deeply feel the emotions that resurface.
Once you finish with that step, keep beholding them and remember the good times. Recall the good things that this person has done, no matter how barren or small. This is important as it makes us remember that there’s goodness at the core of every person.
Now keep looking at them and wish them happiness, love and compassion. Tell them that you forgive them and that you are ready to let go.
When you feel that you have truly forgiven that person, have him stand next to you with your family and friends.
Some people may need to practice this meditation many times in order to be able to forgive a particular person. When I first did it, it took me four practices to be able to say to that person, “I forgive you.” Having taught it many times as well, some people tell me that they can’t help but to recall the bad memories with that person.
I think practicing metta meditation is beneficial, as we all have at least one person in our lives that we can’t forgive. It is also crucial as it helps us develop kindness and love toward everyone without any exceptions.
By this point, I still practice this exercise whenever I feel the difficulty of forgiving someone. Metta meditation has never failed me, and I am sure that it won’t fail you. We were sent to this earth to love and to forgive. Therefore, this meditation is only helping us to develop what we are undoubtedly best at.
I wish you a good meditation, an incomparable forgiveness and an unconditional love toward all sentient beings.
Author: Elyane Youssef
Editor: Caitlin Oriel