follow the heart ~
Creative Commons License photo credit: alicepopkorn
Metta Bhavana is a Buddhist meditation practice known as the development of universal loving-kindness. It belongs to a set of meditations called brahma-viharas, which roughly means ‘abode of the gods’. As such metta meditation is considered to help us experience positive and enjoyable mental states similar to the mental states of the beings in the Buddhist god-realm.

As I’ve previously discussed how metta and mindfulness meditation combine, complement and strengthen each other. Today I would like to provide you with a guided metta meditation so that you can begin practicing it. That way you can come to enjoy the wonderfully uplifted mental states it can produce and begin to share your higher energy state with others. I feel strongly that if one person holds a higher energy state others will gradually entrain to that higher state of being. Thus the intention and actions of the one may grow to positively affect the many. Sometime in the next few days I’ll write a more extensive article discussing metta meditation and its benefits.

Before we get started you will need to think of three people you are going to use to focus on during this meditation. The first person should be a good friend, perhaps someone of the same sex and who is still living. The second person should be a ‘neutral’ person. This may be someone we work with or know casually but don’t really know all that well. The important point is to pick someone you currently have no strong feelings towards, one way or the other. The third person is a person who normally provokes rather unfriendly feelings within us. This ‘enemy’ should be someone we find difficult or irritating.

Getting Started
Once you have the three people you’ve chosen firmly in mind we can get started. Find a time and place where you are comfortable and will not be disturbed. Sit down and settle into your chosen meditation posture. Let your face relax. Notice that there is no need to have an expression on your face. There is no one here and the experience to come will be what it will be. If you feel the muscles of your face resisting becoming soft and open try turning up the corners of your mouth into a small inner smile. Let your eyes become still and come to rest.

Move through your body looking for tension. Feel your attention as calming warmth as it begins at your feet and works its way up your body. Allow your body to soften, relax and let go. Once you have completed this sweep through your body center your attention in your chest where you imagine your heart to be. Throughout the meditation remember to allow yourself to truthfully experience what it is you are feeling. Don’t judge yourself for anything that may arise. Allow whatever happens to happen.

Remember that you don’t have to stick strictly to the words of the metta meditation I’m about to outline. It is the intention you generate and the resultant states of being that are important.

Loving Kindness Starts with You
With your attention still focused on your heart begin the meditation by sending a sense of well-wishing to yourself. However you do it keep it simple. You can simply say, “May I be well, may I be happy, may I be free from suffering.” Say this to yourself with a sense of kindness and warmth. Be patent and listen to how your heart responds. There is no need to hurry. Experience your heart slowly fill with the warmth and bliss of your own loving intention.

Your Good Friend
Now bring to mind the good friend you selected previously. Do this in whatever manner is best for you. You might picture their face, their voice or remember the last time you were in their company. The point is to bring them into your awareness.

Feel the warmth that is in your heart naturally flow towards them. Think to yourself, “May they be well, may the be happy, may they be free from suffering.” Again take your time. There is no need to hurry and no need to force anything. Experience whatever it is you are feeling even if it feels like nothing at all. What is happening is what is happening. Be with that. Simply maintain for a time your awareness of your friend and your well wishing feelings towards them.

The Neutral Person
Now let go of your friend and allow your attention to turn to the neutral person you selected. Try to maintain the same level of well wishing as you felt towards both yourself and your good friend. While holding the neutral person in your mind extend your well wishing to that person. Gently look beyond the limited view you have of this person. Feel the sense of oneness that exists between yourself, your friend and the neutral person. All three people are one in that all wish to be happy and well.

The Difficult Person
Allow the neutral person to fade and bring to mind the enemy. Check your face and bring it back to being relaxed and open if necessary. Take a sweep through your body and notice what is happening. Have your shoulders and abdomine tensed? Take some deeper breaths and allow your body to let go of its tension. Notice what your mind is doing. It’s likely that it is trying to replay an old story about this person. Let that train leave the station without you on it. Remain in the present moment with the intention to wish the person well.

Imagine the person well and happy. See the other side to the person. A man once said to be very patient with everyone. Even if it takes ten years before a person shows you their good side we should never pass judgment. This is because everyone has a good side. We just need to give them a chance to show it. Extend the feeling of loving kindness that has built up in your heart to the enemy. Try wishing them well as you have each previous person. Imagine that you would like to let this person be and wish them well in their life. May they be well.

The Conclusion
Now bring together all four people in your mind: the difficult person, the neutral person, the good friend and yourself. Imagine the feeling of metta between everyone and recognize that all have the same desire to be happy and well. Check to see if you positive feelings towards all four are equal. Now extend your feeling of loving-kindness outwards. Wish your neighbors in your street well, then all living beings in your city, next your country, then all beings on the earth. Finish with all beings of all types that have lived, that are alive and that will live throughout all time and space.

You may experience feelings of bliss and great love. I like to interpret these feelings as the product of the universe returning my feelings of loving kindness. I feel I am enjoying the benefit of getting back what I’m giving out. For me over time this feeling has strengthened into a rather serene feeling of bliss. The more love I give the more love I have and the more I receive.

Finish the meditation by bringing your attention back to yourself. Think to yourself that just as you wish all beings to be well and free from suffering may I also be well, may I also be free from suffering. Take three breaths that are deeper then normal and come back to yourself and the environment you are sitting in. Open your eyes and enjoy for a few moments your state of being.

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