Come alive again with this Meditation for Lovingkindness
Metta, or Loving-kindness, is one of the most important Buddhist practices, yet it is non-secular and simple enough that something non-Buddhists and people who have never meditated before can do. It allows us to feel empathy with the happiness and sorrow of the world and includes being open-hearted even toward one’s enemies – including our worst enemy, namely ourselves.
New to Metta? Follow Jack Kornfield in this 28 Minute guided meditation.
I started my journey of learning how to love myself and living wholeheartedly with Metta or Loving-Kindness meditations. I started feeling like a robot, protecting my heart from hurt in a fortress made of ice and metal. With the steady, gentle and warm practice of Metta, my heart slowly defrosted, allowing me to connect to all parts of myself again – to come alive.
Tip #1: Opening your heart
As you say the loving kindness phrases in your mind, link into their intention or heartfelt meaning. If any feelings of loving-kindness arise, connect the feelings with the phrases so that the feelings may become stronger as you repeat the words” (notice your heart opening, even if it is just a tiny bit). If you’re struggling to open your heart even the slightest, simply notice this and start with what you can and do love unconditionally – like a kitten, puppy or a baby elephant. As you continue the meditation, you can bring to mind to yourself, family, friends, neighbours, acquaintances, strangers, and people with whom you have difficulty. the aim is to include all beings in the well wishes.
Tip #2: Whole-hearted not “Partially-hearted”
Recognising and expressing goodwill has a softening effect on our hearts. At times this evokes feelings of love, tenderness, and warmth. At other times this softening of the heart can expose difficult or painful buried emotions. Seemingly opposite feelings such as anger, grief, or sadness may arise. Take these to be signs that your heart is softening, revealing what is held there.
It is a sign that you’re starting to come alive again. Like any body part that was once numb due to poor circulation and is now again receiving blood, your heart will feel initially feel tingly, uncomfortable, maybe pain. You can either shift to mindfulness practice or you can—with whatever patience, acceptance, and kindness you can muster for such feelings—direct loving-kindness toward them. Above all, remember that there is no need to judge yourself for having these feelings.
To live wholeheartedly, we cannot only be selectively open to pleasant feelings. Know that all emotions are like waves or pulses – they will come and go. Allow your heart to be transformative – breathe in unpleasant emotion and breathe out compassion.
Tip #3: Fake it till you make it
Worried that you can’t connect to that “heartfelt feeling” for yourself and/or your enemies? Good news is that Metta does not require you to feel loving or kind during the practice. Rather, the idea is that you meditate on your intentions, however weak or strong they may be. Regular practice is like “watering the seeds of our good intentions. When we water wholesome intentions instead of expressing unwholesome ones, we develop those wholesome tendencies within us. If these seeds are never watered they won’t grow. When watered by regular practice they grow, sometimes in unexpected fashions. We may find that loving-kindness becomes the operating motivation in a situation that previously triggered anger or fear.”
Source: Inspired by The Metta Institute’s website and the book The Issue at Hand by Gil Fronsdal, guiding teacher of Insight Meditation Center.